My grandfather taught me the rules of chess when I was seven years old and since eight to eighteen years of age I attended, with interceptions, a children’s chess club. I was never much good at it though. Partly, as I only realized much later, because I was more interested in all the fun associated with it than in the game itself.
For example, my favourite variant wasn’t ‘the real thing’ but tandem chess (which for some reason we called Dutch chess). I enjoyed the tournaments and summer camps I took part in more because of the feeling of belonging to some fraternity than because of what was actually happening on the chessboards. I was less interested in the scholar’s mate which often happens among beginners than in the fool’s mate which is very unlikely – but the shortest possible one. (Although in fact, two and a half year’s ago I could hardly believe my eyes when playing against a guy who after 1. f4 Nc6 2. c4 e5 3. g3 exf4 actually did play 4. gxf4 and waited until I hesitantly finished with 4. … Qh4ǂ.) And I was yet more proud of being able to show off my knowledge of the shortest way from the initial position to stalemate, which can be done in ten moves (needless to stay, both sides must co-operate).
Similarly, I was always more interested in bizarre chess problems than those ‘White checkmates in two moves’ which could actually help me improve my playing capabilities. Some of these included, like the stalemate thing, both sides co-operating, and even doing something which normally isn’t done:
1) White: Kh5, Black: Ke8. White to undo his move, Black to undo his move, Black to play differently, White to checkmate.
Others were simply tricks made for fun:
2) White: Kg1, Rh1, Bb5, Bd8, Black: Kf8, Rg8, pg7. White checkmates in half a move [sic].
3) White: Kc6, Rf2, Bd3, Bh2, Nf3, Nh6, pd4, pg5, Black: Kf4, Rg3. White checkmates without a move. Checkmate in zero moves, so to say.
Still, some of my favourite problems were fun without defying or twisting the rules. Like this one, in which seemingly White can only capture Black rook, which means stalemate. Wrong. He can win.
4) White: Kb3, Rh3, pb2, pc2, pd2, pe2, pf3, pb6, pc7, Black: Ka8, Rf3, pb7. White to win.
I’ll end up this blog with a real gem: despite stalemate danger, once again White wins. There’s no monkey business, and yet…
5) White: Ke5, Bh7, pc5, pe6, pg5, pg6, Black: Kh8, pc7, pe7, pg7, pf5. White to win.
0) Stalemate in 10 moves: 1. e3 a5 2. Qh5 Ra6 3. Qxa5 h5 4. h4 Rah6 5. Qxc7 f6 6. Qxd7+ Kf7 7. Qxb7 Qd3 8. Qxb8 Qh7 9. Qxc8 Kg6 10. Qe6 ½-½
1) White undoes capturing black rook (Kg6xh5), Black undoes capturing White queen (Rh8xh5), Black castles kingside, White checkmates by Qh7ǂ.
2) White finishes kingside castling by moving his rook from h1 to f1.
3) White turns the chessboard 180°, so his pawns move in the other direction.
4) To avoid White Rh8ǂ, Black cannot refrain from checking White. Contrarily, White doesn’t want to take the Black rook as that would only achieve a draw through stalemate. Thus, White begins by offering Black two of his pawns:
1. e3 Rxe3+ 2. c3 Rxc3+
then starts running in front of Black in a zigzag fashion:
3. Ka2 Ra3+ 4. Kb1 Ra1+ 5. Kc2 Rc1+ 6. Kd3 Rc3+ 7. Ke2 Re3+ 8. Kf1 Re1+ 9. Kg2 Rg1+ 10. Kf3
This way White forces Black to take a third pawn, thus giving White rook horizontal play, and begins to zigzag back
10. … Rxg3+ 11. Ke2 Re3+ 12. Kd1 Re1+ 13. Kc2 Rc1+ 14. Kb3 Rc3+ 15. Ka2
Black checks once more and White checkmates taking his rook.
15. … Ra3+ 16. Rxa3ǂ
5) White to win: The clue to this situation is that Black’s last move must have been f7-f5. Consequently, White captures en passant:
1. g5xf6 e.p.
Black now has three options, yet all of them losing:
(1) 1. … c6
White takes care to avoid a stalemate after 2. f7. Instead he changes pawns 2. fxg7+ Kxg7 3. Kd4 and as Black cannot leave the f-file because of White’s g7 – g8Q threat, White king casually travels via the a-file to capture Black’s pawn and make a queen out of his one on the c-file.
(2) 1. … exf6+
White merely sidesteps 2. Kd4 safe in the knowledge that in two moves he checkmates whatever Black does: 3. e7 4. e8Qǂ (or, indeed, e8Rǂ)
(3) 1. … gxf6+
This is the trickiest possibility for White, but he moves his king 2. Kd5 and has enough time to either return for capturing of the black f-pawn if it moves to f5 prematurely, eg 2. … Kg7 3. Kc6 f5 4. Kd5 Kf6 5. g7 5. … Kxg7 6. Bxf5 etc, or to take Black’s c-pawn and promote his own sooner than Black can promote his f-pawn, eg 2. … Kg7 3. Kc6 Kh8 4. Kxc7 f5 5. Kd7 f4 6. c6 f3 7. c7 f2 8. c8Q+ 8. … Kg7 9. Qg8+ Kf6 (or Kh6) 10. Qf8+ and White captures the Black pawn on 2nd rank in the next move. The rest is a piece of piss.