Thursday, December 25, 2008

Puzzles of the season

Best Wishes for all!

As is customary this time of the year, riddles and problems have started to appear (one per day from 25-12-2008 to 01-01-2009) at the web address Chessbase Puzzles.

Problems for year 2008 :
25-12-2008 : Play Santa-giving-presents. Read biographical details of John Nunn, who selects and annotates this year's problems. Solve the direct-mate moremover. Do not hesitate to give Knight (easy) and Queen (where?) in order to achieve eventually mate with subpromotion of c7.
26-12-2008 : In the five-mover helpmate (where black plays first) close for a while the Bishop, which will go finally to g8.
27-12-2008 : The study can start with a checking-key, (since Black can mate in 3 moves), let us say with the Bishop on h4.
28-12-2008 : In the six-mover selfmate, (White plays and forces Black to win with mate,) two knights are sacrificed first.
29-12-2008 : To avoid the diabolical trap of stalemate in this study, give the Rook on the fourth move and the Queen on the tenth.
30-12-2008 : Eleven Black moves (begin with Re5, end with Be8) and then one White move (dxe8=Q) stalemate! It is very interesting to discover the intermediate moves.
31-12-2008 : For the five-mover selfmate, the Bishop makes a big clockwise round to d2 and the Queen is sacrificed on the other side.
01-01-2009 : Starting from the initial placing of the pieces for playing a game, we reach the position of the diagram after the ninth move of the White. The Shortest Proof Game is a nice problem with Retroanalysis. (The page that shows this problem contains a form on the upper left corner for everyone wanting to send solutions and comments to John Nunn).

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009
You may read the solutions with comments here or you may replay the solutions here.

(This post in Greek language).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Harry Fougiaxis (1)

The International Master on Composition of chess problems Harry Fougiaxis writes about himself (from "Harry Fougiaxis 40 Jubilee Tourney" pamphlet edited by the Greek Chess Problem Committee, December 2006) :

"I was born on April 20th 1966 in Athens. I graduated as an electronic engineer from the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) and I am currently working as an instrument and industrial automation engineer in oil and gas applications. I am not married.
My father taught me the moves of chess at the age of 7 or so, and three years later I joined a local chess club. I was soon hooked and quite liked the friendly atmosphere there. So I started studying intensively, but after some time I realised that I could not really withstand the pressure of competitive OTB chess.
Meanwhile I was frequently finding that I was more and more thrilled by the chess problems that I encountered in Triantafyllos Siaperas's weekly newspaper columns, even if I was just average as a solver. My very first attempts to compose were when I was about 15. The Greek chess problemists' society had announced a national competition for beginners and I sent in a couple of entries. Thus I came to meet Byron Zappas, Dimitris Kapralos, Pantelis Martoudis and Nikos Siotis, who used to have regular meetings; they all helped me a lot with their comments and with chess literature. However, my first "true" teacher turned out to be living some 500 km away: it was Pavlos Moutecidis who influenced me the most. We exchanged letters continuously for more than 5 years and we eventually became close friends, despite the distance and the age difference. Strangely, I was not particularly attracted by selfmates (Pavlos's specialty), but by helpmates, which I have studied continuously for the past 25 years.
I have so far published about 150 problems, certainly not many, the vast majority being h#2s, some with orthodox and some with fairy units. I should admit that I have been rather lazy lately, composing only occasionally (during PCCC meetings, for instance), but my interest to chess problems has never faded. It was a great honour and pleasure to host the PCCC congresses in Greece in 2004 and 2005, with the support of the Greek Chess Federation and of the few, but hard-working Greek problemists. I was awarded the title of International Master in 2001 and I have acted as a FIDE Album judge four times".

The untired Harry Fougiaxis continues supporting various events, as you may see in the recent Solving Contest in Patras, doing his best for the Greek Chess.

(Problem 271)
Harry Fougiaxis,
First Prize, Rex Multiplex, 1985
Helpmate in 2 moves. Two solutions.
h#2, 2111, (9 + 5)

Key : 1.Rf4-f2! Rf7-f3 (A) 2.Be6-d5 Bg4-d7# (B)
Key : 1.Be6-c8! Bg4-d7 (B) 2.Rf4-d4 Rf7-f3# (A)

Masked white batteries. Bi-colour Bristol manoeuvres. Black interferences. Black moves along the pin-lines. Diagonal / Orthogonal echo.

