Christmas Puzzles 2014 – Curious chess

by Frederic Friedel
12/31/2014 – New Year's Eve is a time for light-headed celebration, for Champagne and fireworks, for parties and laughter. In this spirit we bring you the seventh installment of our Christmas puzzle with a number of curious chess problems which are not hard to solve but require a keen sense of humour. They all come from an author who inspired our 2002 Christmas column. Enjoy.

ChessBase 2014 Christmas Puzzles

For the fifteenth anniversary of our apparently well-loved Christmas puzzles we have decided to go back in time and pick some of the best or most popular puzzles for you. Remember there are GM readers (and one of our regular authors) out there who were not born when we started the series. For older readers the cherries we will pick out of the original section will hopefully bring on nostalgic memories; and the younger ones will learn for the first time what we have been up to over the years.

And of course we will start the new year with our traditional Christmas puzzle contest. On the first of January 2015 you will get some problems to solve, with the chance of winning interesting prizes. In the meantime here are the final three sections for 2014.

December 31, 2014: Curious chess

Today we are in for entertainment, pure and simple. If you look carefully at the picture we showed you on our December 29 puzzle page you will that 15-year-old Nigel Short and the Finnish problem chess expert Mika Korhonen are looking at a book. It is Dr Karl Fabel's Kurioses Schach, which translates to "curious chess".

I still own the book, which I bought second-hand at the chess tournament in which Nigel was playing. It bears a copyright from 1960 and has pencilled notes in it by a previous owner – in the old German "Suetterlin" handwriting. I actually learned to read this script and was able to decipher the letters I had inherited from my grandparent's generation.

This 64-page book, and a number of subsequent ones by the same author that I purchased, contain a wealth of odd, entertaining and often bizarre chess ideas. There are many orthodox problems with unusual twists, and there are any number of non-orthodox variants.

So today I will give you a few examples of curious chess problems – nothing too bizarre, however, since I do not want to scare anyone away. You will need to activate your sense of humour if you want to enjoy these examples, though. We start with an appetizer, a problem that should take you less than a minute to solve:

Dr. Karl Fabel, Rätselstunde, June 1952

White to play and not deliver mate

Got it? There is only one move that does not mate the black king. Dr Fabel's comment to the solution: "Der Menschenfreund", which transtlates to "The altruist". By the way in this case you are welcome to switch your chess engine on and seek its assistance.

In the same spirit of New Year's Eve light-headedness we present another one-move chess problem. Could anything be possibly easier? Bow your head in shame if it took you more than two minutes to find the mate.

T. P. Madeley, Chess, December 1950

Mate in one move

And yet another one-mover:

Pollmächer et.al. Illustrierte Zeitung, 1859

Mate in one move – how many solutions?

Normally chess problems should not have more than one solution. The above position makes a point of creating as many alternative solutions as possible. Try and count the exact number of mating moves that White can make. Hint: it is more than ten.

Dr Karl Fabel, Deutsche Schachblätter, 1950

Insert the black king so White can mate in one

Here the black king is missing. You must place it somewhere on the board so that White can immediately mate, in a single move. If you find two places then you will have to decide which one is correct. Think for a moment – only one is.

Author unknown

White to play and win

We would offer that this is the easiest chess study ever composed. If you cannot solve it, then chess is definitely not your game. The next problem is in similar New Year's Eve spirit of forced moves:

T. R. Dawson

White to play

In this position, composed by the great Britisch composer Thomas Rayner Dawson (1889-1951), the author tells us that the player with the black pieces had decided to resign. White, who is in check, advised his opponent not to give up so quickly. "But I am bound to lose, there is nothing I can do – or for that matter you either," said Black. But White insisted: "I'll bet you $100 that I can lose this game!" So the two made the bet and White actually lost. How did he do that? (No, it's nothing like resigning, losing on time, being disqualified, etc. White wagered he would lose, and he lost fair and square. It's pure semantics. Please use the feedback link at the bottom of this page to send your hate mail.)

In closing a serious problem by our Curious Chess hero, one which may even have some practical relevance:

Dr Karl Fabel, Deutsche Schachblätter, 1950

White to play and win – how many moves?

Take it from me, White can win this position – I simply want you to guess how many moves it will take. Yes, and can you think of a strategy for the white pieces? In case you are unable to solve the problem here's a hint: White must somehow force Black to self-destruct by pushing the c-pawn.

Incidentally Karl Fabel was born in 1905 in Hamburg, Germany (where ChessBase is located) and died in 1975. He received a doctorate in chemistry and worked as a mathematician and civil judge. Fabel is considered to be one of the most ingenious chess composers. We have never seen a picture of him.

