Chess Composers
by Bill Wall

Compositions are chess positions other than which arises during a chess game, usually, but not necessarily, composed for solving. The chess problem and the composed chess ending are the true art forms of chess. Orthodox compositions consist of direct mate problems or an ending with the demonstration of a win or a draw. Many times it calls for mate in a specified number of moves. A chess composition consists usually of a position on the chess board, a stipulation in the form of words by the composer (or problemist), and a solution. It may also have the element of difficulty, a theme, and judged on originality.

Unorthodox compositions, known as Fairy Chess, may have no relationship to the real game of chess. It has invented pieces such as Grasshopper (hops over other pieces), Camel (a leaper), Zebra (a leaper), Nightrider (moves like a knight, but more squares), etc. It may even use unorthodox chess boards.

Retrograde analysis is a branch of composition based on determining the play leading to the given position.

Studies are positions in which White (who usually plays first) has to reach a clearly won or drawn position following the best play from both sides.

Chess compositions can be classified into groups such as direct mates (two-movers, three-movers, and more-movers), selfmates, helpmates, etc. A selfmate is a composition in which White is to play and force Black to deliver mate. A helpmate is a composition in which Black and White cooperate to reach a mate for White.

A chess composition is called cooked if it has a solution that differs from the author's solution or intention.

Here are some famous chess composers.

Fadil Abdurahmanovic (1939- ) is a Bosnian Grandmaster of chess composition (1992) and an International Judge of Composition.   His best work is in the form of helpmates and fairy problems.

Yochanan Afek (1952- ) is a chess composer of endgame studies and problems.  In 1989, he was awarded the title of International Master for chess composition by FIDE.  Her has published about 120 studies and he has won 11 first place awards for his compositions.

Iuri Akobia (1937- ) of Soviet Georgia has composed over 300 studies. He has written several chess books on endgame composition.

Edith Helen Baird (1859-1924) of England, born Winter Wood (known as Mrs. W.J. Baird), is the most famous female chess composer. She published her problems using the name "Mrs W. J. Baird." She composed over 2,000 problems. In 1902 she wrote 700 Chess Problems, which took her 14 years to complete.  In 1907, she wrote The Twentieth Century Retractor (take a move back to make a stronger move to mate or win the game), which was full of Shakespeare quotes.

Pal Benko (1928- ) is an International Grandmaster and Endgame Composer. He was born in Frnce, grew up in Hungary, and settled in the USA.  He was awarded the title of International Master of Chess Composition by FIDE.  He has won 24 first place awards for his chess compositions.  He recently composed several chess problems that were in this month’s Chess Life magazine in recognition to Bobby Fischer’s 70 birthday if he had lived.

Vladimir Bron (1909-1985) was a top Soviet chess composer and master.  He composed over 400 studies during his lifetime.  In 1969 he wrote Selected Studies and Problems. He won 31 first prizes for his chess compositions in composing tournaments.  He was awarded the title of Grandmaster for chess composition.

Ignazio Calvi (1797-1872) was an Italian chess player and composer.  He was perhaps the first person to use under-promotion (not promoting to a queen) in endgame studies.

Luigi Centurini (1820-1900) was an Italian chess player and composer who specialized in bishop vs. rook and queen vs. rook endings.

Vitaly Chekover (1908-1965) was a Russian master and composer of around 150 studies.  He was a specialist on knight endings.  Together with GM Yuri Averbakh, he published a four-volume encyclopedia on endgames in 1956.

Andre Cheron (1895-1980) was the chess champion of France in 1926, 1927, and 1929. He wrote the four-volume Lehr- und Handbuch der Schachendspiele from 1952 to 1971. He is one of the most famous endgame composers.  In 1959, FIDE awarded him the title of International Master of Chess Composition.  He composed over 300 studies during his lifetime.

Eugene Beauharnais Cook (1830-1915) of New Jersey was the first American chess composer of note. In 1868 he wrote American Chess Nuts, a collection of over 2,400 positions. He was President of the New Jersey Chess Association and was the Problem Editor of the Chess Monthly. He personally composed over 800 chess problems.   When he died, he had the third largest chess book collection in the world.  His library of over 2,500 chess books was presented to Princeton University.  (Nowadays, a library of 2,500 chess books is common.  I personally have a library of over 5,000 chess books – Wall)

Thomas Rayner Dawson (1889-1951) was the Problem Editor for the British Chess Magazine and the Fairy Chess Review. He was considered the father of Fairy Chess and invented many fairy pieces and new chess conditions for chess problems and compositions. He composed 5,320 fairy chess problems, 885 directmates, 97 selfmates, and 138 endings.  He was awarded prizes for 120 of his problems.  He invented the Nightrider and the Grasshopper. The Nightrider moves like a knight, but then can continue to moves as a knight as long as the spaces visited by all but the last jump remain empty. The Nightrider is denoted as an inverted knight. The Grasshopper is denoted as an inverted queen. It moves as a chess queen, but must jump exactly one piece when it moves, and it stops, directly at the square after the piece it jumped. Pieces jumped by a grasshopper are not captured.

