This year’s Christmas puzzles contain the usual varied collection ranging from a mate in three to a seriesselfmate in nine. Apart from one tricky puzzle, the selection is perhaps somewhat easier than my usual Christmas offering. You may judge for yourself which puzzle I felt to be the tricky one.
White to play and mate in three
Black’s king is stalemated so White’s first move must release the king. Please don’t use your engine to solve this. It will do so in an instant, but you will deprive yourself of the fun of finding the solution yourself. Come on, it’s only four pieces!
White to play and selfmate in five.
a) Diagram position – b) Remove the pawn on f6
In a selfmate, White is trying to force Black to deliver mate, while Black is doing his best to avoid this. The above problem has two parts; in the second, just remove the pawn on f6 and again selfmate in five.
If it were Black to move he would be forced to give mate at once by ...fxe4#, but White has no waiting move. The idea here is to find a way to return to something like the initial position, but having wasted a tempo. There is a connection between the solutions to the two parts of the problem.
White to play and win
The material balance is roughly equal, so White must pursue an attack. It’s important to know that two bishops always win against a knight except if there is an immediate draw for the knight. In endgame studies there is no 50-move rule, so you need not be concerned that a 2B vs N win might require more than 50 moves.
Helpmate in 6.5 – with set play
In a helpmate the two sides cooperate to help White mate Black. The stipulation means that there are two solutions to this problem. In the first solution, Black starts and White mates Black on his sixth move (so both White and Black make six moves). In the second solution White moves first and mates Black on his seventh move (so White plays seven moves and Black six).
You might wonder why the second solution cannot just be the first solution plus a White waiting move somewhere, but that’s part of the fun of the problem. Remember that both sides are playing to help White deliver mate, and good luck!
Please do not send in any solutions until January 1st. New problems will appear every day
until then on this page, which we will keep near the top of our news site, so it is easy for you to find.
White to play and mate in five moves
At first sight White can mate in just four moves by 1 Be3 (or any other square) 1...g1Q 2 b8Q+ Qg2 when any waiting move by White forces mate next move. Why doesn’t this work, and what is the correct solution? Again, please don’t use your engine, it’s not a difficult problem.
Series-selfmate in nine
This means that White plays nine consecutive moves (without Black moving at all) in order to reach a position in which Black is forced to give mate in one. White is not allowed to give check except possibly on the last move of his sequence. While seriesselfmates might be unfamiliar to many readers, this is a relatively easy example and you should certainly try to solve it.
This is the position after White’s 12th move in a game.
All the moves were legal (even if not very good). What was the game?
A useful tip for solving puzzles of this type is to use the fact that the solution is totally unique. Thus the game cannot start 1 e4 e6 2 h4 because it could equally well have started 1 h4 e6 2 e4.
Dr John Nunn (born April 25, 1955) is one of the world’s best-known chess players and authors. He showed early promise by winning the British Under-14 Championship at the age of twelve. In 1970 he entered Oxford University at the unusually early age of 15 and in 1978 he achieved a double success by gaining both the GM title and a doctorate (with a thesis in algebraic topology).
In 1981 John abandoned academic life for a career as a professional chess player. In 1984 he gained three individual gold medals at the Thessaloniki Olympiad, two for his 10/11 performance on board two for England and one for winning the problem-solving event held on a free day.
John's best period for over-the-board play was 1988-91. In 1989 he was ranked in the world top ten, and in the same year he finished sixth in the GMA World Cup series, which included virtually all the world’s top players. He also won the famous tournament at Wijk aan Zee outright in 1990 and 1991, to add to a previous tie for first place in 1982.
John became a successful chess author in the late 1980s and 1990s, and has three times won the prestigious British Chess Federation Book of the Year prize. In 1997 he (together with Murray Chandler and Graham Burgess) founded Gambit Publications, which now has more than 200 chess books in print. When he effectively retired from over-the-board play in 2003, he revisited an early interest in chess problems and in 2004 won the World Chess Problem Solving Championship, at the same time adding a GM solving title to his earlier over-the-board title. In 2007 he again won the World Chess Problem Solving Championship, and in 2010 had his best year to date, winning both the European and World Chess Problem Solving Championships.
In 1995 he married the German chess player Petra Fink. They have one son, Michael, currently aged fifteen, who also plays chess.