Category 16 in the Taiga

by ChessBase
4/19/2002 – We are talking marshlands and lakes, forests with sable, musk-rat and stoat. And oil, around 2.5 billion tons of it. The Nefteyugansk region of West Siberia has few settlements, one of them being Poikovsky. That is where the 3rd Karpov International Chess Tournament is being held, a category 16 with ten strong GMs. You can catch the action at the official web site. And maybe check out a little Taiga puzzle here.

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The Taiga revenge puzzle

Some years ago, at a tournament in Paris, Garry Kasparov, Vishy Anand and a number of other players and friends were out to dinner together. Vishy decided to bait the Great Man with a puzzle. This is what he asked Garry:

The largest and most powerful air force in the world is the US Air Force. The third largest is the Russian Air Force. Which is the second largest?

Garry spent quite some time puzzling over it. He made a number of guesses, vigorously presenting information to back up his theories. But they were all wrong, as were the guesses of the other people present at the dinner. Then Anand told us the solution. We are sure you know it, so we will not bother to give it here – for the moment at least.

The answer was not at all what Garry had expected. In fact he was furious, tried analysing the original puzzle to disqualify the wording. But in the end he had to admit that it was correct and fair. After fuming for a while he hit back with a counter-puzzle. This is what he asked Anand:

During the cold war the American secret service starts training a master spy. For many years the young man is taught every aspect of Russian life. He learns the language, every nuance of the dialect spoken in the Taiga region. He gets clothes and shoes bought in the region and wears them for many month to wear them down naturally. He learns to eat, drink and walk like a Russian Taiga hunter. Everything is done meticulously. Then one day they parachute him into the isolated forests of the Taiga, where he spend a month hunting and acclimatizing. When he feels completely ready, he enters a settlement. There he sees a little old lady is selling refreshments in a booth. "Mamushka," he says, "please give a tired hunter something warm to drink." His choice of words, accent, intonation – everything is perfect. "Of course, my son," she replies, and adds: "You are not from Russia, are you?" How did she know this?

This time Anand was flummoxed, as were all the other friends. Of course Garry relished the situation and let us chew on it all the way back to the hotel. And yes, the solution was just as frustrating as the one he had got for the air force puzzle.

Naturally we are not going to give you the answers to the puzzles just yet. Come by again in a week any you may find them here. Sorry, that's the way we are. (Okay, if you are desperate you can ask us in the chat during the covererage of the Tiger-Smirin game on Sunday).

Frederic Friedel

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