[Retros] 50-moves draw

Pastmaker at aol.com Pastmaker at aol.com
Thu Dec 21 11:15:53 EST 2006

As to 50-move draw positions, the first examples were in fact unsound. Now
someone might object to characterizing a composition that failed to accurately
achieve a task as a first example, but I think that misses the point. Given
the extraordinarily imaginative matrices used by Breyer and Wittlich, which
are embedded in the majority of published 50-move draw problems, I don't think
it matters whether the particular pioneering compositions had flaws. The real
invention is the matrix.

As to the matrices, a brilliant innovation in 50-move draw compositions,
showing a new way to do it, was presented by D. Baibikov in the July 2004 orbit:

Less brilliantly, and mostly just for some fun with the rule itself, I had
one recently in Thema Danicum that presented the following issue: a position is
given in which (a) it is not determinable who moved last, but it is
determinable that (i) if W is on the move, then each player must have made 50
consecutive moves without P-move or capture, but (ii) if B is on the move, then W must
have made 50 consecutive moves without P-move or capture and B must have made
49 such moves, and (b) each player has a mate on the move, the mating move not
being a P-move or capture. So the questions are:
1. If it is W's move, can B stop W's mate by claiming that the 50-moves by
each have been made and the game is already drawn?
2. If it is B's move, what happens when he makes the mating move that is also
the 100th consecutive non-P move, non-capturing move? W claims the draw and
B claims the mate. Whose claim is respected?

The actual rules of chess on the FIDE site unfortunately don't really face
the issue, because it seems that in effect (the rules are not attractively
drafted) only a player on the move can claim the 50 move draw rule. But the issue
in its purer form seemed amusing enough to bother with. (The slightly
interesting feature from a composer's standpoint is that the move that starts the
counting is the capture by a Rook of a Bishop on its home square.) If anyone is
interested, the position is
[1K6/1pprpp1p/1bp3p1/n1p5/2P4B/1P3PQ1/2PPPRPP/nb5k]. The time would be better spent with the Baibikov composition.

Of course, anyone really interested in the 50-move draw positions must
consult the famous Plaksin articles in Problem.

Tom Volet

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