Christmas Puzzles 2013 – the prizes

by Frederic Friedel
3/10/2014 – Our 2013 Christmas puzzle contest ended with a flood of entries, submitted by readers from around the globe. They were all vying for the valuable prizes: programs signed with a personal dedication by the participants of the strongest tournament in chess history. We bring you a small sample of letters and the names of the three lucky winners. Are you amongst them?

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The 2013 Christmas Puzzle prizes

Lars Hafskjær from Fetsund, Norway, wrote: "You should know that there is no real Christmas without the puzzles! For me the puzzles have in just a few years’ time become a part of the tradition along with the Christmas tree, the family gatherings, the presents, the food and whatever you like. My son has become quite interested in chess lately (the Carlsen effect), and he was rightfully proud when he solved puzzle four on his own." Lars gave the solutions to all puzzles correctly and wrote about puzzle seven: "You will never find the solution if you stick to the idea that the black bishop has zigzagged it’s way to b1 while gobbling white pieces on its way. I managed to get the bishop to a2, but then I saw that the white rook on a1 was blocked from getting to a7. As soon as you realize that the black bishop on b1 might be the result of a pawn promotion you’re on the right track. Also I admire that the move order can nowhere be interchanged in order to arrive at the end position in the prescribed number of moves."

We decided that it was appropriate for Lars to get a copy of Deep Fritz 14 with a dedication by his compatriot World Champion Magnus Carlsen. It reads "For Lars Hafskjær, Beste hilsener fra Magnus Carlsen" Hilsener is Norwegian for greetings.

On the front are the signatures of all the participants of the Zurich Chess Challenge – the strongest tournament in the history of the game. We identify the different scrawls for your information. The lowest is Fabiano Caruana, above him Boris Gelfand, Hikaru Nakamura and Levon Aronian, and at the top current and previous World Champions Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand. As a bonus we asked one more World Champion to sign: two-times Women's Champion Hou Yifan (in Chinese, just below the Deep Fritz label on the left).

Our first prize-winner also sent us a clear solution to the clock problem (brain puzzle 2):

Brain puzzle 2: It's the nineteenth century. A man owns a grandfather clock, which he meticulously winds up each day. One day he forgets, and the next morning the clock has stopped. He knows that in a not too distant village there is a church clock that has the accurate time. How does he reset his clock with the correct time? No, he cannot see or hear the village clock from his house, and neither does he have a pocket watch to consult.

"The man winds up his clock," wrote Lars, "notes what time it shows, walks immediately to the church and notes the time of the church clock. He walks back to his home, and by looking at his clock again he can now figure out for how long he has been walking. Assuming half of that time has been spent on the walk back to his house, he simply adds that time to the time of the church clock and the result is the current time to which he resets his own clock.

However, a number of readers point out a flaw in the puzzle: it assumes that the road to the village is level. If the man lives on the slope of a mountain and the church is in the valley it does not work, since he will take much longer getting back than going to the village.

The second special prize went to Joan Fluvià Poyatos from Tordera, Barcelona, Spain. Former World Champion Viswanathan Anand simply wrote "Para Joan" in his dedication. Turns out he knows this person, and we learnt for the first time that it was a male player (name pronounced "oo-an"). "Look him up in Mega," Anand said. "You will find a picture of him there." The Houdini program has the signatures of all the participants of the Zurich Challenge on the other side, plus Hou Yifan, who was present at the tournament.

In his letter Oo-an wrote (among other things): "Puzzle four seemed impossible at first sight. I thought it was an April's Fool joke, but then I realized that December 28th is only April's Fool day in Spain! I found the December 31st problem the most difficult of the Christmas Challenges I've done. I can give a million different almost solutions, with the bishop in e5 instead of h2 or with 12 moves instead of 11,5. It's incredible the only way to solve this is promoting a pawn!"

The third prize, with all the signatures but no personal dedication, goes to Zvi Mendlowitz, Petah Tiqwa, Israel. All three prize winners are requested to send us their mailing address so we can ship them the programs. And: congratulations!

We thank all our readers for the messages they sent and the joy they expressed at working on these problems.

