Problems for fun and entertainment

by Frederic Friedel
4/8/2020 – Feeling locked up? Are you missing the chess club, tournaments that came fast and furious? In order to combat depression, the sinking feeling that comes with abstinence, we bring you a number of classical chess problems that will doubtlessly brighten up your day. They are from Werner Keym's upcoming book and all share a common feature: they are off-beat and clever, and require thinking outside the box. In addition: you can win a prize!

Calculation Training Calculation Training

This DVD emphasizes the importance of training your calculation skills. Dutch IM Robert Ris made a selection of training material which he uses in lessons with students ranging from 1400 to 2400.


Werner Keym is one of the most creative problemists I know. He specializes in problems involving castling, en passant captures and pawn promotion. For many years I have enjoyed his problems, which I often encountered. I also enjoyed his chess humour. And his meticulous quest for accuracy.

Currently Werner Keym is working on a book on chess classics – in over-the-board play, but also in studies and chess problems. The focus of the latter is out of the box problems: en-passant capture, rotation, adding pieces, retro puzzles, text problems, proof games, special stipulations, jokes etc. – 175 extraordinary problems, for which he is a leading specialist. The book is in English, and I am helping with comments and suggestions, and with proof-reading. In return for this "service" I will be allowed to show you some of the examples Werner has selected, together with his notes and comments. I will also tell you when the book is available and how it can be ordered.

Werner Keym: Anything but Average – Chess Classics and Off-beat Problems, is aimed at all chess lovers: players and problemists. Immortal games by Anderssen, Fischer, Kasparov, Carlsen, famous endgame studies by Barbier-Saavedra, Lasker, Troitzky, Réti etc. and classical problems of all kinds are presented and explained with additional diagrams, moreover 24 top problems elected as ‘Millennium Problems’ in 2000 and special compositions with asymmetry, castling and promotion.

The book has viii + 190 pages, 375 games, studies, problems, puzzles by 240 authors, 120 related problems, 180 additional diagrams. English text. Paperback: 10 € + postage, order per e-mail:

Unexpected keys

The first diagram (#84 in Werner Keym's classical collection) is a very famous mate in five moves problem by Sam Loyd. He composed the problem in the Morphy Chess Rooms in 1858. "It was quite an impromptu to catch old Dennis Julien, the problemist, with," Loyd wrote. "He used to wager that he could analyse any position, so as to tell which piece the principal mate was accomplished with. So I offered to make a problem, which he was to analyse and tell which piece did not give the mate. He at once selected the Queen’s Knight’s Pawn as the most improbable piece, but the solution will show you which of us paid for the dinner." We extend this challenge to you: spend a couple of minutes studying the position and then tell us: which piece or pawn is most unlikely to deliver mate?

The second problem (#48 – mate in three moves) has a similar challenge: which is the most unlikely first move? It is the only one with which you can mate Black in three moves. Think preposterous.

The missing piece

The first diagram (#177 in Keym's book), is another gem by Sam Loyd. We are asked to put the black king on the board in such a way that Black is (a) stalemated; (b) is mated; (c) can be mated in one move. Very easy – this problem can be your warm-up.

The second diagram (#181) by Rafael M. Kofman, 1968, is quite clever. Replace the white king and then mate Black in two moves. You will discover that there is only a single square for the wK, on the entire board, where Black cannot defend against the mate.

The first position (#206), by Jan Mortensen in Fairy Chess Review, 1956, is surprisingly easy and suprisingly hard. It is Black to play, and the question is what was the last move. This position completely anticipates Raymond Smullyan’s famous problem, which is a mirrored version.

The second position (#236 in Keym's upcoming book) is a clever little twin by Thomas Rayner Dawson, which I have published before. Here you must add the white queen and then stalemate Black in one move. The twin is the same position mirrored, i.e. with wKf1, bKh5, wNg4 and wNe5. Once again add the wQ and stalemate in one. The question is why is the solution different in this case? Hint: there is a retro-analytical reason behind this!

Rectractor, legality

In the first position (#294) by Günter Weeth, Stuttgarter Zeitung 2003, White retracts his previous move and instead mates in one. The problem is quite difficult – you must define the previous move exactly, e.g. if it was a capture, which piece was captured?

In problem compositions positions have to be legal, which means you should theoretically be able to reach them with only legal moves from the starting position. The second position (#200) is illegal for four different reasons. Can you tell why?

Please do not post solutions (just general comments) in our feedback section below. You can submit solutions here, and take part in a small contest. The winner – by lot amongst all submissions – will get a copy of Werner Keym's book, dedicated and signed by the author.

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.