Cyrus Lakdawala is an IM and former US Open Champion who teaches chess and has written over 25 books on chess openings.
The ever prolific Cyrus Lakdawala’s latest book offers a collection of endgame studies and problems aimed primarily at players who are not all that familiar with the world of chess compositions.
Much of the material is taken from the Facebook group Chess Endgame Studies and Compositions which Lakdawala runs with Australian GM Max Illingworth. I should declare an interest here as I’m a member of, and a very occasional contributor to, this group.
The first half of the book introduces the reader to the world of endgame studies. After a brief preliminary chapter taking us on a journey of almost a thousand years up to 1750 (though I’m not sure how Al Adli was composing in both 800 and 900), we move onto a collection of studies with the stipulation ‘White to play and draw’. Like this one (the solutions are at the end of the review).
Frédéric Lazard L’Échiquier de Paris 1949
(Lazard’s first name is anglicized to Frederick in the book. He died in 1948: perhaps this was first published in a posthumous tribute.)
The next, and longest, chapter is, you won’t be surprised to hear, devoted to ‘White to play and win’ studies.
Another short example:
Mikhail Platov Shakhmaty 1925
Then we move on from studies to problems. After a brief excursion to Mates in 1 in Chapter 4, Chapter 5 deals with mates in 2, like this one from the ever popular Fritz Giegold.
Fritz Emil Giegold Kölnische Rundschau 1967
(The first word of the newspaper is given as Kolner, without an umlaut: Wikipedia tells me the correct name.)
Another composer to feature heavily in this book is the great Puzzle King himself: Sam Loyd. Here’s an example from Chapter 6: Mates in Three Moves.
Sam Loyd Cleveland Voice 1879
Chapter 7 brings us some mates in four or more moves. Chapter 8 looks at some eccentric problems, Chapter 9 looks at study like themes in real games (yes, Topalov-Shirov, as you probably guessed, is there), and finally Chapter 10 presents us with some studies composed by young American IM Christopher Yoo.
On a personal level, I’d have liked some helpmates, which are often very attractive to practical players, and perhaps also problems with other stipulations: serieshelpmates or selfmates, for example. A short introduction to fairy pieces and conditions would also have been interesting. Something for a sequel, perhaps?
Cyrus Lakdawala has a large and devoted following, and his fans will certainly want this book. Those who don’t like his style will stay well clear. As for me, I find Everyman Cyrus a far more congenial companion than NiC Cyrus: do I detect a firmer editorial hand in removing some of the author’s more fanciful analogies? Given the nature of the book I think it works quite well: entertaining positions can take ‘entertaining’ writing but more serious material demands more serious writing.
The studies and problems are well chosen to be attractive to the keen over the board player who is not very familiar with the world of chess compositions. If you don’t know a lot about this aspect of chess and, perhaps enjoying the examples in this review, would like to investigate further, this book would be a good place to start.
The current Zeitgeist seems to demand that chess books are marketed as being good for you rather than just enjoyable and entertaining, and here it’s claimed that solving the puzzles in this book will ‘without question, undoubtedly improve the ‘real world’ tactical ability of anyone attempting to do so. Well, possibly. Solving endgame studies has been considered by many, Dvoretsky for one, to be beneficial for stronger players, and I quite understand why. I’m less convinced, though, that solving problems is the most effective way to improve your tactical skills, but it may well give you an increased appreciation of the beauty that is possible over 64 squares, and inspire you to find beautiful moves yourself.
My issue with the book concerns lack of accuracy, particularly in the problem sources. Puzzle 190 was composed by (the fairly well known) Henry D’Oyly Bernard, not by (the totally unknown) Bernard D’Oily. Frustratingly for me, I seem to remember pointing this out to the author on Facebook. Puzzle 242, a much anthologised #3 by Kipping, is given as ‘Unknown source 1911’. It took me 30 seconds (I know where to look) to ascertain that it was first published in the Manchester City News. As Fritz Giegold was born in 1903, it seems unlikely that he was precocious enough to compose Puzzle 237 in 1880. Again, a quick check tells me it was actually published in 1961. And so it goes on.
It’s not just the sources: the final position of puzzle 203 has three, not four pins. Someone with more knowledge of chess problems might have pointed out that in Puzzle 164 Sam Loyd displays an early example of the Organ Pipes Theme.
Even the back cover, which you can see below, is remiss, in claiming that ‘In a chess puzzle, White has to force mate in a stipulated number of moves’. No – you mean ‘chess problem’, not ‘chess puzzle’.
Chess problem and study enthusiasts are, by their nature, very much concerned with accuracy. It’s unfortunate that this book doesn’t meet the high standards they’d expect.
To summarise, then: this is a highly entertaining book which will appeal to many players of all levels, especially those who’d like to find out more about studies and problems. It’s somewhat marred by the unacceptable number of mistakes, which might have been avoided with a bit of fact checking and a thorough run through by an expert in the field of chess composition.
(Apologies for the repeated diagrams in the solutions: it’s a function of the plug-in used by British Chess News.)
BCN remembers Mike Bent who passed away on Tuesday, December 28th 2004.
