Monday, February 20, 2017

Magneto's Prison

My first chess composition began while I was teaching a beginner how to checkmate with two rooks using the steamroller technique:

I wanted to test the student's ability to see how the pieces might protect each other from a double attack and so I presented this position. White to move and save both rooks:

As the beginner pondered how to save the rooks, I wondered whether such a position was possible with White to move, since Black's king is almost stalemated and he has no visible means to mark time. This got me thinking along the lines of retrograde analysis a la "The Chess Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes" by Raymond Smullyan. On top of the requirement for LEGAL moves in retrograde analysis, I wondered whether Black would make LOGICAL moves to get to this position, basically meaning can we get to this without White having to leave a rook en prise for one or more moves? I answered both questions with this new setup and sequence of moves. White to move and get to the diagram above:

1.Rf3+ Kxg4

With my current reading of Kubbel's 150 Endgame Studies, I decided to make a little composition and ran through many possible movie-themed or atomic-themed names to give a worldly root to my abstract composition: Phantom Zone a la Superman 2; hydronium ion with 2 electrons around 1 proton; maybe just helium; unobtainium which is mentioned in James Cameron's Avatar and in The Core; maybe Bose-Einstein condensate in the movie Spectral. Finally, I decided that the rooks should land at the corners and a queen should stabilize the tight square around the king. The last corner might as well be a White Knight. And finally, using the White King's opposition to force the Black King to capture the White Bishop, I thought of the prison that held Magneto at the end of X-Men (2000). Best of all, there are two knights playing chess together in this scene.

Soapstone's Chess Problem #1: "Magneto's Prison"

Dedicated to Two Knights: Sir Patrick "Jean-Luc Picard" Stewart and Sir Ian "Gandalf" McKellan

White to checkmate in 2 moves

FEN 8/8/8/5N1R/3K1kB1/3R1q2/5p2/5Q2 w - - 0 1

The solution is nearly trivial: 1.Rxf3+ Kxg4 2.Qh3#, leaving the Black King trapped in a four-cornered cage:

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