Transition School

In The Chess Problem (Stroud : 1926), the author, H. Weenink, characterizes the period from 1845 to 1862 as a period when problem technique was refined and improved, and when many of the “great” themes were discovered: the Indian theme, the Bristol themes and others.

The composer John Brown (1827–1863) (“J. B., of Bridport”) is described as one of the composers who followed the transitional school but with a lighter style than many other composers.

In a review, published in Illustrated London News (4 November, 1865), of the posthumous collection of problems by Brown, the anonymous reviewer notes Brown’s position at the time.

An examination of this collection forcibly reminds us of the great change—may we not venture to say improvement?—that has taken place of late years in the character of chess problems. In former days problematists often sought to increase the difficulty of the positions they presented by surrounding the solution with peculiar limitations, and such of their compositions as are not trammeled by fanciful conditions admit, with a few remarkable exceptions, of very easy solution. Composers of the present day, contemning all adventitious aid, depend exclusively on the inherent beauty and depth of the idea they desire to embody. Their stratagems are free from forced checks, and are not to be solved by ostentatious sacrifices. It is instructive to compare the positions of Stamma with those of I. B. In the former we meet with many striking and ingenious methods of effecting check-mate; but we search in vain for the placid subtleties, the unobtrusive graces, and the classical elegance that characterise the latter. To the young composer a careful study of the problems of so consummate a master of his art as I. B. must prove invaluable. In them he will find that every piece and pawn has its use. Nothing can be removed or altered without detriment to symmetry or exactness. The representation of Mr. Brown’s conceptions is invariably natural and appropriate, betraying neither poverty of expression on the one hand nor a needless profusion of epithets on the other. All is trimmed and finished to the last degree; and the general character of his problems could not, perhaps, be more aptly described than by the Horatian phrase, simplex munditiis.

(Note: The initials “I. B.” are used in the review instead of “J. B.”)