Charles Michael Bent was born on Thursday, 27th of November 1919 and in that year Charles was the fifth most popular boy’s name.
He was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire.
In 1939 he was living at 5, Ashburton Road, Gosport with his mother Eileen B. Bent (née Hill) and was a Sub Lieutenant in the Royal Navy.
He wrote “Best of Bent: Composer’s Choice of His Chess Endgame Studies, 1950-93” This was edited by TG Whitworth.
He died in Swindon on the 28th of December, 2004 having last resided in Hungerford, RG17. Whilst writing the Studies column for British Chess Magazine he resided at “Black Latches”, Inkpen, Newbury, Berkshire.
The C. M. Bent Memorial Composing Tourney was held in 2006-07.
From British Chess Magazine, Volume XCV (95, 1975), Number 1 (January), page 22 we have a charming introduction to CMB from the retiring editor of the Studies column, AJ Roycroft :
“A studies article without a diagram? Yes, and without an apology either. Instead this introduced my successor, Charles Michael Bent, who is as remarkable without the chessboard as he is with it. Now since, as at May 1974, he has composed the total, rarely exceeded by anyone, of 670 studies (of which only 375 have been published), and about 600 problems (one tenth published), his other achievements and activities, insofar as he can be persuaded to talk about them, are worth recounting.
Michael Bent has a passion for all-the-year-round tennis, and loves the country life. Walking and climbing, all-forms of do-it-yourself, word-play nabla/del, puzzles, conjuring and listening to music make the mixture extraordinarily rich. Yet if there was a single word to characterise him it would be simplicity (his choice), with (my addition) a strong and individual sense of humour.
Physically he is a lean, balding 54-year-old as fit as most men half his age. He played at Junior Wimbledon before the War and only three of four years back won the singles tennis championship of his half of Berkshire. He is a modest and delightful companion, and to visit him and his wife Viola, to whom he credits responsibility for the serenity of his condition and surroundings, is a relaxing pleasure I always look forward to in my own hustled and tense London-centered existence.
In his own words he was never really a player of chess at all, but first sight of problems (during the war) and endings (just after it) acted like fireworks on a dark night and lit an imagination which still lacks basic technical knowledge. So, artistic rather than ‘scientific’, have never knowingly composed a didactic study. Am told my ‘style’ is easily recognised. Am aware, but perfectly content, that I compose much that the expert will easily solve, in the hope that the less initiated may be entertained and as attracted as I was in the beginning.
There is a feast, including many surprises, in store for you and me, at the hands of your new chess-chef, ‘CMB of the BCM’.”
From British Chess Magazine, Volume 125 (2005), Number 2 (February), page 98 we have a brief obituary from John Beasley :
“Charles Michael Bent died just over a month after his 85th birthday. Mike Bent had long been Britain’s leading composer of endgame studies, he was a witty and entertaining writer on the subject (and on many others), and the pleasure he gave was rightly acknowledged by the granting in 2001 of one of the BCF President’s Awards for services to chess.
BCM published his first study in 1950 and one of his last 50 years later, and he was our endgame study columnist from January 1975 to March 1985. There will be a steady flow of quotations in Endgame Studies during the coming months. John Beasley”
The Studies column was taken over in April 1985 by Paul Lamford.
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Robert Hale 1970 & 1976), Anne Sunnucks :
“Born on the 27th November 1919, Michael Bent has only one possible challenger, Harold Lommer, as the finest composer of endgame studies England has ever produced. Although up to October 1967, he had composed 546 problems and 320 studies, he now concentrates almost exclusively on studies. His 17 honoured studies include three 1st prizes. His partiality towards Knights is shown in the typical study selected here.
Michael Bent was educated at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, but had to leave the Navy because of chronic sea-sickness. He served in the Rifle Brigade in the Second World War and afterwards became a rubber plant in Johore, where he survived several terrorist attacks. How now lives with his wife in a Berkshire Village.
Apart from Chess, Michael Bent has other recreations, including wood carving, stamp collecting, composing crossword puzzles and butterfly collecting. His butterfly collection included 500 Malayan specimens. He is also a strong tennis player. Thirty-one years after playing at Wimbledon as a junior, he won the Newbury and District singles title in 1967.”
CM Bent 2nd Honorable Mention New Statesmen 1964 Tourney Award, 5th March 1965
BCN remembers Hugh Blandford who was a British composer.
Hugh Francis Blandford was born on Wednesday, January 24th in 1917 in South Stoneham, Southampton, Hampshire, England.
On this day Ernest Borgnine was born and an earthquake measuring 6.3 in magnitude struck Anhui Province, China, causing 101 deaths.
Hugh’s father was the Rev Albert Francis Blandford and his mother was Alice Rhoda Crumpton Evans. Hugh had two younger brothers, Philip Thomas. and Evan Arthur.
The family moved to Jamaica and he spent his early childhood there until he was nine years old when they sailed from Kingston, Jamaica with his family to Bristol on board the SS Carare (Elders & Fyffes Line) :
His mother Alice Rhoda Crumpton passed away on 19 July 1964 in Minehead, Somerset, at the age of 79.
His father Rev Albert Francis passed away in December 1967 in Somerset at the age of 79.