Michael J Fitch, Hattiesburg, MS, USA
I truly enjoy the ChessBase Christmas puzzles, and have been entering in your contests since 98 (when I won). I worked on the easier puzzles first, and started to work on the others, but an illness prevented me from solving them. BUT: Win or lose doesn't matter. Even sick and hurting I so enjoy these puzzles at the end and beginning of the new years!

Nicolas Mateo Gonzalez Lopez, Bogota, Colombia
Greeting from Colombia and congratulations for your webpage. I really like all your reports of tournaments and in general all your news and I hope that you keep going in this way for so many years, being one of the best (if not the best) chess webpage in the world. By the way sorry for my English (ja-ja-ja) but it is not my first language, so I'm not that good at it. [Editorial reply: You are doing fine, Nicolas, except that it is ha-ha-ha. For our readers: in Spanish j is pronounced like the English h.]

Tanaka Yuki, Tokyo, Japan
We are group of four chess players from Japan. We are in mid-30s and were fellow members of Tokyo University Chess Club about 15 years ago. Playing levels? All around 2200. So, we are neither beginners nor masters. Since the time we were student, we always liked solving puzzles, chess related or not. Why? Clear and nice solution is guaranteed, unlike problems we face in the real world! Although long time has passed since our graduation, we religiously meet anually in a happy new year time. And every year, the same thing happens. We sit down, the regular greetings, and then, one (or more) of us spontaneously takes out a printed-out version of ChessBase Christmas Puzzles , and we all are forced into deep and silent think. We love this moment, when suddenly past feeling of rivalry returns to us. We hope to continue this strange annual reunion as long as possible, and the following solutions were borne in this "contest".

We asked Yuki for a little more information on the four and received the following info:

  • Matsuo Tomohiko (38) is many times chess Olympiad representative for Japan, since the one in Manila 1992, when he was just 17. He is now a scholar in biochemistry, and he studies colon bacilli in an institute for biochemical research.
  • Siomi Ryo (38) studied chess intensively when he was studying abroad, for one year, in Ekaterinburg (Russia), with IM Lyenko Alexander. He is now an editor in Japanese Publisher, and battles against the wave of electronization. Naturally, he loves puzzles which can' be solved by Fritz!
  • Nakamura Ryuuji (36) was Japanese chess champion in 2011. His pledge in university days were to become most well-known Nakamura in the chess world. Now that it became too difficult an objective, he roots for Hikaru, while diligently works as a businessman the IT-industry.
  • Tanaka Yuuki (36) is me, a father of two kids. My wife and I first met at the Chess Olympiad in Istanbul 2000. Though my wife and I were chess players, we no longer play competitive chess. I work in cyber-security related company, and studies new methods of attack and defense in this sphere.

Ulrich Zenker, Grafing, Germany
It cost me several days to come to the idea for Puzzle 7 – that the Bb1 could be a promoted pawn! Fantastic! I‘m already joyfully looking forward to Christmas chess puzzles 2014!

We need to mention something we got from one of the smartest people we know, anywhere in the world. They were in reaction to the first brain teaser:

Brain puzzle 1: Jack loves Mary; Mary loves Peter. Jack is married, Peter is single. In this group does a married person love an unmarried person?

To this our smartest-person-on-the-planet wrote:

  • The love triangle is poorly worded.
  • The question "does a married person love and unmarried person" should be stated some other way.
  • Are there more than three people in the "universe"?
  • Are there two Marys or two Jacks?
  • Are "unmarried" and "single" the same state?
  • Do we tolerate polygamy?

So assuming the facts: there are only three people in the universe; "unmarried" is the same as "single"; no polygamy: then an even number are married. Peter is single, that means Jack and Mary are married to each other. Thus Mary is married and given that she loves Peter and Peter is single, the answer is yes. BTW I forgot the chance of same-sex marriage.

The above messages translates to "I couldn't figure it out" – which goes to show that you might be a ~2800 chess player or a world famous scientist (we are not revealing which of the two) and still can fall for a simple brain teaser. For readers who missed our solutions page here is the correct answer: If Mary is single, then a married person (Jack) loves a single person (Mary); if Mary is married, then, too, a married person (Mary) loves an unmarried person (Peter). So the answer is yes – we can be sure that a married person loves an unmarried person, even though we do not know which one.


Editor-in-Chief emeritus 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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