Kavalek at Huffington: French Aristocrat's Folly

8/5/2010 – The rules of chess can be mastered by young children. But it is notoriously difficult to get them precisely right on paper. Take pawn promotion: "any pawn reaching the eighth (or last) rank can be changed to any piece a player chooses" sounds right. But it is far from watertight and can be easily misinterpreted. This is illustrated in GM Lubomir Kavalek's latest column.

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Chess Puzzles: French Aristocrat's Folly

By GM Lubomir Kavalek

In 1853, a French aristocrat, Barthelemy de Basterot (1800-1887) published in Paris Traite
elementaire du jeu des echecs
(Elementary Treatise on the Rules of Chess), which included chapters on chess history and literature. Basterot was a strong player, but treated the essential rules rather loosely. For example on pawn promotion he wrote that any pawn reaching the eighth (or last) rank can be changed to any piece a player chooses. The player, he said, was only required to announce what piece it was.

No wonder he became the target of one of the most gifted chess composers, Leonid Kubbel, who created two problems based on Basterot's rules. Both two-movers are playful jokes and the clue lies in what Basterot's definition did not forbid. Here is the first one:

Leonid Kubbel

White mates in two moves

Kubbel was not the only one laughing at Basterot's foolishness. I have added a three-mover by the brilliant Czech problemist Emil Palkoska that fits the bill as well.

Emil Palkoska

White mates in three moves

Even some great modern chess writers like the Australian Cecil J.S. Purdy, the first world chess correspondence champion, can overlook some essentials. For example, in explaining the limitation to castling, he is silent about castling into a check. On pawn-promotion, he specifies that a pawn, on reaching the farthest row, can become a queen, rook, bishop, or knight, but not a King. What did he miss? The answer is hidden in Kubbel's second composition.

Leonid Kubbel

White mates in two moves

The solution to the puzzles will appear next week.

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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