He had three children during his marriage to Marjorie Cox.
In 1961 he was awarded the title of “International Judge of the FIDE for Chess Composition”
CM Bent wrote the following obituary in the British Chess Magazine, Volume CI (101, 1981), Number 12 (December), page 532 :
“The modest and self-effacing composer who formerly conducted our Studies column from 1951-1972 died in September. His work as a metallurgist and his family responsibilities allowed him to make periodical contributions over a long span and to offer us many of his own original compositions.
His style, as with his manner, was essentially quiet and it was a rarity for him to compose anything other than wins.
His last voluntary labour was to compile an index for E.G. of all studies published there to date. His loss to the world of of studies will be greatly felt.
The first prize winner below is a classic of exquisite refinement and matches the immaculate handwriting which was always such an elegant feature of his work”
“British study composer and FIDE Judge of Endgame Studies. Born on 24th January 1917. Since July 1951, Hugh Blandford has conducted the Endings Section of the British Chess Magazine. By profession a metallurgist, he was married and had two children. Of his 60 or more studies he was best known for the excelsior theme.”
From Wikipedia :
“Hugh Francis Blandford (24 January 1917 – 20 September 1981) was a chess endgame composer born in Southampton, England.
He spent several years of his childhood in Jamaica with his father, the Reverend Albert Francis (Frank) Blandford, a Minister in the Congregational church, his mother and two younger brothers, Evan Arthur and Philip Thomas Blandford. All three brothers then returned to England and attended Eltham College (the School for the Sons of Missionaries) in South-east London, while their parents remained in Jamaica. He married Marjorie Cox, whom he had worked with during the Second World War.
He played chess from his schooldays and as well as playing, also started to compose original chess endings. He became known in the field of chess endgame studies for a small but elegant body of compositions, expertly edited and published after Hugh’s death by his long-standing chess endings colleague, John Roycroft.
Hugh Blandford was co-inventor with Richard Guy – and, later, with John Roycroft – of the Guy–Blandford–Roycroft code for classifying studies. In July 1951 he began as the endgame study editor for the British Chess Magazine. He was made an International Judge for Chess Composition in 1961.
A metallurgist, he continued to compose chess endgame studies until the end of his life, dying of a heart attack in early retirement in Hatfield, England, on 20 September 1981.”
BCN sends best wishes to John Rice on his birthday, July 19th in 1937.
John Michael Rice was born in Scarborough, Yorkshire, North Riding, his mother’s maiden name was Blake. John lives in Surbiton, Surrey and teaches Modern Languages at Tiffin School, Kingston-Upon-Thames.
From An ABC of Chess Problems :
“The author is one of the country’s most prolific foremost composers and problem critics. He has gained mainly tourney honours, both at home and abroad, and since 1961 has been editor of a flourishing problem section in the British Chess Magazine, the country’s leading chess periodical. He lives in London and teaches Modern Languages at Tiffin School, Kingston-Upon-Thames.”
From chesscomposers.blogspot.com :
John Rice was the chief editor of the problems section of the “British Chess Magazine” from 1961 until 1974 and is a faithful collaborator of “The Problemist“. He has written “Chess Problem: Introduction to an Art” (1963) together with Robin Matthews and Michael Lipton and “The Two-Move Chess Problem” (1966), “Serieshelpmates” (1978) with Anthony Dickins or “Chess Wizardry: The New ABC of Chess Problems” (1996).
Translated from https://peoplepill.com/people/john-michael-rice/ :
“Since the mid-fifties he has composed problems of all kinds, but above all in two moves. In the 1960s he was editor of the problems section of the British Chess Magazine. Since 1999 he has been editor of The Problemist magazine.
International Master of Composition since 1969 and International Judge for Composition since 1972.
President of the PCCC (Permanent Commission for Chess Composition) from 2002 to 2006.
He worked as a teacher of modern languages in a school in Kingston-upon-Thames.
Together with Barry Barnes and Michael Lipton he wrote the book Chess Problems: Introduction to an Art (Faber & Faber, London 1963).
He composes mostly direct mates, but can composes as well in other genres, including fairies. He is an International Judge for twomovers, helpmates and fairy problems and the former President of the PCCC from 2004 until 2006.
John was awarded the title of “International Grandmaster for chess compositions” in 2015.
“I was taught the moves of chess in 1947 at the age of ten and quickly realised that I liked the game no more than Ludo or Snakes and Ladders where the chances of losing seemed to me unfairly high. But the chess pieces and their moves fascinated me, so it is hardly surprising that before long I had turned to problems and become an ardent fan of Brian Harley in his Observer column, especially as I had come across and paid two shillings (!) for his Mate in Two Moves in a second-hand bookshop in Reigate. Harley, together with T. R. Dawson in the British Chess Magazine and C. S. Kipping in CHESS, provided the sources of my first solving pleasure and the inspiration for my first efforts at composition. Among my early successes was problem l, heavily constructed but strategically rich, a first prize winner in a tournament for composers under 21, one of a series organised by the British Chess Problem Society.