(Problem 272)
Harry Fougiaxis,
Second Prize, U S Problem Bulletin, 1988
Helpmate in 3 moves. Two solutions.
h#3, 211111, (4 + 6)

Key : 1.Bb6-c5! Sa5-c6 2.Kd5-c4 a2-a4 3.Rd1-d5 Sb3-a5#
Key : 1.Rc3-c4! Sb3-d4 2.Kd5-c5 a2-a3 3.Ba8-d5 Sa5-b3#

Changed self-blocks on bK initial square. White pawn 1-2 step moves. Diagonal / Orthogonal echo. Model mates.

(Problem 273)
Harry Fougiaxis,
Second Prize, U S Problem Bulletin, 1989
Helpmate in 2. Grasshoppers a8, g4, g8. Nightriders b3, b4, c1, h6, h7.
Twin with wGa8 => wGa7.
a) h#2, (4 + 6), Grasshoppers (3 + 0), Nightriders (3 + 2)
b) wGa8 => wGa7

The Grasshopper is a hopper (moves on a row or file or diagonal and goes exactly behind a hurdle). (Explanation here together with another problem by Harry Fougiaxis).
The Nightrider is a rider (linear piece moving with multiple Knight-steps).
The problem (a) is shown on the diagram.
To create problem (b), the white Grasshopper of a8 is placed on a7.

(a) Key : 1.Nb3-f5! Nh7-d5+ 2.Kc4-d4 Gg4-g7#
(b) Key : 1.Nb4-f6! Nh6-d4+ 2.Kc4-d5 Gg8-g5#

Interesting geometrical play including Nightrider moves with opposite vectors. Note that in b) the pin of bNf6 by the wNh7 plays no active role in mate!

(This post in Greek language).

Monday, December 15, 2008

White - Black

I can not write about chess and chess problems, when a certain fact presented to us without proper study as isolated, keeps running in my thoughts.
Perhaps a composer would decide to transcribe the tragic theme into a slow-playing music, but he should not be surprised if this music actually sounds like a march.
The key-word these days is anger and it will be a task if they can manage to repress the reaction - already growing as if touched by a fairy - without significant changes.
Even with the help of a perverter of justice they can not present the facts with reverse meaning, saying that the victim itself was guilty and the shooter was innocent.
The uniqueness of a boy has a fabulous value, that no economy can estimate.
It has a beauty, that even the art can not easily describe.
Since I have a special interest for Greece, I find it very difficult to function as solver or as problemist using the grey cells of my brain.
What I see is white - black.

White coffin – black future.

2008-12-06, Athens Greece, a peaceful Saturday afternoon :
A 15-year old boy was deadly wounded in the middle of the street with a bullet in the heart, when a cursing policeman fired at it three times.
Many by-standers have testified that this happened without any provocation from the boy.
The reaction is in the news.

(This post in Greek language).

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Greek Compositions in the World Congress 2008, Jurmala

The 51st World Congress of Chess Composition (WCCC) took place in Jurmala of Latvia, 30 August - 06 September 2008.
The Greek colors in the area of composition were represented by the composers mr Kostas Prentos from Salonica and mr Panagiotis Konidaris from Meganissi Lefkadas.

Champagne Tourney (Champagne is a beverage from France)
Judge : the French Michel Caillaud, GM in composition and GM in Solving, who has specified the following theme:

Theme : Retroanalytic problem where a piece is pinned in two different lines.
Group A : Shortest Proof Games (SPG).
Group B : Any other kind of Retro problem.
Mythical conditions are allowed (at most two in any phase of the problem).

In Group A, Second Prize was awarded to a composition by Kostas Prentos, who is champion of Greece in Solving chess problems, for a long series of years.
In Group B, a Prize was awarded to a composition by four composers, the Romanians Vlaicu Crisan and Eric Huber and Paul Raican and the Greek Kostas Prentos.

(Problem 266)
Kostas Prentos,
Second Prize, Champagne tourney group A, Jurmala 2008
Position after the 19th move of the Black. Which were the moves of the game?
SPG 19 (13 + 16)

"SPG 19" means "Shortest Proof Game in 19 full moves (white and black)". We must start the chess game from the initial position of the 32 pieces and reach the position of the diagram in 19 moves.

