Chess Puzzle of the Week (134)

It was good to hear from Roger Scowen recently. We’ve known each other on and off for many decades, and he’s hoping to join us at the Roebuck for some casual chess as soon as it’s considered safe to meet there again. (Watch this space for further details!)

Coincidentally, Roger features in John Saunders’ always entertaining back page article in the latest issue of CHESS.

Regular readers will know that I sometimes set puzzles inviting you to find the plausible losing move rather than the brilliant winning move. That’s the case here. I’ll take you back a move from John’s article.

Roger is White in this game (Derby Premier 1962) against the much stronger Alan Phillips, who had been joint British Champion with Leonard Barden in 1954. He’s just offered a queen trade, but Black, naturally enough, wants to avoid this.

All Black’s pieces are attacking the white king but Stockfish looks at the weak pawn on e5, laughs and offers a draw. You might not expect that in two moves time Roger would be a piece up and eventually win the game.

In the words of A Question of Sport, What Happened Next? It’s Black to play.

Chess Puzzle of the Week (133): Solution

In last week’s first question, Black’s only drawing move is Rh1!, followed by Rh6+. Everything else loses with best play.

Instead, I played Rf1?, but, a few moves later, was offered a second chance.

White, with many winning moves to choose from, has just played Ke7-d7?, which enables me to draw with, and only with, Ra2!

After Rd2+, though, I lost a few moves later.

My mistake in this game was that I was only thinking about vertical checks, not horizontal checks.

This game taught me an important lesson about rook and pawn endings. It might help you as well.

Chess Puzzle of the Week (133)

Two puzzles for the price of one again this week, and again not many pieces on the board. I’ve posted these on Facebook but haven’t yet had any correct replies. I’ll explain a bit more here.

These positions are both from a game I played against Maks in last Thursday’s lichess arena. I was black and failed to solve either position successfully at the time.

In each case it’s Black’s move and there is only one way to draw. Can you find both correct solutions?

Chess Puzzle of the Week (132): Solution

Norbert Geissler
2 Pr Benko MT 2020
H#6 (b) Ka5 – b5

Last week’s helpmate in 6 solves like this (remember that Black moves first):

  1. d4 Kf3 2. d3 Ke4 3. d2 Kd5 4. d1B Kxd6 5. Be2 Kc5 6. Ba6 b4#

Then, starting again, but this time with the black king on b5:

  1. a3 b4 2. Kc4 b5 3. a2 b6 4. a1B b7 5. Be5 b8Q 6. Kd4 Qb4#

To quote the judge of the award, Christopher Jones:

“A minor readjustment of the position of the bK activates a very different sequence, in which … b4 becomes the first move and is followed by a Rundlauf involving promotion to queen. The especially delightful feature of this problem is the exchange of functions of bPa4 and bPd5. Each remains as a static self-block in one solution and promotes to an actively blocking bishop in the other. One ideal mate, one model mate, and only six pieces used – very fine work!”

Chess Puzzle of the Week (132)

Norbert Geissler 2 Pr Benko MT 2020
H#6 (b) Ka5 – b5

It’s always an exciting day when Postman Pat delivers the latest issue of The Problemist to the Chess Palace.

A couple of longer helpmates caught my eye. This is the 2nd prize winner from last year’s Benko Memorial Tournament.

Helpmates can often serve as an excellent introduction to the problem world, both for competitive players and for those who prefer collaboration to competition.

Here, Black plays the first move, and the two sides work together to reach a position where White’s 6th move delivers checkmate.

When you’ve done that, you then have to do it again, but with the black king starting on b5 rather than a5.

Have fun!

Mike Bolan

I was saddened to hear of the recent death of Mike Bolan at the age of 81.

Mike’s primary club was Ashtead, but he also played for Richmond in the Thames Valley League between 2007 and 2017.

Mike was the kindest and friendliest person you could imagine, always with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. The first time I met him was in 1975, in a Thames Valley League match against the long defunct Cobham Chess Club. Every time we saw each other thereafter he reminded me of how I beat him, although, in truth, it was much closer than he made out.

By profession the headmaster of a prep school in Surrey, his passion was for junior chess. For forty years or more he was very much involved with Surrey Junior (Wey Valley) chess, as organiser, teacher and anything else that needed doing.

Mike Bolan at the Berks & Bucks Congress 2015: photo by John Upham.

The tributes to him on the English Chess Forum are testimony to how much he was cherished by very many friends and colleagues in Surrey and in the world of junior chess.

A real chess enthusiast and a perfect gentleman, he will be much missed by very many people in the chess world and beyond.

Rest in peace, Mike, and thanks for all you did for chess.

Chess After Lockdown

Next week we’ll be able to meet again over the board, at least in small numbers, and it’s likely that most restrictions will be lifted next month. With any luck, league matches will be able to resume in the autumn. From what we now know about the Covid virus we’ll still have to take care in terms of ensuring indoor spaces are well ventilated, and some will prefer to wear masks indoors. We’ll see what happens.

There’s a lot for us – and for all chess clubs – to think about. Not just about what post-pandemic chess clubs should look like, but about the changing role of chess in a post-industrial society. Venues, collaborations with other clubs, community outreach, competitive chess, chess instruction, social chess, junior chess. I may post more about this over the next few months.

There are some immediate questions to answer, though. Our online tournaments have continued, but have not been all that well supported by our members. Not everyone is free every evening, and, while younger and higher rated players prefer faster time limits, older and lower rated players will only play at slower speeds. We’ve also been running teams in the Surrey Online League. Again, not many have taken part, but those who have done so seem to have enjoyed themselves.

Should we continue our arenas on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or should we aim to meet up in real life, over a pint of beer, a glass of wine or whatever drink you prefer? Or perhaps we should do both, on different evenings. Do let me know what you think.

Please email me at to let me know your views.