Motif (chess composition)

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In chess composition, a motif is basic element of a move in the consideration why the piece moves and how it supports the fulfillment of a stipulation. Any move may and often does contain multiple motifs. Some composition schools put specific emphasis on motivation in chess problems, especially strategical school and Slovak school.

A composition where a maximum number of a certain motif occurrences is shown is called a task, even if the term task is more general.

Classification of motifs[edit]

Motifs may be classified according to various viewpoints. In the usual twomovers they might be:

  • Positive - those working towards the accomplishment of the stipulation
    • Attacking - positive motifs of white moves
    • Weakening - negative motifs of white moves
  • Negative - those tending to hinder the accomplishment of the stipulation
    • Defensive - negative motifs of black moves
    • Harmful - positive motifs of black moves

Similar classification is valid for all directmates, selfmates, reflexmates and other problems with antagonistic aims of sides, while for helpmates and other help-problems only positive/negative level is applicable.

Contents of motifs[edit]

The basic orthodox motifs are:

  • Preventing the move of other unit (includes taking of a flight of the king)
  • Allowing the move of other unit (includes creating of a flight of the king)
  • Guarding of some square or line
  • Unguarding of some square or line
  • Attacking of king (checking)

In fairy chess some other motifs are possible.

Forms of motifs[edit]

Any of the above-listed motifs may be presented in various forms. In orthodox chess problems these forms include:

  • Capture (prevents move of captured unit, allows move of king to square previously guarded by captured piece)
  • Line opening (allows move of pieces along opened line, guards square on the opened line, checks by opening the line)
  • Line closing (prevents move of pieces along closed line, unguards square on the closed line, removes checks by closing the line)
  • Blocking (prevents move of the king or any other piece to the blocked square)
  • Unblocking (allows move of the king or any other piece to the unblocked square)
  • Pinning (prevents move of pinned piece, unguards square previously guarded by pinned piece)
  • Unpinning (allows move by the unpinned piece, guards square by unpinned piece)
  • Exchange sacrifice

In the fairy chess, other forms of motifs are possible, e.g., allowing the move by a grasshopper by providing the hurdle or allowing the capture by a piece by patrolling in Patrol chess.

While studies also may contain problem motifs, they often contain usual tactical motifs.