Christmas puzzles: Missing pieces

by Frederic Friedel
12/29/2019 – When grappling with a challenging chess puzzle, there's often the temptation to feed it to a chess engine to a little help. For today's puzzles, that's not an option. Emeritus Editor FREDERIC FRIEDEL has selected problems by Dr Karl Fabel and Thomas Rayner Dawson, "the father of Fairy Chess". Not sure what that means? Read on!

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Today I am going to give you some problems you most certainly cannot solve with the help of the computer. A couple of them appeared at Christmas time twelve years ago — when some kids with GM norms were not yet born. They (the problems) also unleashed vigorous discussion, and were clearly enjoyed by our readers. So let see if the appeal is still there.

The first problem, which I have not published before, is by the famous English problemist Thomas Rayner Dawson (1889 – 1951), founder-editor of The Problemist and The Fairy Chess Review, and editor of the problem pages of The British Chess Magazine from 1931-1951. During his lifetime Dawson published over 6000 problems, most in the realm of fairy chess — where unorthodox chess piece or rules are used. In fact, he is regarded as "the father of Fairy Chess." Dawson was a very enthusiastic problemist, and The Oxford Companion to Chess writes:

His genius did not set him apart from his fellows; he could find time for casual visitors, and would explain his ideas with patience, modesty, and kindness. Although he won many tourney prizes much of his work was designed to encourage others. He composed less for fame than to amuse himself, confessing to another composer 'We do these things for ourselves alone.'

Dawson was original if anything, and we start with a typical example from 1927. In each of these two positions the white queen has fallen off the board:

Your task: replace the queen and stalemate Black in one move.

Why is this not trivially easy, you may ask. And why should the two positions, which are perfect reflections of each other, have different solutions? It requires a moment of thought.

The Missing Kings

Here are more missing pieces. In the first diagram (author unknown) both the kings have fallen off. Put them back on the board in such a way that White, on the move, can deliver immediate mate, i.e. mate in one move:

 Fairly simple

In the second position (problem by Dr Karl Fabel, Deutsche Schachblätter, 1950) the black king has fallen off. You should 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.

Dr Karl Fabel was born in 1905 and died in 1975. He did a doctorate in chemistry and worked as a mathematician and civil judge, and as the president of the federal patent office. I know only one photo of him (together with his wife and two daughters).

Fabel's problems are always ingenious, full of humour and surprises, some quite bizarre. He composed over 1250 problems of all varieties, often taking chess to its ( mathematical) extreme. I want to show you two examples which I have known for all of my chess life. Let's start with this one:

Above is the position you have to try and construct by entering legal moves, for White and Black, who are naturally cooperating. You can try it on the next diagram, and if you plan things well you will be able to reach the position in just 16 move. I must confess I was not able to do it – I will publish the solution I found in Fabel's book Kurioses Schach.


The next one is not as easy as it looks:

[Event "Deutsche Schachblätter"] [Site "?"] [Date "1950.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Fabel, Karl"] [Black "White to play and win"] [Result "*"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/2p5/8/8/1p1p1p2/1P1P1P2/8/2kBK3 w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "13"] [EventDate "1936.??.??"] {It is clear that White must try to force the black c-pawn to move foreward and sacrifice itself on c4. To do so the black king must be stalemated on a1. Let us try to do this.} 1. Ke2 Kb2 2. Kd2 Kb1 3. Bc2+ Kb2 4. Kd1 Ka1 $1 { A good defensive move by Black.} 5. Kc1 Ka2 6. Bd1 (6. Bb1+ {is not possible since Black simply takes the b3 pawn and wins.}) 6... Ka1 7. Kc2 {There is a tempo problem, White cannot seem to stalemate the black king on a1. So how must he proceed? It is your task to work this out. You probably know that you can enter moves on the board, and in fact even press the fan icon to run an engine to help with your analysis. Have fun finding the solution.} *

The solution to these problems will be given in the third week of January.


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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