Vincent Lanius Eaton (1915-1962) was one of America's greatest chess composers. He graduated from Harvard at the age of 18. He worked as a scholar at the Library of Congress. From 1939 to 1941 he was the Problem Editor of Chess Review.  He published over a thousand chess problems.  He was an International Judge for Chess Composition.

Nikolai Grigoriev (1895-1976) was a Russian chess master and problem composer.  He composed over 300 studies and was an authority on pawn endings  and rook and pawn endings.

David Gurgenidze (1933- ) from Soviet Georgia, has published over 600 studies and has won 32 first prizes.  He was awarded the title of Grandmaster for chess composition by FIDE.

Edgar Holladay (1925-2003 ) was one of America’s leading chess problemists.  He conducted the problem department in the American Chess Bulletin. He composed chess problems for over 70 years, composing over 2,000 problems.

Bernhard Horwitz (1807-1885) was a German composer of around 400 studies.  Along with Josef Kling, he authored the first anthology of endgames in 1851.

Genrikh Kasparian (1910-1995) was one of the first Grandmasters of Chess Compositions. He is considered to have been one of the greatest composers of chess endgame studies ever.  In 1972, he was the first person to be awarded the title of International Grandmaster of Chess Composition by FIDE.  In 1980 he wrote Domination in 2545 Endgame Studies. He compsosed about 600 studies and won 57 first places.

Cyril S. Kipping (1891-1964) of England was one of the most prolific composer of chess problems in the world.  He composed over 7,000 chess problems in his lifetime.  He was the Problem Editor of “The Chess Amateur” and the General Editor of “The Problemist” magazine.  From 1935 to 1958, he was the Problem Editor of “Chess” magazine.

Karl Leonid Kubbel (1891-1942) was a Russian endgame composer and problemist. He composed over 1,500 endgame studies and problems.  He is considered one of the greatest of all endgame composers.

Sam Loyd (1841-1911)  was known as the Puzzle King. He produced over 10,000 puzzles in his lifetime. He was the most famous American chess composer. He composed over 700 chess problems.   He was the chess problem editor of “Chess Monthly Magaznine.”

Comins Mansfield (1896-1984) was one of the most famous of all problem composers. He composed chess problems for 72 years. In 1972 he was one of the first four to be awarded the title of Grandmaster for Chess Compositions. The other three were Genrich Kasparyan, Lew Loschinsky, and Eeltje Visserman.   He was the first British chess player to become a chess Grandmaster (but for Composition, not over-the-board play).

William Meredith (1835-1903) was a problem composer. He composed about 200 chess problems in his career.  A problem in which there are from 8 to 12 men on the board is called a Meredith (a problem of less than 8 men is called a miniature).  His father was once the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury (1849-1850). 

Geoffrey Mott-Smith (1902-1960) was a prolific chess problem composer.  He was once known as the world’s leading authority on games.

John Nunn (1955- ), is a British grandmaster and composer of over 300 studies.  In 2004 and 2007, he won the world championship for solving of chess compositions.  He is an expert in compiling endgame tablebases for chess-playing engines.

Joseph Peckover (1897-1982) was the best known American chess composer in the early 20th century. He was born in England but immigrated to New York in 1921. He was the endgame editor for the American Chess Quarterly from 1961 to 1965. He composed over 100 endings.

Vasily Platov (1881-1952) and Mikhail Platov (1883-1938) were Latvian brothers that teamed together to compose over 300 endgames. In 1928 they wrote Selection of Chess Studies.

Richard Reti (1889-1929) was a Czech master and composer of about 300 studies.

Henri Rinck (1870-1952) was a French endgame composer. He settled in Spain in 1910. In 1952 he wrote 1414 Fins de Parties. He published 1,670 chess studies and won 58 first place prizes.  He is considered one of the founders of modern endgame composing.

John Roycoft (1929- ) is an English GM of chess composition.  In 1965, he founded EG, the quarterly chess magazine entirely dedicated to endgame studies.

Aleksei Selesniev (1888-1967) was a strong Soviet endgame composer and chess master.

William Shinkman (1847-1933) was one of America's greatest chess composers. He published over 3,500 problems.

Alexei Troitsky (1866-1942) is regarded as the greatest chess composer of endgame studies. He has over 1,000 studies to his credit.  He is considered the father of the contemporary school of study composition.

Milan Vukcevich (1937-2003) was an International Master and International Composition Grandmaster. He was editor of StrateGems, the publication of the Society of U.S. Chess Problemists.  In 1988, he became the first American to be awarded the title of Grandmaster for chess composition, 

Alain Campbell White (1880-1951) was an American problem composer and chess patron. For 32 years, from 1905 to 1936, he published the Christmas series of chess problems. He did more than any other player to promote worldwide interest in chess problems.