EVERY YEAR the British Chess Problem Society (BCPS) holds a British Chess Solving Championship in three stages - a starter puzzle, a postal stage and the final.
Last year's (or rather, last season's) competition attracted 333 competitors, of whom 293 solved the starter correctly. Joined by several seeds, they then received seven problems and one endgame study for the postal round, for which there were 93 entries.
The difference between the two is that in problems there is an absolutely specific task: mate in a fixed number of moves, or perhaps something more esoteric such as a helpmate in which Black co-operates with White, or a selfmate in which White forces a reluctant Black to mate him.
In an endgame study, on the other hand, the stipulation is more natural, such as White to play and win or draw.
The best competitors were invited to the final of the championship, which was held at Oakland School in Rutland on Saturday 20 February.
There were nine problems and one endgame study to solve in five timed sessions, with victory going to Jonathan Mestel, the former world problem- solving champion and grandmaster twice over (for both playing and problem- solving, that is), who gained 29 out of a possible 30 points.
Anyone wanting to enter this year's competition is invited to solve the problem given above.
The competition conditions appear below, but first here is last year's starter - the solution to which appears at the very end of the column.
John Rice BCSC starter problem, 1998-99
British residents only should send answers (key move only) to: BCSC, 9 Roydfield Drive, Waterthorpe, Sheffield S20 7ND, postmarked no later than 31 July, with SAE and cheque or postal order for pounds 3 payable to the British Chess Problem Society. Please also indicate that you saw the problem in The Independent.
Solution to 1998-9 starter:
1 a5! (threat 2 Qb6 mate) and if 1 ...dxc6 2 Nxc6; 1 ...dxe6 2 Nf5; 1 ...d6 2 Ng6; 1 ...d5+ 2 Nxd5; 1 ...Na4 2 Nd5; 1 ...Nd5 2 Nxd5; 1 ...Nxa5+ 2 Qxa5.