Codex of Chess Compositions





Part One: The Chess Composition

Part Two: The Chess Composition and the Public

ANNEX I: Public Lectures and Solving Tournaments (Article 20 (2) (b))

ANNEX II: Guidelines for the Organization of Tournaments


(version Ostróda 2015)


This codex deals with general principles of chess composition activities such as composition, solving and publication. The codex is intended to be descriptive, rather than prescriptive, and it is also intended to offer constructive guidance in areas where there has been no central guidance before. It is not intended to be a body of established law which problemists must observe on pain of being condemned of heresy or worse; problemists are independent spirits, and it would be pointless for the WFCC to attempt to legislate in that way.

Part One is descriptive. It represents an updated attempt to articulate the most important features of the world of chess composition, as they are actually known and practised. It is a distillation of experience rather than a statute. The same applies to Chapter VII, which treats of tournaments for the first time.

The whole of Part Two, which deals with the public aspects of chess compositions, breaks new ground. Its first two Chapters (V and VI), which tackle the topics of publication and priority, are different in character from Part One. They cannot be called a distillation of experience, because these are areas where there are no generally accepted views, and no shared experience to distil. They represent to some extent a compromise between the interests of editors and composers, arrived at after a painstaking discussion of alternatives. Although expressed as rules, these Chapters should be understood as guidance, which, it is hoped, can for the first time form the basis for coherent common practice in the future.

Annex II is explicitly a form of guidance, offering detailed guidelines for tournaments.

The committee intends to keep the working of the codex under review and to take account of any criticism and to recommend changes from time to time if they seem necessary.

Part One: The Chess Composition

Chapter I – General Principles

Article 1 – Independence

Compositional Chess is an independent form of chess activity which consists of using features found in, or derived from, the game of chess as the material for the creation of artistic effects or constructional feats, in the form of chess compositions.

Article 2 – Chess Composition

A chess composition consists usually of a position on the chess board [1], a stipulation in the form of words [2], and the solution. A chess composition is the result of an individual creative act of one or more authors [3].

Article 3 – Solution of a Chess Composition

The solution of a chess composition usually consists of one or more sequences of moves which satisfy the stipulation [4]. The solution intended by the author is called author’s solution.

Article 4 – Content of a Chess Composition

In addition to the author’s solution, the content of a chess composition may include virtual [5, 6], play or formal aspects [7].

Chapter II – Types of Chess Composition [8]

Article 5 – Classification according to Stipulations

Chess compositions can be classified into several groups according to their stipulation. Besides the historically developed groups, viz studies, direct mates, selfmates and helpmates [9], further groups [10] have developed [11].

Article 6 – Special Types

Additionally, and independent from the classification according to Article 5, there are a number of special types, including:

(a) Retroanalytical chess compositions

(b) Mathematical chess compositions

(c) Constructional chess compositions.

Article 7 – Classification according to Rules

Furthermore, chess compositions can be classified into those which apply the FIDE-rules of the game of chess [12] and those which apply modified rules [13,14].

Chapter III – Soundness

Article 8 – Author’s Solution

Every chess composition must be capable of being solved only by the author’s solution. Special features of the author’s solution (such as multiple solutions or set play in help-play problems) should be expressly stipulated.

Article 9 – Cook

A chess composition is called cooked if it has a solution that differs in its first move from the author’s solution.

Article 10 – Dual

A dual is said to occur if, after the first move, there is more than one method of satisfying the stipulation. [14A]

Article 11 – Short Solution

A short solution is a method of satisfying the stipulation in fewer moves than required. [14B]

Article 12 – No Solution

A chess composition is said to have no solution if there is no method of satisfying its stipulation.

Article 13 – Unsound Chess Compositions

(1) Subject to paragraphs (2) and (3), a composition is unsound if it is cooked or has a short solution or no solution [15].

(2) Help-play compositions are unsound also if they are dualized, except that in the final move a promotion into different pieces having partially the same power (for example queen/rook or queen/bishop) may be tolerated [16].