Wait, one of our readers found one, a family photo of this great man,
below a diagram of the White does not mate problem.


Editor-in-Chief of the ChessBase News Page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.
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Malthrope Malthrope 12/31/2014 01:40
A very "Happy New Year 2015" to Frederic Friedel (Editor-in-Chief) and the entire ChessBase staff! :XD My Best Always, - Malthrope (Berkeley, CA // USA) // PS: Love this insanity! (Composers: Dr. Karl Fabel, T. P. Madeley, T. R. Dawson and of course Author unknown). I grew up on a very healthy diet of Retrograde Analysis problems as a teenager. The two books published by Professor Raymond Smullyan ~ The Chess Mysteries of SHERLOCK HOLMES (1979) and The Chess Mysteries of the Arabian Knights (1981) ~ were pure gold! ;) Which, as we all know, just so happens to be perfect training for solving this kind of selective madness! ~ "December 31, 2014: Curious chess" LoL :P
Chump Chump 12/31/2014 03:17
Good to see more from Dr. Karl Fabel. Years ago Chessbase ran (at Christmas time) a funny "forced move" study by him that I consider "the easiest chess study ever composed" rather than the above anonymous effort. I was expecting to see it in this column!
Malthrope Malthrope 12/31/2014 04:14
+Chump ~ Yes, I too just about fell off my chair on that one. In fact, I was seriously considering asking ChessBase with me literally begging for hints on that "Author unknown" composition. A real ball-buster that one is! LoL ;) Best Regards, - Mal
Chump Chump 12/31/2014 04:26
Mal, I'm not the sharpest tool in Caissa's shed, so it's a relief to find a study I can solve with ease! :D
Malthrope Malthrope 12/31/2014 04:49
+Chump ~ Yes Geeker all true finding the easy ones is hard to do! LoL Just as soon I saw Dr. Karl Fabel's name posted I knew then it was gonna be good. Thought Frederic Friedel did a wonderful job with his writing on this one. :) Although, I was quite surprised to read that we have no known pics of the late great Dr. Fabel. :-( I'll keep my fingers crossed in the hopes that someday someone will find that elusive picture of Dr. Karl Fabel. Perhaps safely tucked away in a dusty old cardboard box in an attic somewhere which also just happens to contain a Chess set? :XD Regards, - Mal
prat10 prat10 12/31/2014 06:10
@pathikd::Arghhhh..i was doing that puzzle.& u posted the answer..if u hv seen the other christmas puzzle pages it's written
"Once again we entreat you: do not post any solutions in the discussion section below and spoil the fun for everyone else. Nobody will admire you for it, and some will be extremely annoyed. Just keep it to yourself."
Don't do that..
rabin51 rabin51 12/31/2014 07:08
You will find a family photo of Karl Fabel at http://www.fabelschach.de .
Moreover all compositions of Fabel are gathered there, and a practically complete bibliography.
Kind regards, rabin
Malthrope Malthrope 12/31/2014 07:16
+prat10 ~ I noticed that too and it's the one time (as you've already pointed out) that this statement:

"Once again we entreat you: do not post any solutions in the discussion section below and spoil the fun for everyone else. Nobody will admire you for it, and some will be extremely annoyed. Just keep it to yourself."

...was not posted for all to read at the end of the ChessBase Christmas Puzzle current featured article. So, be a good Problem Solver in 2015 and keep your solutions away from this discussion area. Nothing spoils the fun like the solution being broadcast all over ChessBase town. Capiche? ;)
Malthrope Malthrope 12/31/2014 07:36
+rabin51 ~ We are not suppose to *post website links* but in this case I'm sure ChessBase will make an exception. ;) This link certainly looks 100% official to me (it's all about Dr. Karl Fabel's many Chess studies and compositions all numbered & categorized). Featured right on the front page is a family portrait of Dr. Karl Fabel with his wife and two children. "Thank You!" :XD Best Regards, - Malthrope
prat10 prat10 12/31/2014 09:03
@Malthrope::yeah i saw that is not written in this artile page.that's why said if u hv seen the other christmas puzzle pages...
Anyways will chessbase post the answer of these puzzles? coz am seeing these christmas puzzle fr the 1st time.and am really curious
Happy new year,chess frnds :) have fun :)
jordan jordan 12/31/2014 09:34
if someone could please post a solution to the sam Lloyd new York albion 1857 problem from last week's chessbase instalment I would be very grateful. The position was (White king on e1,pawn on g3, Rooks on f1 and h1, Black king on g2)
prat10 prat10 12/31/2014 10:50
@jordan::my friend,the pleasure is in solving the puzzle all by yourself.try to do that.
.and if u are keen to know the answer, try "Feedback and mail to our news service"
Malthrope Malthrope 12/31/2014 10:57
+prat10 ~ Right, I was aware of that. Just wanted you to know that I carefully read what you wrote! ;) Re: the solutions to all these wonderful Chess problems, compositions and studies, I'm sure there will be a full recap when the ending article is published. If my mind is still working correctly the entire series being featured here are selected highlights of the "ChessBase Chistmas Puzzles" from the past 15 years. :D

