The provisional award in the C M Bent Memorial Tourney has just been published. As with most study composing tourneys, provisional awards are published some months before final awards, giving time for experts to claim that any of the awarded compositions are either unsound or unoriginal. In this case claims are being allowed until the end of this year.
The competition, organised by the British Chess Problem Society, attracted 40 entries by 28 composers from 17 countries. The entries were received by Adam Sobey (former studies editor of The Problemist), who rendered them anonymous and passed them on to the judges, who reported that there was an interesting variety of studies of a reasonably good standard forming a fine memorial to an enthusiastic composer. The award itself comprises two 'Prizes', four 'Honorary Mentions' and five 'Commendations'.
I have selected the winner of the second prize, which is by a composer whose name is new to me. He is from the USA.
C. Bill Jones
2nd Prize, Bent Memorial Ty., 2006-2007
White to play and draw
Black is the exchange up and is threatening mate by 1...Nd6+ 2.Kd8 Rd7#. Defending d6 by 1.Ne4? loses a piece to 1...Na7+ 2.Kd8 Rd7+ 3.Ke8 Rxd3 0-1 and 1.Nb4+? doesn't work - 1...Kb6 2.Ncd5+ (2.Na4+ Ka7 3.Nc6+ (3.Nxa6 Nd4 4.N6c5 Rb4 5.Nc3 Rc4 6.N3e4 Nb3 0-1) 3...Ka8 4.Kd8 Nd4 5.Nxd4 Rb4 6.b3 Rxd4+ 0-1) 2...Ka7 3.Nc6+ Ka8 4.Kd8 Rf7 5.b4 Rf5 6.Nce7 Rf2 7.h3 Kb7 8.h4 Rf3 9.h5 Nc3 10.Nxc3 Rxc3 11.Nf5 Rb3 0-1. This leaves just one further option, which is the solution. 1.Ne5+ Kb6 2.Nxb5 2.Nd7+? Rxd7 3.Kxd7 Nxc3 0-1 2...axb5 2...Re7 3.Nd6 (3.Na3 Kc5 4.Nac4 comes to the same thing) 3...Kc5 4.Ndc4 Kd5 5.b3 Ke4 (5...Rg7 6.Nf3 h5 7.h4 Rg3 8.Ncd2=) 6.Ng4 Re6 7.h4 Kf4 8.Kd7 Rg6 9.Nce5 Rb6 10.Nc4=; 2...Rg7 3.Nd4 Ka5 4.Nd3 Ka4 5.Nc5+ = 3.Nd7+ Kc6 3...Rxd7 4.Kxd7=. 3...Ka7 4.b4 is as the main line, but a couple of moves shorter. Given the dual noted below at the next move, the composer had the opportunity to claim this dual-free shorter line as his main line, but decided not to do so, probably on the reasonable grounds that 4...Kc6 is the 'stronger' move. 4.Ne5+ 4.Nb8+ Kb6 (4...Rxb8+ 5.Kxb8 =) 4.Nd7+ = is a technical dual, but one that does not spoil the point of the study. The judges took the view that it was thus unimportant, and I agree with them. 4...Kb6 5.Nd7+ Ka7 6.b4! Confining the black king and rook and setting up the positional draw that is the reason for the study's existence. White's idea is to shuttle his king between c8 and d8 while Black shuttles his king between a7 and a8, making sure that White plays to c8 every time the black king goes to a8. This ensures that Black can't extract his rook by ...Ra7? because of Sb6#. However, before that plan can be put into action there are mobile pawns on the other side of the board that must be immobilised. 6...Ka8 6...h5 allows White to achieve his aim a move quicker - 7.h3 h4 (7...Ka8 8.h4 =) 8.Kd8 Ka8 9.Kc8 = 7.h3! 7.h4? h5 8.Kd8 Ra7! 0-1 7...h5 7...Ka7 8.h4 Ka8 9.h5 = 8.h4 Ka7 9.Kd8 Ka8 10.Kc8 = In the words of the judges: "A very sweet study with deceptively simple play and ending in a surprisingly unfamiliar positional draw."
Our study for solving is by Yuri Bazlov of Russia and it won the 1st Honorary Mention. The judges reported that the step from the Prize to the Honorary Mention category was only a short one. Their comment on this one starts with the words: "An outstanding and aristocratic example ...".
1st HM., Bent Memorial Ty., 2006-2007
White to play and win
1.Be4+ 1.Qe4+? Kc5 2.Bxc4 Bf4+ 3.Kg6 Rxc4 4.Qa8 Re7 = 1...Ke6 2.Qc5! 2.Qb3? Rf4 3.Qxa4 Rxe4 = 2...Bf4+ 2...Rfa7 3.Bd5+ Kd7 ( 3...Kf5 4.Qf8+ Kg4 5.Qf3+ Kh4 6.Be6 1-0 mates quickly.) 4.Bxc4 Kxe8 5.Bb5+ Kd8 6.Qd5+ Kc8 7.Bxa4 1-0 3.Kg6 3.Kh5? Ra5 4.Bd5+ Ke5 5.Qxc4 Rxd5 6.Kg6 Rf5 7.Qe2+ Kd4 8.Nf6 Rxf6+ 9.Kxf6 = 3...Ne5+ 4.Kh5 Rxe4 4...Rd7 5.Bd5+ Rxd5 6.Nc7+ Kd7 (6...Kf5 7.Nxd5 1-0) 7.Nxd5 1-0; 4...Rfa7 5.Bd5+ Kd7 6.Ng7 R4a6 7.Be6+ Kd8 8.Qf8+ Kc7 9.Ne8+ Kb6 10.Qb4+ Kc6 11.Qxf4 1-0 5.Qd6+ Kf5 6.Qf6+ Rxf6 7.Ng7# The late Gerald Abrahams said that to solve such a study one had, from the diagram position, to see the figure in the marble. With everything on the board moving, that figure is somewhat elusive in this case. However, such a finale is well worth the chisel work, especially as not all the blows are delivered with the help of a heavy hammer.
So who was C M Bent? Charles Michael ('Mike') Bent (1919-2004) was probably the most prolific British study composer of the twentieth century. I'll have much more to say about Mike Bent in the next issue.
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