1.Key : e4! h5
2.Be2 h4
3.Bh5 (pin line 1 : h5-f7-e8) a5
4.Qg4 a4
5.Se2 a3
6.0-0 axb2
7.a4 Rh6
8.Ra3 Rg6
9.Rf3 f5
10.d3 Kf7 (pin line 2 : f3-f5-f7)
11.Bg5 Ke6 (pin line 3 : g4-f5-e6)
12.Sd2 Ke5
13.Rb1 fxe4
14.Sc1 Kd4 (pin line 4 : g4-e4-d4)
15.c4 Kc3
16.Sdb3 exd3 (pin line 5 : f3-d3-c3)
17.Qe4 Kc2 (pin line 6 : e4-d3-c2)
18.g4 Kd1
19.Kg2 d2

Judge's comment : A record presentation of 6 different pin-lines for the thematical Pf7 cannot be ignored by the judge. The first pin shows some strategical play with unpinning; the following are of the shielding type, accompanying black king in its walk, some of them being hardly exploited (f3-f5-f7 is of little use as King has to escape g4-f5-e6 before fxe4 is played).

(Problem 267)
Vlaicu Crisan, Eric Huber, Paul Raican (Romania) & Kostas Prentos (Greece)
Prize, Champagne Tourney group B, Jurmala 2008
We retract 7 moves and then Mate in 1 move. Condition [Circe assassin].
-7 Proca Retractor, #1 Circe assassin (5 + 8)

Here are some needed explanations :

-n Proca Retractor : White takes back n legal moves. Black is not helping, but selects moves that will bring difficulties to the plan of the White. After the retraction of the moves, the solution proceeds forward.
This specification took its name from the composer Zeno Proca (1906-1936).
(A different type of retractor is Hoeg Retractor, where a helpful Black decides if the black move was a capture and chooses the type of the white piece that were captured. This specification took its name from the composer Dr. Niels Hοeg (1876-1951)).

Circe assassin : The captured piece appears on its square of regeneration even if the square was occupied. The piece that had occupied the rebirth square is lost. If the occupier before the capture is a King, he is in check. (See here and here for the condition Circe).

The solution starts with moves backwards :

-1.Sc5-b3 Bb1-a2+ (The Sb3, which were pinned on b3 closing the threat of Ba2, returns to c5. The Ba2, which was checking since Ba2xe6(+wPe2) assassinates the white King, returns to b1)

-2.e5-e6 Bc1-b2+ / Ba3-b2+ (The Pawn e6 returns to e5. The Bb2, checking from there since Bb2xe5(+wPe2) assassinates the white King, returns (let us say) to c1)

-3.Se6-c5 Rb6-b5+ (The Sc5, which were pinned on c5 closing the threat of Rb5, returns to e6. The Rb5, which was checking since Rb5xe5(+wPe2) assassinates the white King, returns to b6)

-4.Kf2-e2 g4-g3+ (The Ke2 returns to f2. The pawn from g3 (from where was checking) returns to g4)

-5.Sd8-e6 Rb5-b6+ (The Se6, which were pinned on e6 closing the threat of Rb6, returns to d8. The Rb6, which was checking since Rb6xf6(+wPf2) assassinates the white King, returns to b5)

-6.f5-f6 Ba2-b1+ / b2-b1=B+ (The Pawn f6 returns to f5. The Bb1, which was checking since Bb1xf5(+wPf2) assassinates the white King, could be a Pb2 promoted to Bishop on b1, but let us say that is a black Bishop which comes from a2)

-7.Sf7-d8 (The Sd8 returns to f7).

And now the solution proceeds with forward moves for [Mate in 1 move] :

1.Key : Kg3!# ([2.Kg3xh3(+bPh7)] with instant assassination of the bK)
The black King is mated! The squares h6, h8 are guarded by the wSf7 and the square g6 is observed by the wPf5. Also 1...Kg7 2.Kxg4(+bPg7) and 1...Kg8 2.KxSg2(+bSg8).

Judge's comment : Nice use of Circe Assassin condition with typical pins and mating move. White Knight is pinned on 3 different lines.

Sixth Tzuica Tourney (Tzuica is a beverage from Romania)
Judges : the Romanians Vlaicu Crisan and Eric Huber, who proposed the following theme :

Theme : Helpselfmates (hs#n) or Helpselfstalemates (hs=n) with Orthogonal / Diagonal Transformation (ODT).
All fairy conditions and pieces are allowed

(Problem 268)
Kostas Prentos,
Second prize, Tzuica Tourney, Jurmala 2008
Helpselfmate in 4 moves.
hs#4 2111... (6 + 7)

Notes :
Helpself - problem is a help-problem in the initial n-1 moves (Black plays first and helps), which becomes self-problem in the last move (Black is forced to play). The final goal is mate (for hs#n problems) or stalemate (for hs=n problems).
ODT : Orthogonal / Diagonal Transformation : That which happens on rows and columns, happens again on diagonals.