+jordan 1 ~ We don't discuss the answers nor the many variations here to the Chess problems, tasks and studies being featured (see the postings of Prat10 and myself above here). The many answers will all be revealed shortly in the final ChessBase article! :) Regards, - Mal
Steven S Tam Steven S Tam 12/31/2014 11:01
On Dawson's quiz:
White wins the mate, but loses the bet of $100 (since he bets that he would/should lose the game, but he could not, via g7 then hxg7.)
Malthrope Malthrope 12/31/2014 11:04
Hehehe.... Right you are +prat10! ;) A Chess problem solved is a valuable lesson learned. A Chess problem answer simply given to you via a computer or a forum posting are rarely ever remembered. Think about it! LoL "Happy New Year" 2015 to all the great Chess fans here on ChessBase! :XD Best Regards, - Mal
Malthrope Malthrope 12/31/2014 11:44

Now I finally see it! LoL This was posted above in the December 31st, 2014 article...

"And of course we will start the new year with our traditional Christmas puzzle contest. On the first of January 2015 you will get some problems to solve, with the chance of winning interesting prizes. In the meantime here are the final three sections for 2014."

And there you have it right from Frederic Friedel (Editor-in-Chief) himself! :XD
andrejj andrejj 1/1/2015 01:07
"We have never seen a picture of him."
Well, see on page http://www.fabelschach.de/
Malthrope Malthrope 1/1/2015 04:21
+andrejj ~ that's already old news. ;) It pays to read around here (the other postings that have previously taken place in this discussion). Specifically +rabin51 post followed quickly by my post in reply (the location - about mid-page). :D Regards, - Mal
pathikd pathikd 1/2/2015 08:03
My sincere apologies @prat10...i got excited and immediately posted the answer. Noted @Malthrope :)
rabin51 rabin51 1/2/2015 09:12
To those who are interested: There are some more photos of Fabel reproduced in German problem magazines (all in black and white), especially in "Die Schwalbe"; I give the sources with short information:
- "Die Schwalbe", Oct. 1965, p 202 (a portrait; article on Fabel's 60th birthday, by Werner Speckmann)
- A practically identical photo in "feenschach" V-VI-VII 1975, p 61 (obituary by Josef Haas)
- 3 photos in "Die Schwalbe", Oct. 2005, pp 229; 231 (commemorative article by Thomas Brand):
1) Fabel with his wife Marianne and Nenad Petrovic in Zagreb, in the beginnings of the 1950ies
2) Fabel officially in his robe
3) Fabel privately as a cat-fancier
Best regards, rabin51
Malthrope Malthrope 1/2/2015 09:36
+ rabin51 ~ Now this is quite an amazing find on your part (pure gold indeed!). :D I was simply shocked when Frederic Friedel (Editor in Chief) reported, "We have never seen a picture of him." Especially with Dr. Karl Fabel being so famous in the world of Chess Problems that I just couldn't possibly imagine that we could go on in the 21st century without having at least one picture of the legend himself. ;) Immediately I ran a quick image search and of course literally tons of Chess diagrams popped up and appeared. LoL So. my "Hats off to You" and a very "Happy New Year!" :XD Best Regards, - Mal (Berkeley, CA // USA)
Malthrope Malthrope 1/2/2015 10:01
+pathikd ~ Your apology is fully excepted! :D I remember what it was like over 55 years ago when as a young teenager (in my case) I began solving my very first Chess Problems. I got so excited back then by just solving them. Finding that one "key move" that unlocked the door to the solution! LoL It took time of course it most certainly wasn't a piece of cake in the very beginning. However, I stuck with it and over time I got better and better at it and my overall Chess strength improved too! ;) Best Always, - Mal
rabin51 rabin51 1/2/2015 10:26
+ Malthrope Many thanks for your kind feedback! All the stuff on fabelschach.de was originally planned as a book project, but this biography of Fabel including all his problems has never been realized (and probably will never be, I think), so the information will remain online only. All the best for a Happy New Year as well! - rabin51 (from Germany)
Malthrope Malthrope 1/2/2015 11:09
+rabin51 ~ "Thank You" that was quite kind of you to say. :) For me Dr. Karl Fabel was a milestone in my little world of Chess problems from long ago. It was always fun when one of his many studies and/or compositions popped up in the various Chess magazines I collected. Of course, years later when I started collecting Chess books seriously (of which I had thousands and just as many in magazines) that my Chess Problems and Endgame Studies section of books alone took up an entire shelf. LoL

