Brian Tomson, series helpmate in 26

We’ve written previously here about the Irish player and problemist Brian Tomson. He played in the Glorney Cup, Armstrong Cup (for T.C.D.), finished equal 4th in the Irish championship in 1965, and represented Ireland in the Student Olympiad in 1967, before emigrating to Australia in 1968. He died in Newcastle, Australia in July 20, 1986, thirty years ago today.

Here is another of his problems:

Tomson, Series helpmate in 26

Series helpmate in 26 (Tomson, 1981)

For those unfamiliar with this problem type, it’s a helpmate, so White and Black are working together to help White mate Black. It’s also a “series” problem: Black will play 26 consecutive moves, with White’s pieces remaining static. All Black moves must be legal, and all but the last must leave a position where Black could legally move next, i.e., there can be no checks in Black’s first 25 moves. Then White plays one move to checkmate Black.

The length of the solution may make the problem seem daunting, but in fact Black has so few choices that it’s quite accessible. Answer in a few days.

[Update, June 25, 2016: see comment for solution.]

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5 years of IRLchess

Today marks the fifth anniversary of IRLchess. The very first post was a short one, to whet the appetite, before moving to more substantial topics. Many thanks in all this to my co-author David McAlister, who has contributed many articles over these years.

Many thanks also to all readers—I hope you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read—and to all those who have contributed comments, information, photographs and games.

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A famous ending—epilogue

I had never seen the original article in “the Irish chess magazine” that Golz and Keres quoted, but now it has been supplied by David McAlister, for which many thanks. The article appeared in Chess in Ireland, September 1959, p. 7. The author isn’t listed, but J. J. is listed as the general editor of the magazine, so it’s reasonable to assume he wrote this article.

Respect the endgame (B. O'Sullivan-Walsh, Leinster Championship 1952)

From Chess in Ireland, September 1959, p. 7

The content of the article came as a surprise to me. I had always assumed from the description in Chess Combination as a Fine Art that the analysis in the original source was faulty, and that the solution given by Golz and Keres corrected the errors. That’s not stated explicitly, perhaps, but I had always read it as implied.

But as we see from the full text above, the analysis given by Golz and Keres was in fact taken entirely from the original article by J. J. Walsh. Their only further reference to the original comes at the end of their solution (pp. 236-7):

“This instructive endgame shows the uselessness of the knight in a defensive role!,” comments Chess in Ireland. Yes, but at the same time its skilful application in attack!

It’s not explicitly claimed that the original missed both stalemate and improvement, but that would be consistent with what is quoted.

There is one other point that struck me as unusual. The question as posed by Golz and Keres (see clipping two posts back) comments that the endgame “is particularly interesting because of the number of mistakes it contains”. But according to their own solution, there were two errors (1. … Ne4+? and White’s resignation). Tablebases have shown the modern reader that multiple errors are commonplace even at the very highest levels, but even without this information, would a pair of errors really seem so unusual? It seems a rather sour comment to make.

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A famous ending—III

J. J. Walsh has scorebooks covering all of his games, going back to the late 1940’s, and in the collection is included the full score of the game from the last two posts. White was Barney O’Sullivan, and the event was the Leinster Championship.

Most of the game was unremarkable: O’Sullivan tamely lost a pawn in the opening, and everything simplified quickly to a knight ending. It could have been a routine win, but instead turned into something much more interesting right at the end. Winding back a few moves from the widely publicised ending, the position below was reached after White’s 60th move.

B. O'Sullivan-Walsh, leinster Championship 1952, after 60w

B. O’Sullivan-Walsh, Leinster Championship 1952
1. … ?

This ending is within range of the 7-man Lomonosov tablebases (subscription required), which show that Black has the unique winning move 1. … Nb4!!.

With the various solutions to the puzzle given in the earlier posts to hand, the reason is clear enough: from either b4 or c5 the knight is poised to come to d3, but from b4 the knight additionally covers d5, cutting out the drawing line given by van Perlo: after 2. Nf5+ Kxh3 3. Kf2 Kg4 4. Ne3+ Kf4 White has no useful checks.

