Chess, February 2008

British players compose

On page 33 of the July 2007 issue of this magazine there was a photograph of the 1966 English Olympiad team at Havana Airport. Third from the left is the composer of our first study, the late Norman Littlewood. It may not be too well known that, during the 1960s, Norman was a relatively active chess composer, with awards in several tourneys to his credit, including one sensational mate in three that won first prize in the BCPS Ring Tourney of 1966.

It was a nice coincidence that just before that photograph appeared I had picked this study for the postal round of the Winton Capital British Chess Solving Championship, where it appeared, as all the other compositions did, anonymously. Now that the closing date of that competition has passed, I can safely disclose its composer and its solution.

Norman Littlewood


White to play and draw

White should expect, with care, to be able to draw this endgame - there are no pawns and he is just one piece down. However, one of his knights is attacked and his bishop is threatened by skewer (1...Be5+). 1.Ne2+ 1.Nf3+? is met by 1...Kd5! 0-1 when White's two pieces are still threatened (the new check on c3 is covered) and there are no more saving checks. 1...Kd3 Black must maintain the initiative. Being passive allows White to consolidate. For instance 1...Kd5 2.Nbc3+ Kc5 3.Kxe4 = 2.Nc1+ Walking into a double attack, but after 2.Ng3? White gets tied up on the edge of the board against Black's centralized pieces, as the following sample line illustrates - 2...Be5+ 3.Kg4 Bd5 4.Nf1 Bg2 5.Ng3 Nd4 6.Bg1 Bf3+ 7.Kh3 Kc2 8.Nf1 Kxb1 0-1 2...Kc2 2...Kd4 3.Ne2+ repeats the position. 3.Kxe4 3.Nc3? Bh7 4.N3a2 Be5+ 0-1 3...Kxc1 3...Kxb1?= allows the other knight to escape and White draws easily. Now White's other knight is attacked and all its escape squares are covered. We have arrived at the heart of the study. 4.Nc3! 4.Kd5? N6a5 0-1 4...Nd2+ If 4...Bxc3 then 5.Kd3! Be5 6.Bxe5= ensuring the draw by either a single piece deficit or by a double piece deficit consisting of two knights. With the text move and the next one, Black plans to prevent the white king from protecting his knight. In this Black succeeds, as White can't stop it. 5.Kd5 Nb4+ 6.Ke6! White threatens to either just move his knight away or protect it by 7.Be5, so Black has to capture now. 6...Bxc3 7.Be5! = Now we see that the black knights have blocked the bishop's escape from the a1–h8 diagonal. That bishop is now under unstoppable threat of exchange, so White can force the well-known drawn endgame of King v King and two knights. As one of the WCBCSC competitors commented – "Every move seemed to follow logically and there were no lengthy messy sidelines to consider." Just so, and for that reason a good study for a solving event.

Interestingly, Norman isn’t the only player in that photograph to have a connection to chess composition. Peter Clarke, standing on the left, has been a regular competitor in the British Chess Solving Championships over the last quarter of a century. I also seem to remember at least one chess problem published (in the 1970s?) below the name of the player standing on the right, Bill Hartston.

Our study for solving is by another occasional composer, much better known as a player.

Colin Crouch

3rd HM., Assiac Memorial Ty. (New Statesman), 1987


White to play and draw

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