Kavalek in Huffington: Imagination Breeds Creativity

12/11/2010 – How do chess players create beautiful games and compositions? Do they dig deep into their memory and retrieve ideas of others or do they use their own imagination? Obviously, it is a combination of both, because what they learn and remember and what they create themselves goes hand in hand. The art of creating is remembering and imagining, as illustrated by mathematician Noam Elkies.

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Chess Puzzles: Imagination Breeds Creativity

By GM Lubomir Kavalek

Some years ago, I saw an interesting position in which only two pieces - queen and bishop - staged a successful attack on the black king. It was published in 1750 by Dominico Ercole del Rio, a lawyer from the Italian town of Modena, in his 110-page book on chess. As the title Sopra il giuoco degli scacchi osservazioni pratiche d'anonimo autore Modenese suggests, he was pretending to be an anonymous Modenese author.

Dominico Ercole del Rio, Modena 1750

White wins

A few years later I saw a chess study in which del Rio's idea blossomed fully. The author was Noam D. Elkies and it was published in Chess Life in 1985.

Noam D. Elkies, Chess Life 1985

White wins

At that time, the 19-year-old Elkies had his brilliant career in mathematics ahead of him. At age 26, he became the youngest full professor at the Harvard University, surpassing by two years the record previously held by president Barak Obama's chief economic adviser, Lawrence Summers, and the law professor Alan Dershowitz. Exceling in music and chess compositions, Elkies also won the 1996 Individual World Chess Solving Championship.

At 44, he still likes to challenge himself. He saw Ladislav Prokes's work in which the white queen chases the black king counter clockwise around the board. By moving the black pawn from d7 to h5 and removing the pawn on g7 from the original work, Elkies was able to swing the windmill in an opposite direction as well:

Note that in the replay windows below you can click on the notation to follow the game.

Original column hereCopyright Huffington Post


The Huffington Post is an American news website and aggregated blog founded by Arianna Huffington and others, featuring various news sources and columnists. The site was launched on May 9, 2005, as a commentary outlet and liberal/progressive alternative to conservative news websites. It offers coverage of politics, media, business, entertainment, living, style, the green movement, world news, and comedy. It is a top destination for news, blogs, and original content. The Huffington Post has an active community, with over one million comments made on the site each month. According to Nielsen NetRatings, the site has around 13 million unique visitors per month (number for March 2010); according to Google Analytics the number is 22 million uniques per month.


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