I had grown up in Scarborough (Yorkshire), out of contact with other problem enthusiasts, and a chance meeting in December, 1954 with Michael Lipton in Cambridge, where we were both taking Scholarship examinations, brought the realisation that there was far more to the two-move chess problem than the solidly entrenched traditionalism espoused in those days by the columns of The Problemist and CHESS. Very soon the bulk of my output was in the modern style (with set and try-play) and published abroad, notably in Die Schwalbe, whose two-move editor, Hermann Albrecht, did much to stimulate my interest. Problem 2 gained a coveted prize in an extremely strong formal tournament judged by Michael
Lipton, following an article of his on the potentialities of the half-battery theme (illustrated here by the arrangement on the c-file).
5th prize, 133rd Theme Tournament, Die Schwalbe, 1961.
The half-battery is only one of several themes which have commanded my attention over the past 20 years, others being white self-pin in try and key (illustrated by problem 3), Grimshaw and Nowotny (problem 4), reciprocal and cyclic play (problem V, the first published example of cyclic mates in three phases), pawn-promotion effects, and tasks of various types, especially open gates. My total problem output numbers about 600.
The Tablet, Commended, BCPS Ring Tournament 1958; Brian Harley Award
In 1961 I took over from S. Sedgwick the editorship of the problem section of the British Chess Magazine, which post I held until December, 1974. It was a source of pride to me that I was now doing the job once done by the great T. R Dawson, though I knew that I could never bring to it the same tireless energy and all-round expertise which he had displayed so impressively. At about the same time I embarked with Michael Lipton and Robin Matthews on a venture which was to have repercussions throughout the entire problem world,
namely a series of books on problems published by Faber and Faber. The first, Chess Problems: Introduction to an Art (Lipton, Matthews and Rice), appeared in 1963, and was followed three years later by The Two-move Chess Problem: Tradition and Development, also with Michael Lipton, but this time the third collaborator was Barry Barnes, who has long been a close friend and influence. The third book in the series, An ABC of Chess Problems (1970), was a solo effort.
My interest in Fairy Chess dates from a meeting in the mid-1960s with the late John Driver, whose enthusiasm for the pleasures to be derived from non-orthodox forms I found highly infectious. Fairy problems soon began to appear in the BCM column and were favourably received. The serieshelpmate, where White remains stationary while Black plays a sequence of moves to reach a position where White can mate in one, has perhaps interested me more than any other non-orthodox form (see problem Vl), and in 1971 I collaborated with Anthony Dickins to produce a book on the subject, The Serieshelpmate (published by the Q Press, first edition 1971, second edition 1978).
1st Prize, Problem 37th Theme Tournament, 1961-62
White mates in 2
Set: 1…Kc6; 2. Qe8 (A)
1…Ke6; 2. Qc8 (B)
Try: 1.Nb6+?, Kc6;2.Qc8 (B)
Key : 1.Nf6+! Kc6;2.Qd6 (C)
Since 1974 my problem activities have necessarily been restricted by the demands of family life (wife and two sons, none of them much interested in chess) and my career (schoolmaster, formerly Head of Modern Languages Department and now Director of Studies at Tiffin School, Kingston Upon Thames. Other leisure-time interests (not that there is much leisure time) include cricket and classical music.”
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977), Harry Golombek OBE, John Rice write about himself:
“British problem composer, output about 500, mainly modern-style two-movers but also several helpmates, serieshelpmates and fairy problems. Editing: problem section of British Chess Magazine (1961-1974). Author of An ABC of Chess Problems(1970), and co-author of Chess Problems: Introduction to an Art (1963), The Two-move Chess Problem: Tradition and Development (1966) and The Serieshelpmate (1971). International master (1969): International Judge (1972).”
Happy Birthday Christopher Cedric Lytton (Sells) (07-iv-1939)From chesscomposers.com :
“Cedric Lytton was born in South Australia and is a mathematician. He became president of the British Chess Problem Society in 2009. He is also International Judge and was during many years the sub-editor of the fairy section for The Problemist, then of its retro section.”
Here is that article in full from The North Norfolk News :
“In her latest Face to Face interview, KAREN BETHELL talks to multi-talented mathematician Dr Cedric Lytton PhD, who, in spite of being born with impaired hearing, went on to list among his accomplishments playing the viola, singing, and writing top-level chess problems.
But, for Dr Lytton, who lives in Sheringham, the recent headline-hitting Hudson River plane crash in New York brought to mind perhaps his greatest achievement . . .
A difficult birth at Adelaide, South Australia, left Cedric with impaired hearing and reduced mobility in one hand.
His disability was to affect him as a boarder at Rugby School, Warwickshire, where, forced to carry around a cumbersome hearing aid in his briefcase, he was severely bullied.
However, learning to type – and discovering at age 8 that he had a talent for chess – turned out the young Cedric’s saving grace, and, in 1955, he had his first problem published in the British Chess Problem Society magazine, The Problemist.
Cedric, whose ancestors include the famous 19th century writer Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, (who coined the phrase, “the pen is mightier than the sword.”), took up playing the bass recorder aged 18, and, as a young man, he dreamed of becoming a musician.
But, deciding life as a professional mathematician would be a safer course to take, he read maths at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, before going on to gain a PhD.
