Chess compositions are often considered as an art of the game. They don’t occur in regular games but are created to specifically force you to put on your creative thinking hat. They make you think in unconventional ways.
Composing a puzzle is not easy though. Not only does the composer have to design a mating net, they also have to make the process beautiful.
These puzzles are often tough in the beginning and many players have claimed to have an “aha” moment right before they solve it. They’re made of interesting patterns made of creative logic and hence require some out of the box thinking.
Some of the very famous chess composers are GM Pal Benko, Alexey Troitsky, Genrikh Kasparyan, Edith Baird and Comins Mansfield.
Let’s see some of their famous chess compositions. I would like to ask the readers to try and solve them on their own first and only then check the solution.
Let us start with a composition by Pal Benko. He is a well-known grandmaster who popularised the famous “Benko Gambit” opening. He was also awarded the title of International Master of Chess Composition by FIDE.
This particular example is a White to play and mate-in-two problem.
Answer – Waiting moves are often the key while solving chess compositions. This problem is a great example of it.
White first plays 1. Qb4! to throw the ball in the opponent’s court. Now, no matter what Black plays, it’s a mate in 1! Let’s consider the following –
If 1…Kd5 then 2. Qd6# as the bishop on h1 pins the knight on e4.
If 1…Ke5 then 2. Qe4# as the bishop on b8 pins the knight on d6.
If the knight on d6 moves anywhere then 2. Nf4# is inevitable.
If the knight on e4 moves to c5 then 2.Rf6# & if he moves to f2 then 2. Qd6#
This example is by Alexey Troitsky. He is considered to be one of the greatest composers of chess endgame studies. Hence, we bring to you one of his famous endgame compositions.
This study is White to play and it teaches us how to mate with minimal resources.
Answer – This example highlights the importance of giving up important material to get the opponent’s king in the desired position.
White starts with 1. Bh6+. Black will respond with 1…Kg8 (as 1…Ke8 will lead to 2.gxh7). 2.g7! Avoiding the exchange with the h pawn. 2…Ke6 is the best try for Black.
Other moves like 2…e6 or 2…e5 don’t work because –
2…e6 3.Kd6 Kf7 (3…e5 4. Ke6 e4 5.Kf6 e3 6.Bxe3 wins) 4.Ke5 Kg8 5. Kf6 e5 6. Ke6 e4 7. Kf6 e3 8. Bxe3 wins.
2…e5 3. Ke6 is similar to the above variation in brackets.
After 2…Ke6, White will play the brilliant 3. g8=Q!! forcing black to play 3…Kg8. 4 Ke6 pushes the Black king further inside as he is now forced to play 4…Kh8. White now has the Black king exactly where he wants, and there is a forced mate after
5.Kf7 e6 6. Bg7#
Genrikh Kasparyan was the first person to receive the title of Grandmaster of Chess Compositions by FIDE. His contribution of composing mind-boggling endgame studies is highly regarded. His book ‘Domination in 2545 Endgame studies’ is used by many professional players to enhance their creative thinking abilities and sharpen their calculations.
Here is a beautiful miniature study by Kasparyan. It is white to play. I’m sure the solution will blow your mind just like it did ours! It highlights the importance of blocking important squares to make a mate.
Answer – White starts with 1. Ne8! (with the idea of 2.Ng7 Kg6 3.Bf5#). Black plays 1…Kg6 as a prophylactic move. This is where the magic begins! 2. h5+! forcing black to play 2…Rh5 (as 2…Kh5 3. Ng7 Kg6 4. Bf5#). By doing so, white has blocked the important square of h5.
Now White plays 3. f5+! forcing Black to play 3…Rf5. Now White plays 4. g4 (with the idea of 5.Bf5#). Moving the f5 rook is the only option so Black plays 4…Re5 attacking the knight.
The final important move is 5.Bf5+!! forcing Black to play 5…Rf5 again. White has successfully managed to block the f5 square as well. And now, the soft move 6.Ng7 seals the deal as Black gets mated either with 7.gf5# or 7.gh5#.
Edith Baird was one of the first and very important females in the chess composing world. She is credited for creating numerous beautiful studies and was referred to as the “Queen of Chess” by the press.
Here is one of her compositions. It is White to play and mate in 3.
Answer – This composition displays how you should identify crucial flight squares for the opponent’s king and strategically block them in one way or the other.
White starts with 1. Qg7. It is a waiting move that cuts off the crucial 7th rank flight squares for the Black king. Now, no matter what Black plays, it’s a mate in two –
1…Kc4 2. Qd4 Kb3 3. Qb4#
1…Kb6 2. Nb5 Ka5/a6 (2…Kc6/c5 3. Qc7#) 3. Qa7#
1…Kd6 2. Nb5+ Ke6 (2…Kc6/c5 3. Qc7#) 3. Ncd4#
One final beautiful variation is 1…Kc6 2. c5! forcing Black to capture 2…Kxc5 followed by 3. Qc7#.
Comins Mansfield was an excellent composer and was well-known for complex studies with lots of pieces. He received the Grandmaster for Chess Compositions title by FIDE. He was also awarded the MBE by the British Crown. His book “Adventures in Composition – the art of the two move chess problem” is widely regarded.
One of his compositions is the next position — White to play and mate in two.
Answer – This example aptly shows that the first move of the solution can be as small as a pawn moving a step ahead and still create a deadly mating net.
White starts with 1.a3! (with the idea to play 2.Rb4#). Now, no matter what Black plays, it is a mate in one. Serious variations are the ones where Black moves his e3 knight to pin White’s b6 rook by his bishop on g1. They are –
1…Nd5 2. Qe8# (here, Black’s queen’s path to c6 is blocked)
1…Ng4 2. Qc4# (here, Black’s h4 rook’s path to c4 is blocked)
1…Ng2 2. Qc6# (here, Black’s queen’s path to c6 is blocked)
1…Nf5 2. Qc2# (here, Black’s h7 bishop’s path to c2 is blocked)
One other variation is 1…a5 to control b4 square then 2.Nc5#
We hope you enjoyed solving the above studies! Solving compositions teases your brain and pushes you to bring out your creative side. At our academy, our coaches use this as a means to build calculation skills.It helps you in learning to consider all the possibilities and to think about the least expected moves!
To learn more about our approach to teaching chess, check out this page