(3) Studies are unsound if there is a method of fulfilling the stipulation which is different from the author’s solution, and may also be rendered unsound by serious [16A] duals in the main line, but even in the main line many kinds of duals are normally tolerated.

Chapter IV – Miscellaneous Conventions

Article 14 – Legality of Positions

(1) A position is legal if it can be reached by a sequence of moves from the initial array [17]. Otherwise, the position is called illegal [18].

(2) In studies and problems that apply the FIDE-rules, illegal positions are not acceptable for composition tournaments unless the tournament conditions so stipulate.

Article 15 – First Move

If the first move does not lie with the conventional party (examples see Footnote 9), this should either be indicated in the stipulation or deducible from retroanalysis [19].

Article 16 – Castling and En-passant capture

(1) Castling convention. Castling is permitted unless it can be proved that it is not permissible.

(2) En-passant convention. An en-passant capture on the first move is permitted only if it can be proved that the last move was the double step of the pawn which is to be captured [20].

(3) Partial Retrograde Analysis (PRA) convention. Where the rights to castle and/or to capture en-passant are mutually dependent, the solution consists of several mutually exclusive parts. All possible combinations of move rights, taking into account the castling convention and the en-passant convention, form these mutually dependent parts. If in the case of mutual dependency of castling rights a solution is not possible according to the PRA convention, then the Retro-Strategy (RS) convention should be applied: whichever castling is executed first is deemed to be permissible.

(4) Other conventions should be expressly stipulated, for example if in the course of the solution an en-passant capture has to be legalised by subsequent castling (a posteriori convention AP).

Article 17 – 50 Moves-Rule

Unless expressly stipulated, the 50 moves-rule does not apply to the solution of chess compositions except for retro-problems.

Article 17A – Dead Position Rule

Unless expressly stipulated, the rule of dead position does not apply to the solution of chess compositions except for retro-problems.

Article 18 – Repetition of Position

A position is considered as a draw if it can be proved that an identical position [21] has occured three times in the proof game combined with the solution.

Part Two: The Chess Composition and the Public

Chapter V – Publication

Article 19 – Effect of Publication

Upon first publication of a chess composition, the author acquires the right to claim priority for it, and a priority date is assigned to it (Article 22).

Article 20 – Definition of Publication

(1) Publication of a chess composition consists of communicating it to the public, whether in permanent form (e.g. a document or a recording medium) or transient form (e.g. on a demonstration board or through an electronic medium).

(2) For the purposes of this Article, "communicating to the public" means enabling an unrestricted number of people to have the opportunity of access to a chess composition by

(a) presenting it in permanent form, or

(b) showing or using it in a lecture or solving tournament which falls within the categories listed in Annex I, or

(c) showing it in transient form through a generally accessible medium (e.g. an electronic network).[22].

(3) A chess composition which is first published according to paragraph (2)(b) above is entitled to priority from the date of that publication and is also eligible to compete in any composing tournament within the next two years.

Article 21 – Form of Publication

The publication of a chess composition should generally show its position in diagram form. In addition, the following features should be indicated:

(a) Name of the author(s).

(b) In case of first publication indication of this fact (e. g. "original").

(c) In case of reprints, the following particulars of the source of the first publication as exactly as possible [23]:

(c1) name and date of publication;

(c2) if appropriate, indication that the version differs from the original publication ("correction", "version", "v").

(d) Tournament distinctions [24].

(e) The stipulation in words (examples see footnote 9) or, preferably, in usual abbreviations, and including the following particulars:

(e1) setplay, if any, in help-play problems [25];

(e2) change(s) from the diagram position in case of twin compositions;

(e3) the number of solutions, if more than one;

(e4) variations in help-play problems, (e. g. numerically by

(f) All fairy chess elements, if appropriate.

(g) Tries may be indicated (e. g. by use of "v").

(h) Author’s solution(s) [26].

Chapter VI – Priority

Article 22 – Definition of Priority

(1) The priority of a chess composition is determined by its priority date.

(2) The priority date of a chess composition is

(a) the actual date of its first publication [27], or

(b) if it is first published in the award of a formal tournament, the closing date of that tournament.

