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The Definitive Book - Encyclopedia of Chess Problems - Themes and Terms

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"I have great respect for the experts in the field of chess problems, though I never was a great fan. All those terms and themes sounded distant and hard to understand. Instead, I preferred the practical aspects of playing chess. However, while writing for different newspapers, I witnessed a great interest from readers for two movers. The common question being - Why are you not including chess problems?

What I really liked were those gigantic problems and studies where the mate could be found in, say, 298 moves! It was fantastical; yet, sometimes, even if it didn't make any sense, I felt like it could happen in real tournament games.

What I always wanted was one book that would explain everything and provide the best examples from the history of chess problems. I asked the guru of the chess problem community, GM of chess composition and GM solver Milan Velimirovic, whether such a book was possible and unknowingly tapped into his lifetime wish to create just that. 

Many months later, we are proud to present The Definitive Book, Encyclopedia of Chess Problems: Themes and Terms, written by Velimirovic and his colleague, GM solver and 1984 World Solving champion, Kari Valtonen from Finland. Inside, there are 1,726 selected problems and all the answers to any question that one might ask about chess problems. It can be read in different ways, like the classical Larousse encyclopedia or as a great collection of problems. Every theme and term is illustrated with the appropriate problem.

I am proud to be involved in this project. I see it as a historic moment for the world of chess problems. And, yes, now I a full-fledged fan of this magnificent field!"

Josip Asik, CEO of Chess Informant



"A lot of courage was needed to undertake, within an extremely tight time table, the “impossible mission” of coping with such a comprehensive task as displayed in this book, which covers practically all aspects of chess composition.

Behind this there stood a special situation, where the general manager of “Chess Informant” has found it in his interest to invest in such a project, provided that the chief editor is GM Milan Velimirovic. And indeed, one could not ask for a better qualified man for the job. In a lucky coincidence, Kari Valtonen who happened to gather a lot of material suitable for the book joined forces with Milan and these two with the help of several enthusiastic friends managed to present us with this mammoth enterprise – the encyclopedia before you.

Every fan of chess composition can find in this book some thing of interest. The undersigned finds appeal in most aspects of the book, but being biased by his personal composing activity, particularly so in the core parts referring to themes and terms. For the undersigned, browsing through these extensive parts has been a fascinating “journey among the stars”.

Nowadays it seems that the time of basic themes is over. The time of the more complex themes has come, but these must preserve a number of basic characteristics: internal coherence and logic, a high prospective for inspiring composing and a strong survival capability which can only be verified over time.

The themes should expose the potentials hidden in the contingent rules of chess – their power to create things of beauty, which in the case of chess compositions are dependent entities, as they are man-made. Beauty in chess composition is not constant but a dynamic concept. Taste will change over time, and like the stars in the skies, themes have their periods of flourishing and decline, depending on the amount of life or energy they possess, and how long it will take for each to burn its entire vitality before turning into a white dwarf.

This book seems to have taken these or similar criteria into consideration. Hopefully the number of counter-examples is negligible and can easily be adjusted in a future edition.

This comprehensive encyclopedia is special in our field of chess composition and will be enjoyed by chess players as well. It is a must in the library of all lovers of chess problems and studies."

Uri Avner, GM of Chess Composition, Honorary President of the WFCC 


'The Definitive Book’ – that’s written on the front cover and it nearly put me off reading it. Fortunately, I conquered my scepticism and plunged in. I didn’t know any chess book that merited the word ‘Definitive’; now I do. Big claims need big justification, but this book is extraordinary. It attempts to describe all the themes, the ideas, that chess problems use, and it succeeds in that formidable task.

Encyclopedias tend to sit on one’s bookshelf looking impressive, but rarely opened. You could do that with this tome, of course, and merely mention to your friends that you’ve got a copy, to up your kudos. But you can use this for fun, too. It has 1,726 problems and endgame studies, with their solutions and explanations, and you can dip into it at random; every page has problems that I had never seen before and each was a pleasure.

The names of problem themes can be disheartening: ‘Tertiary Arrival Correction’, ‘Distributed Rukhlis’, ‘Regel der Wirksamen Felder’ – what on earth are those? It doesn’t really matter, although if you’re curious you can find out easily – the book has not only the entries themselves, but also an index with cross-references and translations. Of course, there are errors – no humans could write a book as comprehensive as this without making some slips – but Velimirovic and Valtonen have achieved a praiseworthy level of accuracy. The English is at times a little faltering, but not to the point where one might misunderstand.

If you’re a composer, you’ll probably go straight to the index of composers to look for your name, and there’s a good chance you’ll find one of your problems in here.Just from that, the publishers should get good sales! It’s not cheap – no encyclopedia is – but at €39.95 it’s not out of most people’s range, and there’s far more content than any of my other chess problem books. My only worry for the future of this book is that the price can hardly cover the effort that has gone into writing and publishing it. Printed encyclopedias are becoming phenomena of the past; I haven’t used my Encyclopedia Britannica for years now; Wikipedia is both reliable and up-to-date. So, if the publishers don’t make a good return on their investment, can I suggest that future editions become on-line wikichesspedias?

I hope there will be new editions in due course; composers are constantly inventing new ideas to puzzle the solver and these will be given names and become recognised themes. Encyclopedia writers haven’t finished their work when they’ve read the proofs – they’ve given themselves a lifelong duty to update and expand their creation. They need collaborators, of course – people willing to send in suggestions for additions. I’m tempted to become one; it would be much like being on the worldwide team that helps to update the Oxford English Dictionary. In the chess problem world, this book will attain the status of the OED. ‘Definitive’? Definitely!

Ian R. WatsonBritish Chess Magazine



Milan Velimirovic is a GM of Chess Composition, GM Solver and International Judge of chess composition. Editor of chess composition magazines “MAT” (1974-1985) and “Mat Plus” (since 1994). He has published several books on chess composition. Author of numerous articles on chess composition.  

IN MEMORIAM (February 25, 2013)  - Milan Velimirovic (1952-2013), author of Encyclopedia of Chess Problems, has suddenly passed away after short illness. Velimirovic was one of the most respected members of chess problems community worldwide and a regular columnist in Chess Informant. 

Kari Valtonen (b.1954) is GM Solver and International Judge of chess composition. Editor of the chess composition section of “Suomen Shakki” (1987-2008), sub-editor of chess composition magazine “Suomen Tehtäväniekat” (1992-1997). Author of several articles on themes and terms in chess composition. World Solving Champion in 1984. Living in Tampere, Finland.

More Information
Shopworn No
ISBN 9788672970647
Author/s Kari Valtonen, Milan Velimirovic
Pages 520 Pages
Publication Date October 1, 2012
Notation Type FAN - Figurine
Book Binding Type Hardcover
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The Definitive Book - Encyclopedia of Chess Problems - Themes and Terms