Christmas Puzzles: Solutions 4

by ChessBase
1/7/2024 – On the final day of the (really quite traumatic) year 2023 we gave you two unusual chess puzzles: one where you had to add a king and bishop to construct a mate in two, and one where you had to reconstruct the entire position. We got them from Frank Scarpa, who today provides full explanations in two very fine videos. You're 'gonna hafta' watch them to get the solutions.

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


On the final day of the year we gave you these two very unusual puzzles to solve:

Your task is to place a white king and a white bishop on the board so that White to move can mate in two moves. It was composed by Edward Dunsani and provided by Frank Scarpa, who has given us many entertaining problems on his YouTube channel Chess for Charity. Here's his explanation of the solution to the above example:

There is a second puzzle, by A. Frolkin and A. Kornilov, 1983, was really quite difficult:

Each letter stands for a specific black or white piece type. Reconstruct the position. Here's the solution, very nicely described by Frank.

During the Christmas week we conducted a very interesting experiment. We asked three people to solve these two problems, recording their efforts while they were doing it. The subjects were a chess super-talent, a strong grandmaster who is a problem expert, and an amateur chess player who is a quantum physicist and generally a super-smart person. In the next week we will be showing you how they fared.

Have you enjoyed these puzzles? We hope it will encourage you to venture into the fascinating world of chess composition. Our competition for amateur composers will close on January 15.

Please submit your compositions here

All Christmas 2023 puzzles

Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.
Discussion and Feedback Submit your feedback to the editors


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register

ChessForCharity ChessForCharity 1/8/2024 04:08
Thank you for featuring these puzzles and my channel! It is greatly appreciated. :)
JoshuaVGreen JoshuaVGreen 1/8/2024 12:44
@Frits Fritschy, I think a "thank you" to you and me for pointing out the issues with the latter stipulation along with explicitly correcting it (either on the previous article, or mentioning the needed correction here) would be appropriate.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 1/7/2024 10:17
Joshua, I wouldn't like to see Frederic stopping his articles, and neither would I like to see you stopping your comments, as you clearly know what your talking about. But what do you want: make a point in the hope that won't be necessary a next time, or acknowledgment that you are right?
JoshuaVGreen JoshuaVGreen 1/7/2024 07:33
@Frederic, I'm not demanding that, and perhaps "dishonesty" was too strong a word (so please let me apologize for using it). Just please try to see things from the readers' perspective. We enjoy problems and come upon the December 31, 2023 post. Grateful for a new exercise and eager to dive in, we read the stipulation and attempt to solve the problem. However, we reach a stumbling block -- how can it be possible to infer the last two moves? In that position, I personally asked if I was missing something. My comment elicited absolutely no response from you, no answer to the question
- Is there some way to infer the moves that I'm missing, or
- Is the stipulation wrong and going to be corrected?
though you did comment on the difficulty claims.
We now come to today's page, where you say that you're providing the solutions to the posed problems. Great, but you didn't give the solution to the second part of your posed stipulation; rather, no mention of it exists here. If you thought that the second part was a valid stipulation before (as implied by your including it in the first place and not responding to the comments about it) then why didn't you include it here?
Frederic Frederic 1/7/2024 06:08
@JoshuaVGreen: I am sorry for my inaccuracy and dishonesty. I think I should give up this area of what I thought was good entertainment. Stick to regular tournament result report and stuff.
JoshuaVGreen JoshuaVGreen 1/7/2024 03:27
I was curious how you'd present the first problem, and I'm disappointed to see you trying to silently erase your mistaken stipulation. Here you've simply written the stipulation as

"Your task is to place a white king and a white bishop on the board so that White to move can mate in two moves."

which is correct, but when you previously posted this (on December 31, 2023) you included a second stipulation:

"There is a second task: once you have found the solution, you must show how the position could have arisen in a normal game of chess – i.e. reconstruct the last two legal moves before the position with the king and bishop."

At the time several of us pointed out that this was impossible, and at no point did you ever apologize for setting the solver an impossible task (or even admit that it was impossible). The video just shows one possibility for illustrative purposes, and the speaker admits that it (probably) doesn't matter. At best only Black's previous ply can be determined, and even that not totally (since we can't specify what was captured); White's ply before that is totally undetermined.

I don't really fault you for mistakes, but I do fault you for what looks like clear dishonesty, quietly omitting that second stipulation here. Even a simple admission that your original stipulation wasn't really solvable, that there were many possibilities and you merely had to demonstrate legality by finding one (in contrast to what such phrasing would normally mean) would go a long way.