Kramnik's challenge: Find the mate in three

by Sagar Shah
2/25/2019 – Here's a very tough problem which was given to Vishy Anand by Vladimir Kramnik — a challenge from one World Champion to another. Anand was in the city of Pune, India for a two-day workshop for players from all over the country. At one stage he showed them a chess problem that his predecessor Vladimir Kramnik had given him. A crowd, including three GMs and seven IMs racked their brains, more or less unsuccessfully. We ask you to do the same.

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.


"Chess teaches you to work with data"

The Hindustan Times reported on Anand's workshop, ChampCoach. The five-time World Champion and supreme Indian chess hero explained what he aimed to achieve with the workshop, and also spoke about the overall impact the sport had on him and how he hopes others can feel the same way about it as well.

Hindustan times headline

Headline from the Hindustan Times

Here are some quotes:

"I remember how the interaction I had with established chess players when I was young left a deep impression on me. I feel that this sort of an interaction at a young age can guide the participants [of ChampCoach] in the right direction and help them avoid making mistakes they don’t have to spend time unlearning."

Asked about the benefits chess has, apart from sharpening the mind:

"I think it has a number of benefits. Working, learning, practicing, persisting at things despite them eluding you for a while, all these things are useful life skills. Besides that, I think chess teaches you to work with data and a lot of information because of the nature of the way you learn in the game. It teaches you to avoid making hasty decisions when you’re tense and also things to do with self-control and being objective."

Who are the youngsters bursting on to the chess scene in India:

"There is Gukesh D, grandmaster from Tamil Nadu in the u-12 category, Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, fourth-youngest person ever to achieve the title of grandmaster, Chithambaram Aravindh, World U-14 Chess Championship in 2012, many more names I am forgetting. There are quite a few youngsters and I feel that we have the most depth in chess from a very young age. I see a bright future for them because if they’ve already become grandmasters at the age of 13 then they have a lot of time on their hands."

Kramnik's chess problem

During the inauguration of the training centre, after the ribbon was cut and pictures were taken, Anand pulled out his mobile phone and loaded a very interesting mate in three problem for the young chess talents gathered around him. Among them were three GMs (including India's no. 3 Vidit Gujrathi) and seven IMs who racked their brains over the position.

The problem was sent to Anand by his World Champion predecessor Vladimir Kramnik, but nobody knew the composer of the problem at the time. Subsequently, our friend Prof. Nagesh Havanur has provided the information: It was the Spanish composer and player, Valentin Marin y Llovet, (1872–1936) who sent it to the Norwich Mercury competition in 1904 and received the first prize for the same in 1905.

Here it is:


As you probably know it is possible to move pieces on the diagram above. Try to find the solution to the problem and compete with the GMs and IMs in Pune. For your information: in the end, it was only IM and chess trainer Prathamesh Mokal who managed to crack the problem and provide the correct sequence of moves.

Please do not post any solutions in the feedback section below — just tell us if you were able to solve the problem, how difficult it was and how long it took you.

See the full solution with Vishy Anand himself explaining the mating line and why all the other moves — "tries", as they are called — fail to deliver mate in three moves. If you have looked at the position and moved the pieces around a little you will certainly enjoy Anand's explanations.

Source: ChessBase India

Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India, the biggest chess news portal in the country. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and to date close to a billion views. ChessBase India is the sole distributor of ChessBase products in India and seven adjoining countries, where the software is available at a 60% discount. compared to International prices.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register

lollycopter lollycopter 3/1/2019 02:39
@lajosarpad: Decrypting it isn't the point when you can just use Stockfish to find an answer - you don't even need rainbow tables when you can just plug in all the likely candidate lines and compute the hashes to see what matches. :) Think of it as a basic "sealed move" technology in a public space that's better than spoiler tags. Alas, mine were still all incorrect in the end. Would have been nice had I found it though *without* spoiling it for everyone! Next time.
houdiman houdiman 2/28/2019 01:49
Finally found it! Took 15min.
The solution is beautiful
@Caren. Yes you use the b-file!!
antroplaza antroplaza 2/28/2019 01:28
I think that I find solution,but later a was confused by comments that the simple move is not right.So I check again and again.It is a nice problem and woke up earli and find something that I think is a solution.Thank you for such interactive agenda.Antroplaza.Lazar Crkvenjakov .Serbia,Vojvodina,Banat.
houdiman houdiman 2/28/2019 01:15
Well well well!!
How to refute this move!
It's. Ra2!!
lajosarpad lajosarpad 2/28/2019 09:46