(3) Whether a chess composition is younger or older than another one is ascertained by comparison of the priority dates of both compositions.

Article 23 – Priority of an Unsound Chess Composition

(1) If a published chess composition is found to be unsound [28], it loses its priority date unless a correction is published within three years after the publication of the unsoundness.

(2) The author of a chess composition which has been published in unsound form retains the following rights:

(a) The right to correct the composition himself, and

(b) The right of being cited as author if a correction is made by someone else [29].

Article 24 – Anticipation

(1) A chess composition is anticipated if there is an identical composition which has an earlier priority date. The anticipated chess composition is not eligible for any award [30].

(2) Chess compositions which are partly anticipated are eligible for awards: their merit is a matter for the judge, who should take account of the degree of anticipation.

(3) A second version of a correct chess composition published in an informal tournament, if published in the same tournament by the same author, is not considered to be partially anticipated by the original version.

Chapter VII – Tournaments

Article 25 – Categories of Tournaments

One of the activities of composition chess is the conduct of tournaments for composing and solving [31].

Article 26 – Composing Tournaments

Composing tournaments require a director, to whom all competing chess compositions are to be submitted, and at least one judge [32] who makes the award or selection. Guidelines for the organisation of composing tournaments are set out in Part 1 of Annex II.

Composing tournaments fall into the following categories:

(a) primary, i.e. for chess compositions which have not previously been published, except under Article 20 (2) (b), and primary tournaments may be:

(i) informal, i.e. where the competing compositions are published before they are judged, or

(ii) formal, i.e. where the competing compositions are not published before they are judged [33];

(b) secondary, i.e. for chess compositions which have already been published and may already have competed in a primary tournament (e.g. a national championship).

Article 27 – Solving Tournaments

Solving tournaments are organised by venue (at a single time and place) or by correspondence. Their rules are laid down by the organising body or person, and they are controlled by a director. Guidelines for their conduct are set out in Part 2 of Anex II. In principle:

(a) In a tournament organized by venue all participants attend at the appointed time and place, and must solve without any technical assistance other than a chess set.

(b) In an correspondence tournament (e.g. one organised by a magazine) the participants send solutions to the director within a specified time limit.

(c) In all cases the solutions should be evaluated according to a prearranged scheme, which has been made known to the participants.


Public Lectures and Solving Tournaments (Article 20 (2) (b))

Events are considered public only if they fall within one of the following categories:

(1) A public lecture given during

(i) a meeting of the WFCC;

(ii) a competition organized by FIDE;

(iii) a meeting of a national problem chess organization, provided that the country is a member of the WFCC and that the meeting has been publicly announced in advance by the respective organisation;

(iv) any other meeting which has been publicly announced in advance as public by the national problem chess organization of the country concerned.

(2) Solving tournaments:

(i) the World/European Chess Solving Championship (WCSC/ECSC) organized by the WFCC;

(ii) a national solving championship;

(iii) an open solving tournament organized during a meeting mentioned in section (1) above.


Guidelines for the Organization of Tournaments

Part I. Composition Tournaments

1 Announcement of a Composing Tournament

A primary composing tournament for original chess compositions starts with the announcement which should include the following features:

(a) the organizer (e.g. magazine, organization);

(b) the types of admitted chess compositions (e.g. mate in 2, mate in 3, helpmates);

(c) indication of special conditions affecting composition (e.g. theme; restricted force; if illegal positions are to be admitted in a tournament applying FIDE rules, this should be stated);

(d) indication of any additional requirements (e.g. restriction in the admissible number of compositions per author);

(e) the address of the tournament director to whom the entries are to be sent;

(f) the closing date, if appropriate;

(g) the name of the judge;

(h) in case of formal tournaments, whether it is intended that compositions which are not honoured in the award will be published without further notification to the composers.