At any rate, from my observations I've always been amazed what does take place and transpire in our little world of Chess. So many talented and devoted individuals working on a variety of assorted Chess projects (research in particular). They continue to uncover fascinating facets of Chess history from the past. Thus, the ability to make their discoveries known and made available to all of us becomes possible in the future. ;) Even I still have a collection of Chess stories to tell and write about from my past! LoL :XD All the Best, - Mal
rabin51 rabin51 1/2/2015 07:30
@ Malthrope - It is very interesting and a little surprise to hear about a Karl Fabel fan in the USA! Naturally there are and have been many problem composers who deserve our admiration, and certainly Fabel belongs to the Greats of the problem world as well, with an overall production of more than 1,200 compositions. You can find some images of his problemistic legacy (all his problems collected in personal booklets) on fabelschach.de, via the link "Originale" in the navigation on the left. All these original booklets were formerly in the possession of German problemist Hilmar Ebert, who gave them to retro expert Thomas Brand before he emigrated to the Philippines some years ago.
Meanwhile I have made scans (jpg files) of the articles on Fabel mentioned in my earlier post, so I could provide you with them if you like it. It's only the problem how to proceed in this case, certainly we should not exchange e-mail addresses here ...
All the best, rabin51
Malthrope Malthrope 1/2/2015 09:30
+rabin51 ~ "Thank You" once again! ;) It was so easy for me to admire the compositions of Dr. Kark Fabel in my teenage years. Being somewhat of an anomaly that a young Chess player like myself could also enjoy solving Chess problems. LoL I've loved them all my life with my many favorites being the straight Mates in 2 and 3 (plus the longer ones), constructional tasks, series move problems, helpmates, retrograde analysis problems, endgame studies and whatever is considered "curious" in a logical way! (if some of the chess pieces featured in the diagram are posted upside down then I'm not interested!). LoL :P

Anyhoo, I'm rather easy to find either by my real name or my handle (FYI: I've been using the unique 'Malthrope' since 1998). I'm in so many places ~ Chess wise ~ but I've also been quite inactive for many years lately (due to my various disabilities). Read my final postings back to +bro in the "Christmas Puzzles 2014 – My Favourite Studies (2)" which was posted on 12/31/2014. I've left a few bread crumbs there and I'm sure we can hook up somehow in some way. I'd really like to read and see what you have accomplished (both your informative information and amazing scans) over the course of time. :)

By the way... My favorite types of Chess problem are Endgame studies and Retrograde Analysis Problems. I consider those two to be the most difficult to solve. P For example in the book, "The Chess Mysteries OF SHERLOCK HOLMES", by Professor Raymond Smullyan (Alfred A. Knoff, New York, 1979). In Appendix I, the "Moriarty's Problems", simply put they "blew my mind!" and what a joy to solve them. ;) As for the really difficult Endgame Studies ~ it's like another world all together! LoL :XD My Best Always, - Alan Benson (aka: Malthrope from Berkeley, CA // USA)

PS: You can just imagine the kind of things that I could tell you! LoL I've met and hung out with eight World Chess Champions (six men and two women). I'd better stop right there! LoL ;)
rabin51 rabin51 1/2/2015 10:29
@ Malthrope Thanks as well for all your information! I have found now your e-mail on the web and I will send you tomorrow the scans of the 3 articles on Fabel (appr. 20 MB). My own interests focus on chess history and problem chess, I will tell you a little more tomorrow about my past and present chess activities which are not as extensive as yours ...
All the best, rabin 51


Malthrope Malthrope 1/2/2015 10:57

+rabin51 ~ That's great news! :XD I'm hopeful that you found: marspolaris (I was and still am to some extent a huge Tangerine Dream diehard fan! i.e., the electronic musical group that began back in the late sixties) in a place near: netscape.com? LoL Hoping it's also one from the last six-seven years (which would be current). Should also tell you that I may lose my ability to post further here (won't bother to explain why). If all else fails the Director of the Mechanics' Institute Chess Room - IM John Donaldson - in San Francisco, CA, is an old friend of mine (like almost +40 years now). He could always help us if we get stuck in the cyberspace mud. LoL ;) Best Always, - Mal
Malthrope Malthrope 1/3/2015 06:58
+rabin51 ~ Your mission accomplished (3 in the bread basket!). ;) I'll reply back soon as I just wanted to let you know all is safe and sound. :XD Kindest Regards, - Malthrope (Berkeley, CA // USA)
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