Self-mate: A curious variety of chess problem

John Kolyav By John Kolyav, 4th Sep 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Essays

Logic, reasoning, tactics etc. used in various types of chess problems may help someone to solve problems in mathematics and physics, including spooky of light and Schrodinger’s cat. This is a brief note on self-mate.

Chess and chess problems

Relationship between chess and chess problems is comparable with that of grammar and poems. A grammarian may not essentially be a good poet although good knowledge in grammar is essential to become a great poet.

One might remember Deep Blue that analyzes two million positions in one second, defeated Mr. Garry Kasparov in his peak of powers. It is amazing that he could win two games with such a powerful machine. In future, if the power of such machines is increased no human can be expected to defeat them.

But, chess problems are unique. Although programs can solve problems it would be difficult for them to compose. If computers write poems and stories using programs it would only be enjoyable to other computers. Here is the difference between calculation and imagination. So, even if machines dominate in the games it may not happen in problem composing.

There are International Masters and Grand Masters in this field also, rated by FIDE.

When a genius composer devotionally spends time the pieces get arranged as iron filings in the vicinity of a magnetic field and good quality problems originate. It may take even months to bring a problem to perfection. Therefore, it is no wonder if someone takes hours or days to solve a problem.

There are three major types of problems. These are-(1) Mate in nth moves, (2) Help-mate in nth moves and (3) Self-mate in nth moves. In addition to this there are 'play and draw' type and fairy items like 'Circe'.

Self -mate

In selfmate, white pieces compel black pieces to checkmate white king itself! The black pieces try their level best not to checkmate white king.

Even when black is forced to promote its pawn it will not take queen or rook but only knight or bishop to avoid the checkmate! But, white will not allow black pieces to escape.

Since the logic and reasoning used in this type is different from the mate in nth type, it is not easy to compose and solve this for beginners.

For further details visit

Or search ‘chess problems’ in Google. There are plenty of magazines devoted for problems. Only an amateur, this is an attempt to share my humble knowledge. Thanks.


Bishop, Chess, Deep Blue, Help-Mate, Kasparov, Mate, Physics, Queen, Rook, Schrodingers Cat, Self-Mate

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author avatar John Kolyav
Born in 1963, Postgraduated in 1986. Six novels and four poetry books published. Got three state- level awards for literary works. More details at

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