2 Functions of the Director

The normal functions of the director are as follows:

(a) in a formal tournament:

(i) to receive the competing chess compositions and make any alterations or corrections submitted by the author before the closing date;

(ii) to eliminate compositions which are obviously ineligible [34];

(iii) to transcribe the eligible problems into anonymous form, if necessary, and to send them with full solutions to the judge;

(iv) to notify the judge of any unusual conditions or restrictions applicable to the tournament or his award (e.g. a restriction of the number of prizes);

(v) to receive and publish the judge’s award and to ensure that every competing composer receives a copy;

(vi) to receive any objections made within the period allowed, and to transmit to the judge any which need to be adjudicated by him [35];

(vii) to receive and publish any consequential adjustment of the award made by the judge, and to notify any composer affected.

(b) in an informal tournament:

(i) to notify the judge of all eligible compositions [36], of all alterations and corrections to be considered;

(ii) otherwise to proceed as in (iv) to (vii) above.

3 Functions of the Judge

Subject to special conditions or restrictions applicable to the tournament, the normal functions of the judge are as follows:

(a) to satisfy himself that he knows the final form of every eligible composition (i.e. the form incorporating any alteration or correction made by the composer before the closing date);

(b) to eliminate all compositions which do not conform to any set theme or other requirements of the tournament;

(c) to consider all eligible compositions in their final form;

(d) to decide which of the eligible compositons are in his judgment of sufficient aesthetic merit to be honoured;

(e) to satisfy himself, as far as he can, that no composition which he wishes to honour is anticipated, and to take account of any partial anticipation known to him;

(f) to prepare an award ranking the honoured compositions in order of merit according to his judgment, and normally dividing them into grades as prizewinners, honorable mentions and commendations (placing as many in each grade as he thinks fit), and adding such comments as he considers appropriate;

(g) to submit his award to the director within a reasonable time;

(h) to consider any objections to his award transmitted to him by the director, and to notify the director promptly of his adjudication of them, including any consequential adjustment of his award.

4 Form of Entries

Entries for composing tournaments should meet the formal requirements according to Article 21 and indicate the name of the tournament and the author’s address. Thematical or theoretical remarks may be added [37].

5 The Award

(a) The award must be published and it should be sent to all participating composers and the judge within a reasonable time after publication (normally within three months).

(b) Within a period which should be announced in the award (normally three months from the date of publication of the award), any person may raise objections against the award with the director. The objections must be based on unsoundness or anticipation of an honoured chess composition. The relevant facts or evidence (e.g. cooks or anticipating compositions) must be indicated.

(c) If no objection has been made within that period, the award becomes final. If an objection has been made, the part of the award that is not affected by it becomes final, apart from possible changes in the ranking of the honoured chess compositions as a result of the objection.

6 Miscellaneous

(a) A detailed announcement of informal tournaments which are organized periodically by chess magazines (e.g. annual tournaments) is not necessary.

(b) Chess compositions which have not been published during one tournament period may be transferred to the subsequent informal tournament by the director without informing the author, provided the author has not specifically objected to this.

(c) The director (e.g. editor of a chess magazine or column) is not obliged to publish all compositions entered for an informal tournament.

(d) The author should be provided with evidence of the publication of his chess composition within a reasonable time after publication.

(e) An author who, within a period of 18 months from sending a chess composition to the director of an informal tournament, has neither received evidence [38] of publication nor any other information concerning his composition may assume free disposal of his composition and may send it to another composing tournament [39].

Part II. Solving Tournaments

Solving tournaments may be organised under various conditions as defined by the organizer of a particular tournament. To show, by way of example, how a solving tournament organised by venue might be organised, the following Rules, which are an excerpt from the Rules of the World Chess Solving Championship (WCSC), are given.

1. The WCSC consists of 6 rounds over two days, with 3 rounds each day according to the following table:

Round 1 3 twomovers 20 minutes solving time
Round 2 3 threemovers 60 minutes solving time
Round 3 3 endgames 100 minutes solving time
Round 4 3 helpmates 50 minutes solving time
Round 5 3 moremovers 80 minutes solving time
Round 6 3 selfmates 50 minutes solving time

The break between each round is at least 15 minutes.

2. The problems to be solved should be originals, or, alternatively, little known published problems.

3. The selected problems should show a clear theme and a good level of quality and difficulty. In each round, the three problems should represent different styles.

4. All problems should have only one solution, except in case that more solutions are especially indicated. The problems should be computer tested as far as possible.