In 1964, he entered the scientific civil service at Farnborough as a researcher and computer programmer, following in the footsteps of his uncle, Cliff Roberts, also a researcher, who helped design Sydney Harbour bridge.
Four years later, Cedric, penned a pioneering paper on reducing airflow – and thereby shockwaves and drag – over the wings of aircraft, and his efforts led to the design of the 320 Airbus – the jet that crashed safely into the Hudson River on January 15.
Advancements in hearing aid technology meant that, by the mid-1970s, Cedric was no longer forced to wear an unwieldy device pinned to his clothes, and he realised his ambition of learning to play the viola.
After the end of an unhappy first marriage, he met up with long-term friend, Dorothy – then a supervisor of midwives at Ely – by chance on a visit to Norwich and the couple, whose son Martin is a GP in Cornwall, were married at St Andrew’s Church, Sheringham in 1982.
Since retiring 10 years ago, Cedric, who, while at Farnborough, held the local Croquet Club championship title for 8 years on the trot, has kept busy composing chess problems, playing backgammon and croquet, playing viola with a local string quartet and singing with St Andrew’s church choir. He also enjoys swimming, cycling, cooking and wine appreciation.
Cedric, 69, was delighted this year to receive a hat trick of accolades – winning Bodham Croquet Club’s annual knockout competition, taking the North Norfolk Backgammon Circle trophy, and being made president of the British Chess Problem Society.
What is the best thing about your job?
When I was working, the best thing was being left alone to get on and do a job I knew I could do well without being bothered by admin people.
And the worst?
I was lucky enough not to have a “worst” thing, but, one thing that did bother me was that every time an engineer came to repair my computer, I’d come back from my coffee break to find the mouse had been left on the wrong side!
What is the one possession you would save if your house was on fire?
My viola and my bass recorder, which I keep next to each other.
Where do you go to unwind?
Cycling – it’s a lovely feeling freewheeling down to the town.
What is your favourite Norfolk building?
The Hoste Arms at Burnham Market because they do excellent food and excellent wine.
What is the one thing you would change about yourself?
I’d perhaps be a little more tolerant of others as I do have to make an effort sometimes to keep back what I really think. If I could have normal hearing, I’d probably change that too.
What is your proudest moment?
To have found a girl who was prepared to put up with me and, at last, to have entered a happy marriage.
And your greatest achievement?
Writing my paper in 1968; It was a breakthrough paper which made a lot of difference. I’d also like to say my two beautiful grandchildren, Alexandra and William.
Have you ever done anything outrageous?
Not really. I was always a really goody goody little prig but, in the course of my long life, I’ve had a few rough edges knocked off.
Whom do you most admire?
Nelson Mandela because of what he has done for his country. He came out of 27 years in jail apparently a better man, never said a word about his captors and has continued to justify his existence ever since.
What makes you angry?
My deafness sometimes makes me difficult to understand and means that I often have to say things twice. But what is really annoying is when people ask me something and, when I give a reply, they look at Dorothy.
Favourite book, film and TV programme?
Book: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – The Dancing Men, film: The Prisoner of Zenda, and I do enjoy watching The Andrew Marr Show on television on a Sunday.
BCN remembers Comins Mansfield MBE who passed away on March 28th 1984 in Torbay, Devon.
Comins was the first English born chess grandmaster when in 1972 he was awarded the the title of “International Grandmaster of the FIDE for Chess Composition” three years before the first correspondence GM and four years before the first English born OTB grandmaster.
In the 1976 New Years Honours list Civil Division Comins was awarded the MBE. The citation read simply “For services to Chess”.
Comins Mansfield was born on Sunday, June 14th 1896 in Witheridge, North Devon. The birth was registered in the district of South Molton, Devon. His parents were Herbert John (who was a banker) and Julia Emma Mansfield (née Frost). Miss Anne Comins was Herbert’s mother who he memorialised using her name for his only son.
Comins had two sisters Edith K and Margaret M plus a paternal step-sister Harriett C Mansfield.
He was baptised on the 18th July 1896 in Witheridge as an Anglican and the ceremony was performed by JT Benson.
He was admitted to Witheridge School on September 18th 1899 (aged three) and in 1901 Comins continued to live in Witheridge, Devon attending Blundell’s School. The family “left the district” on August 13th 1909.
At the time of the 1911 Census Comins was a boarder at a school in Tiverton, Cheshire. Possibly this was Tarporley High School.
A Career Beckoned
Comins left school in 1914 and did not attend University. He started work at tobacco company W. D. & H. O. Wills (which became part of Imperial Tobacco in 1901) in Bristol being a prime location for a company which relied on export markets of physical goods.
Interruption by War
According to RH Jones on the Chess Devon web site:
In September 1915 he joined the Royal Artillery, and carried a small travelling set at all times, with which to while away the long hours spent in the trenches. He never lost contact with Chandler during the war, even though the latter was involved in a rather messy British invasion of Iraq, (then Mesopotamia), and the two combined on problems by post, one of which won 1st Prize in the Good Companions magazine in January 1918. Shortly after, he was temporarily blinded by mustard gas, requiring 12 months in hospital.