It can be decrypted using a rainbow table ;)
Caern Caern 2/28/2019 04:58
It took three hours spread over three days and a lot of lost sleep. I got lost in the incorrect Bd4 quagmire for a while in the middle until I found the refutation to my refutation of the refutation. What helped me was realizing I hated the a8 rook, which got in the way in both directions. The key (for the most elegant variation) is the B file.
lollycopter lollycopter 2/28/2019 03:49
What a devil of a beautiful problem - after posting my previous reply, I realised I currently still have the same idea as before but had made a silly (small?) blunder with the first part of my answer. So, here are two more hashed solutions (there's a few but it's all on the same theme) while we're still quadruple-checking before Vishy's analysis is released : e3ee00b9e0cc763c39dea4aaac216e45 and 6675b399fa79ed5ea3c9bcb1f528bc74
bondjamesbond bondjamesbond 2/28/2019 02:27
Took me an hour and only after seeing Bd4 comment. :(
olegolive olegolive 2/27/2019 11:39
Got it. Tough nut to crack. 3 sessions. Had to sleep over twice. So happy to figure it out !!!
JimNvegas JimNvegas 2/27/2019 10:22
Those thinking the bishop move is the answer need to go back to the drawing board. I will almost bet those claiming they found it immediately are wrong also. I showed it to other players that THOUGHT they seen the answer immediately only to be shot down by one move they weren't expecting by black. As requested I wont give the answer here but know for a fact my answer is correct. Still I want to see Anands answer just in case there are two solutions to it.
ib0b ib0b 2/27/2019 09:18
3min, easy
Zvi Mendlowitz Zvi Mendlowitz 2/27/2019 07:44
For those who enjoyed this problem, I would like to offer another 3-mover by Marin:

