Edgar Holladay – An American Treasure
Edgar Holladay enjoyed an illustrious career as one of America’s finest chess problem composers. Born in 1925. he got a tentative effort published in 1942. It was difficult to be taken seriously during that particular time. The American problemist fraternity boasted such stalwarts as Julius Buchwald, Frederick Gamage, Eric Hassberg, Walter Jacobs, Charles Sheppard.
Nonetheless, he would gain immediate acclaim with this stunning mutate:
American Chess Bulletin, 1942
White mates in two
Set play consists of 1…S~ 2.Rxb4 and 1…Q~ 2.Qd3. No waiting moves seem promising except for 1.Sc2? which fails to 1…Qc4! A block threat try, 1.Sef3? (2.Sg5, Sd2), does not work because of 1…Qd4! The key turns on 1.Seg2! (zugzwang), where one prepared mate changes to three different ones through 1…Qxa4 2.Qd5, 1…Qc4 2.Qxc4, and 1…Qd4 2.Qc2. This is quite an impressive feat for a seventeen year old!
Holladay did reveal a significant talent in over-the-board play. He won an Intercollegiate Championship in 1947 and 1948. But his most worthwhile legacy must be associated with his founding of the 'U. S. Problem Bulletin'. This lively journal introduced the problem art to a whole new generation of enthusiasts.
He delved into numerous genres. This longer helpmate may seem routine nowadays, but was certainly a novelty in 1978:
Helpmate in eight moves
The ingenious solution proceeds 1.f1B Kg1 2.e1S Kh1 3.Sf3 gxf3 4.d1R fxe4 5.Ra1 exd5 6.Ra7 d6 7.Ba6 d7 8.Bc8 dxc8Q. Hence, there is a split Allumwandlung between the two sides.
Perhaps some readers are acquainted with the following selfmate. Several anthologies have featured this memorable classic:
British Chess Magazine, 1965 First Prize
Selfmate in ten moves
The method utilized for pushing that Black rook steadily to its final destination is simply marvelous. 1.Sa7 Rf8 2.Rg8 Re8 3.Rf8 Rd8 4.Re8 Rc8 5.Rd8 Rb8 6.Rc8 Rxc8 7.Qb8+ Rxb8 8.Bb7+ Rxb7 9.Sh5+ Ra7 10.Ra6 Rxa6.
My fond colleague, Rauf Aliovsadzade, showed me this lesser known Holladay jewel:
British Chess Magazine, 1947 (version)
White mates in two moves
1.Qg4 threatens 2.Ke5. That 1…Rc5 defense produces six White interference mates after 2.R6d4, R2d4, Sfe3, Sde3, Ke3, and e3. Leonid Isaev first accomplished this unique exploit with three interferences on a bishop and three on a rook (L’Echiquier, 1929 Second Prize). However, Holladay’s setup has more consistency with all obstructions landing on the bishop’s line solely. Furthermore, the scheme is tied to a single defense – the so-called “Holladay theme” .
This idea is featured in 'Encyclopedia of Chess Problems' by M.Velimirovic&K.Valtonen (2012).
I was inspired to emulate the basic matrix and constructed a subsequent miniature:
Robert Lincoln (USA)
White mates in two moves
The flight squares at e4 and f4 demand attention. 1.Qb4? (2.Bc8, Qg4) watches both, but 1…e4! 1.Bb7? (2.Qf6, Qf8) denies e4, but 1…Kf4! escapes. 1.Sd3? (2.Qxe5) holds f4, but 1…Ke4! is safe. Correct is 1.Se2! (waiting). Now, 2.Qd3 thwarts 1…Ke4, while the self-block by 1…e4 costs 2.Qe6. Qf6, Qd5, Qf4, Qc5, Rg5, Bc8, Sd4, and Sg3. Four different pieces mate with thirteen virtual or actual blows altogether. Regrettably, this faint artifice lacks the polished unity of Holladay’s example.
Although I never met Edgar personally, I had occasional conversations with him over the telephone. Also, I received many Christmas greetings with one of his impish diagrams enclosed. Interesting,E.Holladay never used the Internet.Once asked why he said he was afraiad of getting spam and junk mail. He had a knack for bestowing kindly advice and encouragement to every practitioner he knew.
The entire chess problem world mourned his passing in 2003.