On his release from hospital, the war was over and he re-joined Wills in Bristol and his local chess club, Bristol & Clifton. His skill over the board should not be overlooked – he soon became established in Gloucestershire as a very strong player, winning his club championship for the first time in 1920 and the county championship continuously from 1927 – 34. From his return to Bristol he played for the county regularly, never lower than Bd. 3 and from the time of his first county championship, always on top board. From 1926 to the time of his move to Scotland he was also the Problem Editor of the Bristol Times and Mirror .
According to the National Records Office:
With reference to the medal card of Comins Mansfield we have:
Royal Field Artillery
Royal Field Artillery
Comins career with W. D. & H. O. Wills lasted 45 years and in 1934 relocated to Glasgow which halted his composition career until 1936 labelling his problems “Mansfield – Glasgow. His job in Scotland finished in 1950 returning to live in Carshalton Beeches, near Croydon in South London working for a W. D. & H. O. Wills subsidiary.
On September 19th 1923 Comins married Marjorie Erica Ward (born 1899) at the Parish Church, St. Paul, Bedminster, Bristol, Gloucestershire. Marjorie died in 2003. Comins and Marjorie had three children, Geoffrey, Hilary and Roderick.
At the time of their marriage Comins was living at 25 Sommerville Road, Bishopston, Bristol, BS7 9AD:
Comins interest in chess started at the age of nine with his father Herbert who played correspondence chess for Devon but his interest in the world of problems was initiated in 1910 with an article (First Steps In The Classification of Two-Movers by Alain C. White) on problems in British Chess Magazine. In 1914 aged 18 he joined the Bristol and Clifton Chess Club and following World War I he became club champion for the first time in 1920. Also, Comins was Gloucestershire Champion from 1927 – 1934 before he relocated to Glasgow where he won the West of Scotland and Glasgow Championships. At Cheltenham 1928 not only did he draw in 50 moves with FD Yates but he beat Sir George Thomas in 20 moves!
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CIV (104, 1984), Number 5 (May), p. 194 :
“Comins Mansfield (14 v 1896 – 27 iii 1984) was an outstanding figure in chess problems, notably in the field of two-movers. Awarded the IM title for problems in 1959 and the GM title in 1972, he served for eight years as President of the FIDE Permanent Commission for Chess Compositions. In 1976 he was awarded an MBE for his services to chess.
As an OTB (over-the-board) player he won the championship of the Bristol Club and of Gloucestershire. From 1964 to 1978 he contributed the weekly puzzle to the Sunday Telegraph.”
CHESS Obituary by Colin Russ
From CHESS, Volume 48 (1984), Numbers 921-922, page 316 we have this rather modest mention:
Who was Britain’s first chess grandmaster? His name start with M, but no, the answer is Comins Mansfield, to whom F.I.D.E. awarded its newly created title of grandmaster for Chess Composition in 1972, and who died in March this year aged 87. In tribute to him we recall, two of his masterpieces, separated by over half a century.”
Comins Mansfield BCF Tourney 1974
White mates in two
Comins Mansfield Good Companions 1918
White mates in two
Interestingly the July 1984 issue of CHESS publishes a letter from Ken Whyld taking issue with the above. Ken wrote:
Who was Britain’s first chess grand master? His name starts with M but no, the answer is not Comins Mansfield (page 316 in CHESS, No. 921-2. No, it isn’t. It is J. Mieses in 1950. The error is repeated on page 328. Why do we, as a nation, have to be so snotty about those who chose to be become naturalised?
From page 328 we have this detailed obituary from Colin AH Russ:
We regret to report the death of Comins Mansfield MBE, peacefully at his home in Torquay on 28 March 1984. During his long life of more than 86 years, Mansfield received every possible honour in the realm of chess problem art.
He was born at Witheridge, North Devon, on 14 June 1896, and at 9 was taught to play chess by his father, a keen correspondence player. One of his earliest efforts won First Prize in 1912 in the Illustrated Western Weekly News.
Other problems of his early period were published in the Folders of the Good Companion Chess Problem Club, of Philadelphia, USA. This brought him into contact with Alain C. White, who also recognised his genius and gave him every encouragement. Some of the problems at this time were composed in the trenches, “somewhere in France”, while Mansfield was serving in the Royal Artillery with the British Army. He was severely gassed in May 1918, and discharged from the Army.
He won the West of Scotland and Glasgow Championships while stationed in that city. He was one of the founder members of
the British Chess Problem Society, and served as its President. In 1947, he started a feature in The Problemist entitled “Selected with Comments” which continued in his hands for 35 years. His weekly column in the Sunday Telegraph, mainly confined to game positions, ran from 1964 to 1978.
Mansfield’s other venture into publishing was his “Adventures in Composition” in which he takes the reader step by step through the Process that he went through in composing 20 of his problems.
The book was edited by A. C. White and first appeared in the USA in 1942, and was published in Britain by CHESS, Sutton Coldfield, in 1948. it became a classic, and many composers could testify to the help they have received from it.
In “Adventures in Composition“, Mansfield expounded his principles for making good chess problems: originality, economy, and artistic finish. if he found that an idea could not be set without forfeiting one of these principles, then he put it on one side, and turned his attention to something else. Therefore, although one can say that some of his problems are better than others, it is impossible to find one that is bad.