One exclamation mark or two? Without the benefit of the solution to the later puzzle, it seems an exceptionally difficult puzzle, so the double exclamation seems justified.

[Click to reply the full game.]

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A famous ending—II

The ending in the last post was given in the excellent book Chess Combination as a Fine Art by Werner Golz and Paul Keres (Pitman 1976), a compilation of puzzles originally published by Kurt Richter in Schach. On p. 149 we have:

O'Sullivan-Walsh, Leinster 1952

Answering the second question first, no, resignation was not justified, because after 4. Ke2 Nc3+ 5. Kf1 Kxf3 White is stalemated, and Black has nothing better.

For the first part of the exercise, after 1. Nxh4, Black had indeed something better. On 1. … Nd3+! 2. Ke3 f2 3. Nf3 Kg3 4. Ke2 Nc1+! 5. Kf1 Nb3 6. Ke2 Nd4+! 7. Nxd4 Kg2 Black promotes the pawn.

The position also featured in Endgame Tactics by the correspondence chess GM G. C. van Perlo (New in Chess 2006), an acclaimed book that won both English Chess Federation and ChessCafe Book of the Year awards. On pages 390-91 we have the same ending, now given as O’Sullivan-Walsh, Leicester 1952, with the variations above. Van Perlo also points out that from the original position White can draw via 1. Ne3+!, e.g. 1. … Kf4 2. Nd5+ Ke4 3. Nc3+ (which went unremarked by Golz and Keres).

And finally the recent and similarly acclaimed Pump Up Your Rating by Axel Smith (Quality Chess 2013) (ChessCafe Book of The Year) gives the game as O’Sullivan-Walsh, Leinster 1952 and takes it up after 1. Nxh4: Black to move and win (pages 260, 264-65). “There are only five pieces in the starting position, but it’s nevertheless very difficult. The exercise comes from one of the books Tikkanen used, and I solved it every second month. I still had problems the fifth time!”

There are two remaining puzzles, related to the game itself. What was the event, since “Leinster” is unspecific? And was White Barney O’Sullivan (Irish champion 1939 and 1946) or Dónal J. O’Sullivan (Irish champion 1948, 1956, and 1957)? Answers in part III.

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A famous ending—I

White to play; how should he continue? In particular, if 1. Nxh4, what then?

A Famous Ending, part I

This position, from an Irish game, has featured in several books, including some highly acclaimed recent ones—which stress the importance of trying to work out a solution yourself rather than resorting to looking up the solution in a tablebase: good advice!

Solution and sources tomorrow.

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Irish championship 2003

A new report for the Irish championship 2003 has been added to the tournaments pages here. Stephen Brady won for the fourth time, finishing 1½ points clear of the field.

Until this addition, this championship was the most recent for which this site had no report. The problem was that there did not seem quite enough information to compile a full report: the tournament page on the ICU web site gave only final scores, and the ICU games archive gave only 35 games, instead of the roughly 81 that would be expected from those final scores.

The report in The Week In Chess had similar information but also a link to fuller coverage at Dublinchess.com. That link had long since gone stale, but happily the Wayback Machine came to the rescue, and enabled an almost complete reconstruction of the event.

Daly-Short, irish championship 2003The most interesting game of those available is the wild struggle between Colm Daly and Philip Short from round 3.

From the diagrammed position the game continued 47. Rc8+ Kg7 48. Qxe2 Rxe2 49. Rxa8 Qe4?? (49. … Re1! wins) 50. Rg8+ Kh6 51. a8=Q Re1 52. Qf8+ 1-0.

[Click to replay the full game.]

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Dick Grogan 1938-2016

Dick Grogan, who died earlier this month, was a nationally prominent journalist. Most of his career was spent with the Irish Times, where among other assignments he served as Northern Editor.

His Irish Times obituary is subtitled “Journalist whose career was bookended by Bloody Sunday”: he was an eyewitness in Derry on that day and his article “Soldiers kill 13 in Bogside” appeared on the front page of the Irish Times the following day; at the end of his career he testified before the Saville Inquiry.