lollycopter lollycopter 2/27/2019 05:58
Okay this one has lured me to a new account here! On and off, I've spent more than a day on this so fingers crossed it's correct after too many earlier failed attempts. MD5 hash of the solutions I could come up with in the format of 1. _ _ 2. _ _ 3. _# without a trailing new line character: ec5e9f5d46d60aa8c06c286c69fd1572 or e75befd48bfe175f5b544db312940b00 - I hope this didn't give it away??
taupette taupette 2/27/2019 05:29
I think I got it. Got the idea very quickly but it's only luck. I'm usually bad finding mate.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 2/27/2019 03:35
Well, Kevin, neither of the three moves that came into my mind, Bd4, Na3 and Qg1, seem to work. – Or better, they do seem to work, but black has some well-hidden defences. By the way, letting us wait for another day is close to torture.
KevinC KevinC 2/27/2019 01:34
I found it pretty easily, in under 5 minutes. The main reason was two-fold: I have always hated these mate-in-two or mate-in-three problems, but recently I started reading Yusupov's book series, and just yesterday I did 12 mate-in-two problems for the first time, with some difficulty, but it gave me some practice. The second reason is having seen problems for 40 years, I also know that mate-in-x problems usually do not start with a capture or a check, and usually start with a crazy move or quiet move, so that limited it to only three moves in my mind.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 2/27/2019 01:14
For anyone thinking it's 1 Bd4: look again.
buddy boy buddy boy 2/27/2019 12:31
I spent 15 minutes. Easy
Zvi Mendlowitz Zvi Mendlowitz 2/27/2019 12:12
Unfortunately, the key move creates a double threat.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 2/27/2019 09:57
Busted again. Drives me mad.
JimNvegas JimNvegas 2/27/2019 03:14
took awhile but I believe I figured it out. Hint: first move isn't check.
rever rever 2/26/2019 01:46
Hope I got it. White moves bishop, black under promotes etc
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 2/26/2019 01:17
Got it! Makes it 45 minutes.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 2/26/2019 12:30
Just busted my solution. Then I found a other one. And busted that one as well.
Griffedours Griffedours 2/26/2019 10:25
I had seen the video on youtube, and even with the key, it was not so easy to find again the moves.
I'm 2050, not gifted at all for these things, and after two twenty minutes sessions, i know it by heart!
lajosarpad lajosarpad 2/26/2019 09:23
I have seen instantly the move sequence which probably is the solution. Or not. I'm a hobby player, playing correspondence chess to relax between mathematical and programming problems.
Chess Rabbitt Chess Rabbitt 2/26/2019 03:46
I think I have it, key first move is not a check, it sets up the mate in two. I moved my queen first.
Chess Rabbitt Chess Rabbitt 2/26/2019 03:36
I see. Rxh8. answered my own question.
Chess Rabbitt Chess Rabbitt 2/26/2019 03:26
What am I missing here? Rb3+, is that not mate?
Halflash Halflash 2/26/2019 01:01
@topadyarov I made the same sequence of moves quite happy, until I noticed the shocking 2. ..Rc8 ! that you mentionned... you ruined all my hopes... I keep trying to find it though :P
Strength In Numbers Strength In Numbers 2/25/2019 11:23
Pretty! After the obvious attempts to give mate failed I asked myself what the function of the pawn on f4 was. I correctly guessed that it was there to block Black from giving check after 1...e1Q and then immediately found the solution.
Leonilo Leonilo 2/25/2019 10:24
About ten minutes without moving the pieces. Tricky, but not that hard.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 2/25/2019 09:52
10 minutes. The clue is to first try the move you're sure it won't be, because it's too simple. Then change the move order. More difficult than the help mate a few weeks back. You can be sure any 'solutions' here are wrong, otherwise they wouldn't have gotten past the moderator. That they got there means you're exposed as a bad problem solver and a bad reader.
topadyarov topadyarov 2/25/2019 09:11
@chessisamazing your solution is mate in 4 not in 3
1) Rxe2 Rxh8 2) Bxd3 Rc8 ! 3) Qxd1 Rc1 4) Qxc1#
crazycheck crazycheck 2/25/2019 09:06
It's amazing to see posts with the solution, regardless the clear request not to do so. In spite of who belives that chessplayers are very intelligent people... :-)))
tkbrownscombe tkbrownscombe 2/25/2019 09:05
It took a few minutes, but I found it. There are so many attractive candidates that I spent a lot of time looking at winning moves that weren't mate in 3. I can't believe GMs and IMs had trouble with this. Well, at least I can't believe the GMs had trouble with this. Every GM I know always sees tactics better and quicker than I do.
sharkbite sharkbite 2/25/2019 07:58
Easy. Just remember that the double-check is your friend.
Aighearach Aighearach 2/25/2019 07:45
It is harder than normal because it's a normal game position with extra elements not strictly necessary. The problem with problems is that by removing extraneous elements, the themes stand out.

I think what is happening with the GMs is that they're over-thinking it, looking for themes or something clever. Kramnik is really good at calculation, so he's giving them a problem where they get lost in possibilities that are not quite there, instead of just calculating.

Trainers have it easier in this rare position, as do patzers like me; we resort to calculation sooner, because we don't see (or in this case, think we see) as many patterns.
malfa malfa 2/25/2019 07:41
Apparently less than one minute, but I must still check if my solution is correct! :-)
Aighearach Aighearach 2/25/2019 07:38
I spent 15 minutes and I think I solved it.

Instead of saying, "Please do not post any solutions in the feedback section below" it would be great if there was a feature where you could submit a sealed move in the comments, and then when the deadline passes, it becomes visible!