A. C. White made Comins Mansfield the subject of his last book in the Christmas Series: “A Genius of the Two-Mover” in which he gave some 100 of the master’s 300 problems.
He wrote: “The key-note of his style lies in his freshness of outlook and in a clarity of vision with which few composers have been gifted.” Brian Harley, the distinguished author and editor of the
famous Observer column for so many years, continued the story with a further 100 of Mansfield’s Problems.
In view of his international reputation, it was only fitting that Mansfield should represent the BCPS at the first meeting
of the FIDE Problem Commission in Piran in 1958, that he should serve as its President from 1963-71, and that in 1972 he should be awarded one of the first grand master titles, honoris causa, in recognition of his contribution to problem chess. He thus became the first Briton to receive this title, before any British chess players had reached any title norms. Four years later he received the recognition of his country, when his name appeared in the Queen’s New Year Honours list as recipient of the MBE, for services to chess.
ln 1975, Gerhard Jensch, editor of the problem column in Schach-Echo, brought out a supplement to “Adventures in Composition”, containing 63 of Mansfield’s later problems, showing how he had reacted to the changing themes and styles of the post second World War period. Barry Barnes, the following year, brought out “Comins Mansfield MBE: Chess Problems of a Grandmaster“, in which he presented 2O0 problems with full solutions and comments, many of them culled from Mansfield’s private notes and correspondence.
It is appropriate to finish with the comment with which E. L. Umnov concluded his introduction to Barry Barnes’s book in 1976: “Mansfield’s work is a source of pride not only to British chess, but to chess the world over”.
Hooper & Whyld on Mansfield
From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984) by Hooper & Whyld :
“English two-mover composer widely regarded in his time as the greatest in this field. During the life of the GOOD COMPANION CHESS PROBLEM CLUB (1913—24) he was one of the pioneers who gave new life to the two-mover. The ideas then introduced have since become traditional, and Mansfield has adhered to them, continuing to gain successes although not always following the latest trend. In 1942 he wrote Adventures in Composition, an excellent guide to the art of composing. In 1957 he was awarded the title of International Judge of Chess Compositions; in 1963 he accepted and held for eight years the presidency of the FIDE Commission for Chess Compositions; in 1972 he was one of the first four to he awarded the title of International Grandmaster for Chess Compositions.
A. C. White, A Genius of the Two-mover (1936) contains 113 problems by Mansfield; B. P. Barnes, Comins Mansfield MBE: Chess Problems of a Grandmaster (1976) contains 200 problems. “
Sunnucks on Mansfield
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :
“International Grandmaster of the FIDE for Chess Compositions (1972), International Master of the FIDE for Chess Compositions (1959), International Judge of the FIDE for Chess Compositions (1957). President of the Permanent Commission of the FIDE for Chess Compositions from 1963 to 1971. President of the British Chess Problem Society from 1949 to 1951.
Born at Witheridge in North Devon on 14th June 1896. He has composed about 1,000 problems, nearly all of them two-movers, since 1911. He is regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time. His outstanding ability was recognised early when A Genius of the Two-Mover in the A.C. White Christmas series of books was published in 1936. He is the author of Adventures in Composition (1944) and co-author with the late Brian Harley of The Modern Two-Move Problem.
From 1926-1932 he was Problem Editor of The Bristol Times and Mirror, and he is at present Problem Editor of The Sunday Telegraph His feature “Selected with Comments” has been a permanent feature of The Problemist. A strong player, Mansfield won the Gloucestershire Championship from 1927 to 1934. He has a recorded win over Sir George Thomas, a late British Champion and International Master.
Mansfield made a life-times career with the tobacco firm of W.D. & H.O. Wills. He is a dedicated family man with three children.
C. Mansfield, 1st Prize, Hampshire Post, 1919
White to play and mate in two moves.“
Solution to Two-Mover above : 1. Qf5 !
Harry Golombek on Mansfield
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess by Harry Golombek we have:
Britain’s most distinguished problem compose, output about 859, nearly all two-movers. Very active during the period of the Good Companions, contributing to their folders many classic examples of half-pin, cross-check, and other important themes. Books include Adventures in Composition (1943), a fascinating expose of the composers methods. President of the British Chess Problem Society, 1949-51. President of the FIDE Problem Commission, 1963-71, and Hon. President since 1972. International Judge (1957); international master (1959), grandmaster (1972).
Curiously RH Jones wrote
“At Paignton, Mansfield seemed to know Milner-Barry quite well, but Golombek kept his distance. It is noticeable that Golombek’s Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford 1977) is almost unique of its kind in containing no individual entry for Mansfield; even a long 3½ page article on the history of chess problems, which mentions numerous half forgotten composers, contains no reference to him. This is surely no oversight and must be interpreted as some kind of inexplicable snub.”
We too made initially made the same error and it is true that there in individual entry for CM outside of the Problemists section. Did RHJ miss the above entry as we initially did?