His name was very familiar to me, but I had no idea that he was a chessplayer until I read it in his obituary. As a 17-year-old he played as first on the Irish team in the Moscow Olympiad, scoring +1 =7 -4 on boards 3 and 4. He later played on the first U.C.D. team to win an Armstrong Cup, in 1958-59, and on the Collegians team that won the Armstrong at its first attempt in 1963-64. He was also Irish U19 champion in 1954.

The ICU games archive gives only his games from the Moscow Olympiad, under a bare “R. Grogan” (the otherwise excellent OlimpBase report gives him as “Robert Grogan”). Here is another game.

He was runner-up in the Hastings Premier Reserve ‘E’ event in 1955-56. Reporting on the event, J.J. Walsh commented that

“Richard Grogan gained his success at Hastings by playing solid rather than spectacular chess, and he was content to wait for his opponent’s errors instead of making the running himself. The following is a typical example of his style and skill.”

Brocklesbury-Grogan, Hastings Reserves E, 1955-56S. H. Brocklesbury – Richard Grogan
Hastings Premier Reserves ‘E’ 1955-56 (7)

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 O-O 5. Nc3 d6 6. d4 Nbd7 7. O-O c6 8. e4 e5 9. dxe5 dxe5 10. Qe2 Qc7 11. h3 Nc5 12. Ng5 Nh5 13. Be3 Ne6 14. Nxe6 Bxe6 15. Rac1 Bd7 16. Kh2 (diagram)

16. … Nf4! 17. Qd2 Nxg2 18. Kxg2 Rad8 19. Qe2 b6 20. Rcd1 Be6 21. b3 f5 22. f4 Qc8 23. Rxd8 Rxd8 24. exf5 Bxf5 25. g4 Bd3 26. Qf2 Bxf1+ 27. Kxf1 exf4 28. Bd2 Qd7 29. Be1 Qd3+ 0-1
[Click to replay the full game.]

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Bunratty Masters 2016

A full report on this year’s Bunratty Masters is now available here. Nigel Short finished clear first, apparently and surprisingly for the first time ever.

collins-leruyet-2016All 135 games are available. In perhaps the most interesting of all, the French player Léopold Le Ruyet capped off a great tournament with a crushing last round win as Black against Sam Collins.

In the diagrammed position, White has just played his 14th move and he’s already lost. There followed 14. … Nxd4 15. cxd4 Bxh3! (0-1, 23).

[Click to replay the full game.]

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Hogarty-Green, European Boys U18 Team Championship 2006

In the puzzle in the last post, White must not play 1. Ke3?, which loses: after 1. … c1=Q+ 2. Nxc1 Kxc1 3. Ke4 Kd2 4. Ke5 Ke3 5. Kxe6 Kf3 6. Kf6 White is one move too late.

The right way is 1. Kd2!, and after 1. … e5 (since there is nothing else), only then 2. Ke3!, which now wins, since after 2. … c1=Q+ 3. Nxc1 Kxc1 4. Ke4 Kd2 5. Ke5 Ke3 5. Kf6 it is Black who is a move too late. (As a study this would leave something to be desired, since White would also win easily after 2. Nc1 followed by 3. Ne2, 4. Ke3, etc.)

The position is from Hogarty-Green, European Boys U18 Team Championship 2006. In a small and very strong event of just 13 teams, Ireland entered an A and a B team, and predictably enough the B team had a difficult time of it, with an overall score of +1 =4 -19, where the win was against Ireland A. The late Philip Hogarty, playing board 1, was heavily outrated in all games, by between 250 and 900 points.

This game should have been a second win for the team, but mysteriously was instead a missed opportunity. The game continued 1. Kd2!, but then ½-½??.

The records I have shed no light on the reasons for this. It may have been that time trouble contributed, of course, but another possibility is that after having the worst of it for most of the game, the sense of relief at not having a losing position induced White to offer an immediate draw. Does anyone have further information?

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