Saturday, June 20, 2009

"Davar"'s First Original Problem, and Hitler's Contribution to Chess in Palestine

2X Source: Davar, Sept. 1931, problem no. 42.

Eliyahu Fasher notes in his 1964 book, Ha'Problemai Ha'Israeli: Yesodot Ha'Compositzia Ha'Sachmetait [The Israeli Problemist: The Basics of Chess Composition] (Tel Aviv: Mofet Press), p. 36, that the above is the first original problem published in Davar's chess column.

He is greatly surprised by the high level of the problem: two thematic variations, a cross-check with a block, self-pinning and two batteries -- a very nice problem which, he notes, 'is hard to believe was created by an unknown composer' -- Y. Ben Shahar -- 'who only published one problem'. (The solution, as usual, can be seen by highlighting the invisible text below).

In general, notes Fasher (ibid., p. 36), the level of chess problems before 1939 was low: 'In 10 years, about 90 problems were published, of which a large percentage were plagiarized.' This was easy to do, since 'the editors of the chess columns had little understanding in chess problems'.

However, he adds (ibid., p. 37-41), in 1939 we see 'a mass of new problems' from well-known problemists emigrated to Palestine from Europe, and things began to improve: by 1941, many 'quite high level' problems were being composed, especially two-movers.

Once more, Adolf Hitler had, unintentionally, helped the intellectual climate in enemy countries by expelling the brightest people from the land under his control due to their ethnicity. This was true in all fields -- from nuclear physics and mathematics, to art and chess problems.

Solution (highlight text below):

1. Rb4


  1. Hi, would it be possible to give a more complete analysis of this problem? the solution is pretty laconic. Like your site btw

  2. Sorry, only saw your the comment now... in any case, the key, 1. Rb4, threatens 2. c4#. It also allows Black's thematic reply: moving the e6 knight (1. ... Nc5, intending 2. ... Nd3, or 1. ... Nxd4, intending 2. ... Nc2) which, what's more, give discovered checks, now that the rook on c4 had moved. But the threats are defeated by 2. d5# and 2. Nf7#, respectively.

    We have a problem where the keymove allows a discovered check by the firing of a bishop-knight battery, which, in the thematic (second) variation, allows a cross-check by the firing of the queen-knight battery, now possible due to the piece the firing piece (the black knight) having self-pinned itself.