John Rice on Mansfield
From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1984) John Rice writes:
“Comins Mansfield was born at Witheridge, Devon on 14th June 1896. At the age of 18 he joined the Bristol and Clifton Chess Club, and after World War 1 he soon won the club championship and the Gloucester Championship several times. For 14 years until 1978 he conducted the weekly chess features in the Sunday Telegraph.
In 1959 he he became an ‘International Master of the FIDE for Chess Composition’ and in 1972 one of the first four grandmasters. For 7 years he was President of the FIDE’s Permanent Commission for Chess Compositions.
Mansfield is widely regarded as being one of the three greatest composers of chess problems of all time. In 1976 was awarded the MBE for his services to chess.
Mr. Mansfield worked for 45 years in the tobacco firm W.D & H.O. Wills – first in Bristol, then in Glasgow and finally in London. He is now enjoying retirement in Torbay.
Mr. Mansfield writes: It was in 1959 that the FIDE decided to broaden their titles to include artificial positions such as ‘problems’ (the so-called poetry of chess), where mate has to be forced in a specified number of moves. The Master title then came into being, while the ‘Grandmaster’ distinction was withheld until 1972.
I have always felt that life is too short to deal with anything but two-movers. Here is one of my earliest successes (ed: shown here in Desert Island Chess) composed in the trenches in World War 1.”
Desert Island Chess
From The Complete Chess Addict (Faber&Faber, 1987,p.222), Fox & James we have a section entitled Desert Island Chess which includes this problem:
First Prize Good Companions, March 1917
Mate in 2
Of it, Alain White, the world connoisseur wrote – ‘This may well be taken as the standard cross-check problem of the twentieth century’. The key-move 1.Be4 looks senseless, as it sets the black king free and apparently jeopardizes the white one by unpinning the black knight. But it threatens mate by 2.Nxc4 This knight can open fire on the white king in four ways. If 1…Ne5+,2.Rd3 is mate. If 1…Nxd6+, the mate is 2.Bd3. If 1…Nxe3+, Nb5 mates, while 1…Nd2+ is answered by 2.Nc4.
The next position is of a quite different type:
CHESS, 1950, First Prize
White to play and mate in two moves
It illustrates several quiet defences by a single black piece. This has a rather colourless key, 1.Bb2, which threatens mate by 2. Rg4. Moves of the black bishop stop this but give rises to six other mates. If 1…Bg1;2.Nc7. So the bishop must stay on its long diagonal. 1…Bg3 allows 2.Rxh4. If 1…Bf4 (unpinning the R), 2.Re5. If 1…Be5, 2.Rd4. If 1…Bd6, 2.Rc8. If 1…Bb8, 2.Rb6. There are three other subsidiary mates, after 1…Rf8, 2.Rf4. If 1…d1=q,2.Qd1 and finally if 1…Rg2 (or Rg1 or Rg3).
In the 1950s it became fashionable for composers to try to hoodwink solvers by arranging close tries which almost solved the problem. But this trend often militated against the merit and interest of the actual solution. In this problem the solver soon discovers that he must set-up a double-threat by 1.g4,g3,f4 or f3, each move cutting off both a black rook and bishop.
Die Schwalbe, 1956, First Prize
White to play and mate in two moves
But which is the right move? 1.g4 threatens mate by 2.Qxe4 and Qd1, but is defeated by 1…Nxf2. Similarly 1.g3 (threatening 2.Qe3 and Bxb3) is met by 1…Nc2. So try 1.f4 (threatening 2.Qxe4 and Bxb3), but this fails to 1…e3. This leaves the key-move 1.f3 which does the trick. There is a fair amount of by-play. 1…Rf4 forces 2.Bxb3. 1…Bf4 forces 2. Qxe4; while after 1.Kd4 and Nc4, the mates are 2. Qxc3 and Bxe4 respectively.
In an ABC of Chess Problems, Section III, Composition and Solving, page 266 onwards, John Rice discusses in detail the methods of Comin Mansfield and any student of solving and composition would do well to study this chapter.
Here is an excellent biography from Chess Devon by RH Jones
Here is a biography from Keverel Chess by RH Jones
We send best wishes to Richard Kenneth Guy on his 102nd birthday, this day (September 30th) in 1916
From Wikipedia :
Richard Kenneth Guy (born 30 September 1916) is a British mathematician and professor emeritus in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Calgary. He is known for his work in number theory, geometry, recreational mathematics, combinatorics, and graph theory. He is best known for co-authorship (with John Conway and Elwyn Berlekamp) of Winning Ways for your Mathematical Plays and authorship of Unsolved Problems in Number Theory. He has also published over 300 papers. Guy proposed the partially tongue-in-cheek “Strong Law of Small Numbers,” which says there are not enough small integers available for the many tasks assigned to them – thus explaining many coincidences and patterns found among numerous cultures. For this paper he received the MAA Lester R. Ford Award.
From 1947 to 1951 Guy was the endings editor for the British Chess Magazine. He is known for almost 200 endgame studies. Along with Hugh Blandford and John Roycroft, he is one of the inventors of the GBR code (Guy–Blandford–Roycroft code), a system of representing the position of chess pieces on a chessboard. Publications such as EG magazine use it to classify endgame types and to index endgame studies.
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