Chess

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The French composer Auguste D'Orville was one of the pioneers of 19th century problems. Before he came along, most composed problems were cumbersome positions full of superfluous pieces included solely to give a pretence of game-like reality. D'Orville dispensed with the dressing, serving up his positions with the aim of producing beautiful finishes in a surprising manner.

The first diagram is an example of his work from 1837. It is White to play and mate in five. This difficulty lies in getting at Black's king in the corner. If the final position has one night checking from f7 and the other controlling g7, then what is going to control g8? Attempts to bring the king to help are either too slow or result in stalemate. Also, Black may have the option of moving his h-pawn to h6 or h5 to gain more room for his king.

The first move of the solution is natural enough: 1.Nh5, depriving the king of its last square, but what do we do after 1...h6?

The answer is beautiful: 2.Ne7 Kh7 and now the mate is achieved by laying a trail of food for the king: 3.Ng6!! Kxg6 4.Bg8!!Kxh5 5.Bf7 mate. The final mate is pure (each potential escape square of the black king is covered once only) and economical (every white piece is used).

The second position, also composed by D'Orville in 1837, is an even better variation on the theme. Again it's mate in five.

Since Black is at present stalemated, White must start by giving him some freedom - but not enough to escape the net. He starts with 1.Nge5! Ke3 2.c3! Kd2 and now, with the clue of the previous position, you should find the rest.

Again it's the trail of food theme: 3.Nc4+! Kxd3 4.b4!! Kxc4 5.Be2 mate, again a mating position both pure and economical. A magnificent and surprising concoction.

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