5. The problems to be solved should be presented on printed diagrams.

6. The solver may use the chess board and men made available by the organizer, or his own set; the use of computers or computer boards during solving is forbidden.

7. The solutions are to be written in the following way:

a) in direct mate problems: all moves in variations of full length – including the threat if it is of full length too – except the last move of Black and the mating move, i.e. in twomovers only the key; in threemovers all three-move variations, including the threat, up to the second white move, etc.;

b) in helpmate problems: all moves;

c) in selfmate problems: all moves except the mating move in all variations of full length, including the threat if it is in full length too;

d) in endgames: all moves up to an obvious win or draw.

8. In problems for which more than one solution is indicated the solver has to give the requested number of solutions. In all other problems and endgames only one solution is to be given.

9. If a solver believes he has found a cook, he may give it instead of the solution. In this case, he has to give the complete moves of the cook according to point 7.

The correct and complete solution or cook of a problem scores 5 points.

The complete solution may consist of several single solutions.

An incomplete solution scores fewer points. Incorrect or incomplete variations – when more solutions are specially indicated, incorrect or incomplete single solutions – score 0 points.

The Director must determine the distribution of points for a solution (i.e. for different variations, moves or single solutions) before the tournament starts. If a problem has no solution, 0 points are awarded for this problem. If a problem is unsolvable all solvers get the full time score in this round. A problem with an illegal position is treated like one with a legal position.

10. If a move is written incorrectly, unclearly or ambiguously, this variation or single solution is regarded as incorrect. If, however, the Director (or the jury, pt. 15) is absolutely sure that the correct move was intended, this variation or single solution can be regarded as correct.

11. For the score, the points a solver achieves in the different rounds will be totalled, as well as the solving time. A solver with 0 points in a round gets the full time score in this round.

The number of points determines the ranking. In the event of a tie on points, the solver or team with the shorter total solving time will be ranked higher.

12. Participants must be informed of the official solutions of a round immediately after the end of that round. The results of the rounds must be announced in written form as soon as possible.

13. If a problem has proved to be incorrect (cooks, duals, no solution) this must be announced as soon as possible.

14. Protests against any anouncement must reach the Director in written form not later than one hour after the announcement. He is allowed to accept protests out of time.

15. It is the Director’s task to deal with such protests and to settle disputes. He has to secure that a solution given by a solver can be seen only by this solver himself or by the leader or other members of his team.

Objections to any decision by the Director must be made in writing and must reach the Director within 12 hours after the announcement of the decision. Such objections shall be dealt with by a jury consisting of the Director and two neutral persons nominated by him in consultation with the team-leaders affected. The majority decision of the jury is final.


1. In some cases, it may not be necessary to give a position, for example in case of certain mathematical chess compositions or of reconstructional problems. 

2. In some cases, a chess composition may have more than one position or stipulation (twins). 

3. The use of a computer does not result in an authorship of the computer. Nor does the compilation or publication of a computer generated database constitute the publication of one or more chess compositions. 

4. Examples of exceptional cases are retroanalytical or mathematical compositions. 

5. Virtual play may include set play, try play etc.

6. In some types, for example in helpmates, the set play is part of the author’s solution. 

7. Formal aspects may include for example special patterns of moves, symbolic positions, miniature form etc. 

8. Articles 5 to 7 are not intended to be exhaustive. Other classifications are possible and also practised, for example according to the material used (miniature, minimal, Meredith etc.) or according to other criteria. 

9. According to this classification, examples of frequently used stipulations are:

(a1) White to move and force a win, without restriction to a specified number of moves (studies).

(a2) White to move and force a draw, without restriction to a specified number of moves (studies).

(b) White to move and mate the black king in a specified maximum number of moves (direct mate).

(c) White to move and force Black to mate the white king in a specified number of moves (selfmate).

(d) Black to move and cooperate with White in order to obtain a mate of the black king in a specified number of moves (helpmate). 