Key : 1.Re7! (blocks a future flight) Rh8 (prepares a Rook – Bishop battery)
2.Bg8 (covers, to allow the King to take position) Bd5
3.Ke8 Bxg8 (the battery is complete, with annihilation of the white piece)
4.Qc6+ (the Queen gives check) Be6# (the battery is activated)

Key : 1.Bb5! (blocks a future flight) Bh1 (prepares a Bishop - Rook battery)
2.Rg2 (covers, to allow the King to take position) Rg8
3.Kc6 Rxg2 (the battery is complete, with annihilation of the white piece)
4.Qf8+ (the Queen gives check) Rg7# (the battery is activated)

Judge's comment : Reciprocal black batteries obtained in a very economical setting. In each solution the white piece shielding the wK is captured by its black counterpart, creating a battery. The black battery is activated by wQ checks. Mates are model and are achieved by simple (not double) check. An amazing achievement by the Greek composer for his first helpselfmate problem!

8th Sake Tourney (Sake is a beverage from Japan)
The Japanese Sake Tourney this year is dedicated to the memory of Masazumi Hanazawa
(1944-2007), who was one of the pioneering composers in Japan.
Judge : Tadashi Wakashima from Japan, who proposed the following theme :

Theme : Fairy Helpmate#n (n <= 4). Exact Echo. Zeroposition is not allowed.

Note : Zeroposition is an initial position, from which (with small changes) twin problems are produced.

(Problem 269)
Kostas Prentos,
First Prize, Sake Tourney, Jurmala 2008
Helpmate in 3 moves. Transmuted Kings. Four solutions.
h#3, 411111, Transmuted Kings, (2 + 2)

Note : When the Transmuted Kings are threatened by a piece, they move and capture in a way similar with the movement of the threatening piece. (If the wK is threatened by a bR leaves his square moving like a wR).

Key : 1.Rc3-c1! Re8-e7 2.Rc1-a1+ Ka8-h8 3.Ra1-g1 Re7-h7#

Key : 1.Rc3-b3! Re8-h8+ 2.Kh1-a1 Rh8-h7 3.Rb3-b1 Rh7-a7#

Key : 1.Rc3-c7! Re8-e1+ 2.Kh1-h8 Re1-b1 3.Rc7-h7 Rb1-b8#

Key : 1.Rc3-c8+! Ka8-a1 2.Rc8-c2 Re8-b8 3.Rc2-h2 Rb8-b1#

Judge's comment : Most suited to the spirit of the tourney. What is the most surprising is the fact that this could be done without any artificial twinning. I just love it!

Quick Composing Tourney, Helpmates section
Judge : The Greek Harry Fougiaxis, who proposed the following theme :

Theme : In a helpmate two-mover, with W1 (=first white move) a black piece is unpinned. Fairy conditions and pieces are allowed.

(Problem 270)
Kostas Prentos & Panagiotis Konidaris,
First-Second Honourable Mention, Quick Composing Tourney, Jurmala 2008
Helpmate in 2 moves. Two solutions.
h#2, 2111, (6 + 9)

Key : 1.Sf3-h4! (blocks a flight) Be7-b4 (unpins bRf6, covers bRa4)
2 .Rf6-f5 (the unpinned piece blocks a flight) Rg2xg3# (captures the pinned bSf3)

Key : 1.Bb1-g6! (blocks a flight) Rg2-b2 (unpins bSf3, covers bBa1)
2.Sg3-f5 (the unpinned piece blocks a flight) Be7xf6# (captures the pinned bRf6)

Judge's comment : Surprising and aesthetically very pleasing shut-offs in the W1 moves, but the black play (comprising of square blocks only) even if accurate is less sophisticated.

(This post in Greek language).

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Solving Contest 2008-11-23, Chess Club of Patras

Sunday 23/11/2008, from [Chess Club of Patras Greece] site

Mr Pountzas is the winner
The Solving Contest of Patras was succesful. First winner was mr. Pountzas Chryssanthos, second winner was mr. Manolas Emmanuel, third winner was the 14-years(!) old Konstantinos Smpoukis. Very promising was also the fifth place for miss Antzela Mavromati (the only woman among contestants). The always faultless organizer Harry Fougiaxis gave prestige to the contest, while new horizons were opened for Fairy Chess by mr. Manolas Emmanuel.
(photo: Left to write, the arbitre Harry Fougiaxis, Manolas, Pountzas, Smpoukis)

More photos and the problems can be found here.

Saturday 01-11-2008

After 20 years, the Chess Problem Solving reappears in Patras, which has seen great solvers in the past. A Solving Contest will be held in the Chess Club of Patras : Sunday 23-11-2008, 11:00 pm. See details (in Greek) at the site of the Chess Club.

(This post in Greek language).