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"Chesse-play is a good and wittie exercise of the minde for some kinde of men."
Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy.


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 7.



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 moves.



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 position.



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 puzzle.



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 doing so.



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 some ingenuity.



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 monstrosity!"

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 win."

"Of course 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.


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