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MatPlus.Net Forum X-Files: Anticipations Russian Selfmates
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(1) Posted by Michael McDowell [Friday, Nov 17, 2006 20:50]

Russian Selfmates

Commend, The Problemist 1985
(S1002, January 1985)

(= 9+8 )

Selfmate in 2

1.Rg3 (>2.e4+)
1...Rxf5 2.Qd8
1...Sxf5 2.Qa6
1...Sc4 2.Qxb5
1...Se4 2.Rxb5

This anticipates exactly N.Pletenjov & V.Rychkov, 1st Place, USSR Composing Championship 1988 (excuse me if I've mistranslated the source!), which is No.175 in the recently published collection of Russian Selfmates (see review in the October Orbit, amongst others).
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(2) Posted by Marjan Kovačević [Wednesday, Nov 22, 2006 19:07]

I love it, Michael, an wonder how it got only a Commend!? After such a treatment by the first judge, it is easier to understand how it didn't reach Fide Album. This is a wonderful Schiffmann pair with double pinning and quite aproppriate pair of additional pinnings. Forgot the name of composer who propagated combination of quiet and forced play in S# (Edward Bosswell?), but he would have loved to see it!
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(3) Posted by Hartmut Laue [Saturday, Nov 25, 2006 18:24]

Enjoying this flawless marvel, I fully agree with Marjan. I had some faint
memory to have seen this problem before. Furthermore I was curious to see
which judge had given such a low placement to such a fine problem. At first I
could not believe my eyes when I looked up who had been that judge - me!

Having stopped shaking my head about myself for some minutes, I studied more
carefully my award of 20 years ago. Well, I started to re-understand
myself then: This is not an award of the kind where after 5 prizes and 6
honourable mentions there is also a wave of unnumbered commends! No, this
award (only for s#2) contained four excellent problems and nothing else. I
have never been and, probably, will never be a friend of inflationary
awards. And if I now look at the two prize-winners (both by Zappas), I see two
absolute master-pieces with extremely rich and modern contents and high-polish
construction. Both of them were selected for the FIDE Album 1983-85 (nos. 541
and 533), and the only hon. ment. (by S. Mladenovic) was not very far from
that level.

Michael's fine problem is very different in character: Marjan has already
described its contents, and it is indeed a splendid example of a style
propagated by Edward Boswell (1900-1960).

After 20 years, my view is not completely the same as it used to be: I
appreciate more the timeless elegance, I see more the importance of such a
find. But I still do understand why this was only no. 4 in that tourney: The
other three gave more indication where the future of the s#2 genre would have
to be found, and they showed exciting ambitious modern themes in convincing

Michael's problem is perfect and elegant to a degree known to be rare in the selfmate genre. And this is the only point where I do not agree with Marjan: Why should a just "commended" problem not be selected for the FIDE Album? Michael's selfmate shows that the FIDE judges should NOT consider the result of the award as an indication for or against that selection. They should make their judgment only subject to their own conviction and
responsibility. For a FIDE Album, the aspect of "eternity" will play a
considerably more important role than for the ranking in a tourney award, at
least: it can. The criteria for a selection for an anthology like the FIDE
Album need not necessarily be the same as those for the ranking in a tourney

Twenty years ago, we were spoiled by "The Problemist" with its excellent s#2
tradition. Today it has become rare that we get really enthusiastic about a
s#2 (although I have a feeling there is still a future for s#2s - but that
is another subject). Times have changed. In the 1985 tourney, I had to decide
the order of four (!) excellent s#2s. When does this really happen today?

Finally, I quote my text from the award: "Two Schiffmann defences, in harmony
with 2 more pins of BS on c4 and e4. All 4 variations are quiet." I admit that
I should have found a word for the charme of this timeless beauty, and I am happy for this opportunity to add words to that end. I also admit: Despite everything said above - looking through the looking-glass of today's state of selfmate composition, I'd place the problem higher than in 1987.

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(4) Posted by Uri Avner [Saturday, Nov 25, 2006 23:12]; edited by Uri Avner [06-11-26]

Better late than never!
The story behind this selfmate is interesting regarding the identical anticipation, and most fascinating regarding the motives behind Hartmut's award (including his changed opinion). Thanks Hartmut for allowing us into your inner world.
As we are living in an imperfect world, one cannot deny the possible influence of the original award on Album judges facing the impossible mission of correctly evaluating such huge number of entries.
Michael's selfmate is near perfection. The only detail that bothers me is the position of the WR after the key. I would prefer the Rook on f3, not because of the "Bulgarian dual" on the threat mate, but because the defensive motives of both 1...Sxf5 and 1...Se4 are then unique. For technical reasons this seems impossible or too costly to achieve.
I would like to mention my own little part in the story. In Warsaw, I saw Michael outside the ECSC room, standing beside the book selling table, pondering which book to buy. I recommended the collection of Russian Selfmates; the rest is history...
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(5) Posted by Michael McDowell [Monday, Nov 27, 2006 11:51]

Thanks for the fascinating comments. It seems that others thought more highly of this problem than I did!

To answer Marjan, the problem was never submitted for the FIDE Album. I don't think I have submitted anything since the 80-82 Album.
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(6) Posted by Frank Richter [Tuesday, Nov 28, 2006 12:32]

I'm a little bit surprised at the comments above. Yes, the cited problem looks nice and shows the Schiffmann-effect twice. But if we talk about a s#, so I have to notice, that beside the threat there are no s#-specific effects in the variations. The whole play is in fact a "play for stalemate" - a kind of selfmates which I do not particularly like.
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(7) Posted by Hartmut Laue [Tuesday, Nov 28, 2006 19:21]

@ Frank:

Of course, I know what you mean ;-) - and your position is in the spirit of my award. This is, however, one of the cases where the elegance has become more important to me than the true selfmate character. The future of the selfmate is not in the direction of this problem, that is my conviction. I could call it a "non-typical" or "non-characteristic" selfmate. But I do appreciate this perfectly constructed matrix. (Uri has mentioned a second subtle good point of criticism, though.) - Even a strong principle must not exclude exceptions...

Also, this is certainly not one of the selfmates which are hidden stalemate problems. In this sense, it IS a selfmate: The idea to exploit a black selfpin (after a threat) by producing a black zugzwang position sounds more like a "#n idea" but would require 3 moves then. The selfmate stipulation makes it possible to show the idea in 2 moves.
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(8) Posted by Michael McDowell [Tuesday, Nov 28, 2006 20:01]

I make no claims to be a selfmate composer, having only composed three! The problem came from my interest in the Schiffmann theme, inspired by the late Bob McWilliam.

In case it is of interest, here is a problem which was developed from the previous one.

Schweizer Schach-Magazin, August 1985

(= 12+7 )

Selfmate in 2

1.Bf4 (>2.Bd5+)
1...bSxd4 2.fxe6
1...eSxd4 2.axb3
1...Sg5 2.Sxb3+
1...Sd2 2.Sxe6+

I much prefer the increased unity given by the by-play pins in the other problem to the reciprocal captures here (both the pawn captures and the a5 knight are crude).
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MatPlus.Net Forum X-Files: Anticipations Russian Selfmates