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A chess composition is a chess puzzle that was created by one or several authors (called chess composers) and should have artistical value. In contrary to chess games, a stipulation is given that has to be achieved in the solution. Chess compositions other than chess studies can also be called chess problems. Normally, a chess composition should only have one solution. When it is not solvable or has more solutions than intended, it is said to be cooked.

Chess compositions existed long before chess achieved its modern rules. A chess composition for chess with the earlier, Arabian, rules is called a mansuba (plural mansubat or manasib. A very famous mansuba is the mate of Dilaram that is attributed to as-Suli. It is also known as mansuba al-jariya (the maiden's mansuba).[1]

There are several types of chess composition. They can be categorized in three groups:

  • Direct play (both sides play against each other)
  • Help play (both sides cooperate)
  • Neither (construction problems etc.)

A problem where only one side moves (the other may make a final move) are called seriesmovers.

Also, the normal rules of chess can be changed by using fairy conditions. Non-standard pieces that are used are called fairy pieces. If either or both are used, the problem is called a fairy problem.

Direct play[]


A directmate is a composition where white has to checkmate black in a given number of moves (usually at least two). The longest directmate is from Otto Titusz Blathy and has 292 moves. Although database endings with around 500 moves exist, they are not considered to be problems because they lack artistical value. Directmates are commonly divided into three sections: Twomover, threemover, moremover. Sometimes also a fourmover section may exist.


In a selfmate, white's goal is to be checkmated. Black tries to refuse to do so.

Chess studies[]

Studies are settings with a stipulation of either draw or win. While it is not mandatory, many studies have gamelike positions.

A famous example for a study is the Saavedra position.

Help play[]


Helpmates are compositions where (usually) black is to move and has to be checkmated with both sides cooperating to achieve this. It is common for helpmates to use twinning methods (by moving a piece to another square, for example) or have multiple solutions.

Both possible[]


In retro problems, the past of a position has to be determined. There are several types of retro problems. When the stipulation is like "last single moves", one has to find the last moves before the given position. When the stipulation is "resolve the position", a possibility has to be found to reach the given position by retracting moves. When the stipulation is "(something) before n moves", one has to retract pieces so white can fullfill the given stipulation. In "mate in 1 before n moves", white has to retract in a way that he can mate in 1 when a certain number of moves is retracted. Black usually plays against white here. There are two types of retractors: In a Proca retractor, if a capture is retracted, the capturer decides if and which piece was captured. In a Hoeg retractor, the owner of the captured piece decides, if and which piece was captured.

Mathematical problems[]

Several problems exist that have mathematical stipulations (like "how many positions exist with a given condition").

Other stipulations[]

There are several other stipulations that are used either in help- or directplay instead of "mate". "Stalemate" is common, others are not often used. Here are some rare ones.

  • Capture any piece
  • Reaching a square
  • Capture of a certain piece
  • Moving the king back to the position it is in the diagram

Often, problems with these conditions are seriesmovers.