Some familiar chess compositions with Jen Shahade

While up north to play WCOOPs, I gave a presentation at Pub Chess Toronto and showed the following position.

jen_s_1oct15.jpgJen Shahade with a very specific composition

This problem is shaped like a poker spade- it's also black to checkmate in two moves by force! This would never occur in a real game, but problems like these are one of my favorite parts of the chess culture. It's a branch of chess called composition. Chess composers create positions from scratch, to highlight beautiful checkmates and ideas. Some people define beauty in chess as surprise, for instance, sacrificing your most valuable piece. Others think of depth, or making a move that is very difficult to find. In the case of a problem shaped like a poker suit, the beauty comes from creating surprising or deep checkmates that are also in aesthetic configurations.

As the 2nd PokerStars Isle of Man Chess International approaches (October 3-October 11) Grandmaster Pal Benko, the legendary 87-year-old Hungarian-American composer, created a few chess problems for us in honor of each suit.

This year's International will again feature British GM and former World Championship candidate Nigel Short, as well as #1 British player, Michael Adams. Renowned chess composer Yonathan Afek from Israel will also play.

The queen or king of chess AND poker will be crowned on October 2, when the UKIPT again hosts a Combined chess and poker tournament. This event kicks off with a six round chess tournament, which determines the size of your stack in the poker tournament.

Back to the spade problem, shown again here in two-dimensional form.


While there are many ways to checkmate in multiple moves, did you find the only road to checkmate in exactly two moves? (Spoiler Alert!)

The solution begins with the beautiful sacrifice, Qf4+


Now no matter which way white recaptures the queen, black has checkmate in one more move. For instance, if the knight captures, rook takes bishop (on e3) is mate. The most beautiful finale is when white recaptures with the queen, which leads to a checkmate by the most unlikely assasin, the pawn.


For more details on the chess event itself, check the PokerStars International Chess Tournament facebook page and official website. Till then, see if you can solve some of the other problems that Benko created. In the shapes of heart, club and diamond of course!



White to Move and Mate in 2



White to Move and Mate in 4



Black to move and mate in 3.

Click here for the solutions.

Jen Shahade is a member of Team PokerStars Online, and a Chess grand master.
Jennifer Shahade
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