"Chesse-play is a good and wittie exercise of the minde for some
kinde of men."
Burton's Anatomy of
I have a single chessboard and a single set of chessmen. In how many
different ways may the men be correctly set up for the beginning of a game? I
find that most people slip at a particular point in making the calculation.
Can you say correctly just how many squares and other rectangles the
chessboard contains? In other words, in how great a number of different ways is
it possible to indicate a square or other rectangle enclosed by lines that
separate the squares of the board?
The White rooks cannot move outside the little square in which they are
enclosed except on the final move, in giving checkmate. The puzzle is how to checkmate
Black in the fewest possible moves with No. 8 rook, the other rooks being left
in numerical order round the sides of their square with the break between 1 and
Some years ago the puzzle was proposed to construct an imaginary game of
chess, in which White shall be stalemated in the fewest possible moves with all
the thirty-two pieces on the board. Can you build up such a position in fewer
than twenty moves?
Set up the position shown in the diagram. Then the condition of the puzzle
is—White to play and checkmate in six moves. Notwithstanding the complexities, I
will show how the manner of play may be condensed into quite a few lines, merely
stating here that the first two moves of White cannot be varied.
The following is a prize puzzle propounded by me some years ago. Produce a
game of chess which, after sixteen moves, shall leave White with all his sixteen
men on their original squares and Black in possession of his king alone (not
necessarily on his own square). White is then to force mate in three
Starting from the ordinary arrangement of the pieces as for a game, what is
the smallest possible number of moves necessary in order to arrive at the
following position? The moves for both sides must, of course, be played strictly
in accordance with the rules of the game, though the result will necessarily be
a very weird kind of chess.
Place the remaining eight White pieces in such a position that White shall
have the choice of thirty-six different mates on the move. Every move that
checkmates and leaves a different position is a different mate. The pieces
already placed must not be moved.
In a game of chess between Mr. Black and Mr. White, Black was in
difficulties, and as usual was obliged to catch a train. So he proposed that
White should complete the game in his absence on condition that no moves
whatever should be made for Black, but only with the White
pieces. Mr. White accepted, but to his dismay found it utterly impossible to win
the game under such conditions. Try as he would, he could not checkmate his
opponent. On which square did Mr. Black leave his king? The other pieces are in
their proper positions in the diagram. White may leave Black in check as often
as he likes, for it makes no difference, as he can never arrive at a checkmate
Strolling into one of the rooms of a London club, I noticed a position left
by two players who had gone. This position is shown in the diagram. It is
evident that White has checkmated Black. But how did he do it? That is the
Can you place two White rooks and a White knight on the board so that the
Black king (who must be on one of the four squares in the middle of the board)
shall be in check with no possible move open to him? "In other words," the
reader will say, "the king is to be shown checkmated." Well, you can use the
term if you wish, though I intentionally do not employ it myself. The mere fact
that there is no White king on the board would be a sufficient reason for my not
My next puzzle is supposed to be Chinese, many hundreds of years old, and
never fails to interest. White to play and mate, moving each of the three pieces
once, and once only.
In how many different ways may I place six pawns on the chessboard so that
there shall be an even number of unoccupied squares in every row and every
column? We are not here considering the diagonals at all, and every different
six squares occupied makes a different solution, so we have not to exclude
reversals or reflections.
Here is a little game of solitaire that is quite easy, but not so easy as to
be uninteresting. You can either rule out the squares on a sheet of cardboard or
paper, or you can use a portion of your chessboard. I have shown numbered counters in
the illustration so as to make the solution easy and intelligible to all, but
chess pawns or draughts will serve just as well in practice.
The puzzle is to remove all the counters except one, and this one that is
left must be No. 1. You remove a counter by jumping over another counter to the
next space beyond, if that square is vacant, but you cannot make a leap in a
diagonal direction. The following moves will make the play quite clear: 1-9,
2-10, 1-2, and so on. Here 1 jumps over 9, and you remove 9 from the board; then
2 jumps over 10, and you remove 10; then 1 jumps over 2, and you remove 2. Every
move is thus a capture, until the last capture of all is made by No. 1.
Here is an extension of the last game of solitaire. All you need is a
chessboard and the thirty-two pieces, or the same number of draughts or
counters. In the illustration numbered counters are used. The puzzle is to
remove all the counters except two, and these two must have originally been on
the same side of the board; that is, the two left must either belong to the
group 1 to 16 or to the other group, 17 to 32. You remove a counter by jumping
over it with another counter to the next square beyond, if that square is
vacant, but you cannot make a leap in a diagonal direction. The following moves
will make the play quite clear: 3-11, 4-12, 3-4, 13-3. Here 3 jumps over 11, and
you remove 11; 4 jumps over 12, and you remove 12; and so on. It will be found a
fascinating little game of patience, and the solution requires the exercise of
One Christmas Eve I was travelling by rail to a little place in one of the
southern counties. The compartment was very full, and the passengers were wedged
in very tightly. My neighbour in one of the corner seats was closely studying a
position set up on one of those little folding chessboards that can be carried
conveniently in the pocket, and I could scarcely avoid looking at it myself.
Here is the position:—
My fellow-passenger suddenly turned his head and caught the look of
bewilderment on my face.
"Do you play chess?" he asked.
"Yes, a little. What is that? A problem?"
"Problem? No; a game."
"Impossible!" I exclaimed rather rudely. "The position is a perfect
He took from his pocket a postcard and handed it to me. It bore an address at
one side and on the other the words "43. K to Kt 8."
"It is a correspondence game." he exclaimed. "That is my friend's last move,
and I am considering my reply."
"But you really must excuse me; the position seems utterly impossible. How on
earth, for example—"
"Ah!" he broke in smilingly. "I see; you are a beginner; you play to
you wouldn't play to lose or draw!"
He laughed aloud.
"You have much to learn. My friend and myself do not play for results of that
antiquated kind. We seek in chess the wonderful, the whimsical, the weird. Did
you ever see a position like that?"
I inwardly congratulated myself that I never had.
"That position, sir, materializes the sinuous evolvements and syncretic,
synthetic, and synchronous concatenations of two cerebral individualities. It is
the product of an amphoteric and intercalatory interchange of—"
"Have you seen the evening paper, sir?" interrupted the man opposite, holding
out a newspaper. I noticed on the margin beside his thumb some pencilled
writing. Thanking him, I took the paper and read—"Insane, but quite harmless. He
is in my charge."
After that I let the poor fellow run on in his wild way until both got out at
the next station.
But that queer position became fixed indelibly in my mind, with Black's last
move 43. K to Kt 8; and a short time afterwards I found it actually possible to
arrive at such a position in forty-three moves. Can the reader construct such a
sequence? How did White get his rooks and king's bishop into their present
positions, considering Black can never have moved his king's bishop? No odds
were given, and every move was perfectly legitimate.