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As a footnote to yesterday's obituary of Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, there is another area of his chess prowess worth mentioning. In his years at Cambridge, he composed a number of delightful chess problems, generally featuring surprising tactical themes of the sort that appeal to players rather than specialist problemists. The diagram position is one of his mate-in-three compositions which was published in the British Chess Magazine in 1929.

, , , ,

, , , ,d

Zh,Gn ,

, Vh, ,

,a, , ,

N ,h, ,D

C , n ,

, , , ,

Black's king is surrounded, so any safe check will be mate, but getting at the king is not easy.

A moment's thought should suggest the idea of swinging the bishop round from h3 to c8 and a6, which demands a rook move to begin. But which one?

White does not have to worry unduly about the pawn on f2 since, for example, 1.Re8 f1=Q 2.Bc8 leaves Black defenceless against 3.Ba6 mate. 2...d4 would allow mate from the other direction with 3.Be6.

That should suggest Black's defence: 1.Re8 is met by 1...Bg8! 2.Bc8 d4! and there is no mate. So White needs an opening move that offers a counter to Bg8. The answer is very neat: 1.Re2! when f1=Q or dxe2 fail as usual to 2.Bc8, and 1...Bg8 is met by 2.Rc2+! dxc2 3.Bf1 mate. Despite gems such as this, Milner-Barry seems to have given up problem composition around 1930.

This left him free for 60 years of real chess. The following game, from the 1987 Lloyds Bank Masters, was one of his last tournament victories. He so relished being, for once, on the Black side of his favourite King's Gambit, that he produced one of the best games ever played by an octogenarian.

White: John Rety

Black: Sir Stuart Milner-Barry

1 e4 e5 15 Bxf4 Nxf4

2 f4 exf4 16 Rxf4 d5

3 Nf3 h6 17 exd5 Qe7

4 Bc4 d6 18 Nd2 Qe3+

5 d4 g5 19 Rf2 Bh3

6 0-0 Bg7 20 dxc6 Rae8

7 c3 Ne7 21 Nf3 Bf6

8 b4 0-0 22 Bd5 Bh4

9 a4 Nbc6 23 Qc2 Bxf2+

10 Qb3 Ng6 24 Qxf2 Qxf2+

11 a5 g4 25 Kxf2 Be6

12 b5 gxf3 26 Ba2 Rb8

13 bxc6 fxg2 27 Kxg2 Rb2+

14 Rf2 bxc6 White resigns

William Hartston