10. Further groups are, for example, stalemate or series stipulations etc. 

11. Compositions other than studies are usually called problems. 

12. Presently the rules for the game of chess as agreed during the FIDE-congress 1996 in Yerevan are valid. Relevant for compositional chess are Articles 1 to 5. 

13. In this context, the terms orthodox, heterodox, fairy and exo are used. 

14 Modifications of the FIDE-rules may for example consist in:

(a) Rules (conditions) on which the composition is based (for example maximummer, circe, seriesmover).

(b) Pieces used in the composition (for example nightrider, grasshopper, chinese pieces).

(c) Chess space on which the composition is based (for example chess board with 10×10 squares, cylindrical chess board, multi-dimensional chess boards).

14A. In non-helpplay compositions alternative black moves are not normally considered duals but may be seen as artistic defects.

14B. A non-helpplay composition does not have a short solution if there is at least one line of play which needs the stipulated number of moves.

15. The gravity of defects such as unintended duals (other than in help-play problems) or unintended multiple refutations of tries is a matter for the judge. 

16. Such duals are normally tolerated also in other types of composition. 

16A. The seriousness of a dual is a matter for the judge.

17. Such a sequence of moves is called a proof game.

18. Retroanalysis does not apply to illegal positions, except for the purpose of determining that they are illegal. It also does not apply to fairy compositions unless it is essential to the content of the composition. 

19. For the purpose of Article 9, the preliminary move by the unconventional party is not counted, except in help-play problems. The number of moves to be expressed in the stipulation should be the number of moves to be made by White. 

20. In determining the permissibility of these features, account must be taken of which party is to move first. 

21. Identical position means the same kinds of pieces on the same squares with the same move rights.

22. Including the Internet and electronic mailing lists, but not e-mail. 

23. If the source is unknown this should be indicated.

24. The year of publication is considered to be more important than the period covered by the tourney 

25. Set play may also be indicated in other types of problems. 

26. Not necessarily at the same time as the original publication. 

27. The actual date of a journal is the date on which it is published, whatever the date on its cover. 

28. The author alone is responsible for the soundness.

29. It is recommended that a correction made by someone else ("B") should, if practicable, be published in agreement with the author ("A"). B’s name may also be mentioned. The following formulae are used (in order of increasing originality of the correction – which is a matter of personal evaluation): "A, correction"; "A, correction B"; "B after A". The correction should be published as a joint composition only if A agrees. This note also applies to improved versions of correct chess compositions. 

30. In case of a claim of priority on the basis of a publication in transient form (Article 20 (1) and (2) (b), (c)), the burden of proof that such publication has actually taken place is on the claimant. 

31. Not all tournaments clearly fall into one of these two categories (e.g. reconstruction tournaments (synthetics)). 

32. The director and the judge are not necessarily different persons. 

33. In a formal tournament, corrections or versions of participating chess compositions are not admitted after the closing date unless the announcement so provides. 

34. The director may also test the competing compositions for unsoundness. As the author alone is responsible for the soundness (see footnote 29), such testing should be considered merely as an attempt to avoid claims of unsoundness after publication of the award but not as a service on which the composers can rely. 

35. The judge will be concerned with questions requiring aesthetic judgement (e.g. the effect of partial anticipation); factual questions (e.g. the date of priority of an anticipating composition) should be determined by the director. 

36. In case of doubt, the director decides in which informal tournament a corrected chess composition participates. 

37. All information should be given on one side of a sheet. A separate sheet should be used for each entry. 

38. Such evidence may be the complete issue or a clipping of a magazine or, at least, a photocopy of the relevant page.

39. Nevertheless, if the earlier submission results in publication, the first publication in time has priority in accordance with Article 22. 



Part One: The Chess Composition

Chapter I – General Principles

Chapter II – Types of Chess Composition

Chapter III – Soundness

Chapter IV – Miscellaneous Conventions

Part Two: The Chess Composition and the Public

Chapter V – Publication

Chapter VI – Priority

Chapter VII – Tournaments

ANNEX I: Public Lectures and Solving Tournaments (Article 20 (2) (b))

ANNEX II: Guidelines for the Organization of Tournaments

Part I. Composition Tournaments

Part II. Solving Tournaments



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