There was a bank row?

by Frederic Friedel
9/17/2023 – My readers, and all my friends in the chess world, know that I am fond of puzzles. I keep giving the most talented chess players non-chess problems to solve, and they keep coming back for more. Here's one I tormented some of my 2600+ friends with. Warning: it can only be solved by a certain section of our readers. Their reactions, like that of 2750-Gukesh, are priceless.

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Recently I had one of my favourite guests over. Leon Mendonca (pronounced Men-don-SA, incidentally) and his father Lyndon stayed with us for a week, and we had such a great time – playing Wordle, Geoguessr, with the kid joining basketball matches at the local school. During such visits we have long and interesting non-chess conversations, and Leon, like many other super-talents, has been confronted with a large number of my logical pranks. But this time I had a different kind of puzzle for him.

Leon knows that I spent part of my early childhood in a hill station resort in Lonavala, India (my German father had set up a herpetological research laboratory in the jungles surrounding the town). Many British families lived in the villas in Lonavala, and we had friends close by – the family O'Connell.

Here's the puzzle I gave Leon and his father.

My English aunt Rosie O'Connell, living in the villa in Lonavala, often used to say "There was a bank row". To whom and why?

Leon and Lyndon could not work it out, and after a few days gave up. So I told them the solution, and had the boy rolling on the floor in laughter. After that, I said "There was a bank row" a number of times to him, and he complied! That's a hint.

Naturally I gave the problem to my usual customers, 2600+ and stronger super-talents. One was Gukesh, who to my delight has now, at the age of 17, climbed into the world's top ten bracket. He could not solve it, so I instructed Leon to give him the puzzle again while they were playing in the Turkish League. And he could give him the solution – under one condition: he must film Gukesh's reaction. With a little help, Gukesh actually solved the puzzle in their hotel room. The front page thumbnail is from Leon's video of him doing so.

Okay, what is the solution already? Well, I'm not going to tell you now. I will do it in a few days. Mind you, the vast majority of our readers doesn't have the slightest chance to work it out! There is, however, one group of readers that could, and they will probably react the same way Leon and Gukesh did.

I am switching comments on – but please do not reveal the solution, if you know it, to other readers. I will do that with a wonderful 2700+ video very soon.

Attack like a Super Grandmaster

In this Fritztrainer: “Attack like a Super GM” with Gukesh we touch upon all aspects of his play, with special emphasis on how you can become a better attacking player.

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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shivasundar shivasundar 9/19/2023 03:28
Proud to solve one of Fred's puzzles, which in general are quite tricky - hence my exasperation originally! [I do enjoy all of yours still, and have solved quite a few of the number and logic puzzles, just not all of them. ]
shivasundar shivasundar 9/19/2023 03:23
Ah! Haha!! Thanks Fred, lovely - worth passing on, on par with Pragg's witty quip!
Frederic Frederic 9/17/2023 08:35
@shivasundar: You and your wife are going to laugh loudly when Leon and Gukesh give you the solution in the video. One last hint: you belong to the segment of our readers who can solve the puzzle. Now don't post the solution when you suddenly hit on it.
shivasundar shivasundar 9/17/2023 06:45
Thanks Fred. I guess this will keep knocking around my head a few days :-) I know Hindi, so does my wife - and she does better with PJs - and it is tricky for her. ('Poor Joke's in Indian terminology [like dad jokes are usually - like madzientist alluded to; some are good, I must admit]).... ahhh alas - this sounds like a tricky one. I am guessing this has NOTHING related to chess? Can I tickle that last one out of you - so at least my wife will be incentivized? :-)
shivasundar shivasundar 9/17/2023 06:27
Sounds better in Tamizh, trust me :-)
shivasundar shivasundar 9/17/2023 06:26
For readers, let me offer (I have mentioned it somewhere - may be not in the same forum): I have another "PJ" to share. So morning of round 10, after Gukesh's loss to Abdusattarov. Team meeting. Ramesh says "just don't get into tension". Pragg quips: "Is it okay, if there is nine-sion"? :-) LOL
madzientist madzientist 9/17/2023 05:53
Whether row rhymes with go or cow does not really matter ;)
Frederic Frederic 9/17/2023 05:43
Row rhymes with go, RegCB. I'm sorry that this puzzle is inaccessible to so many readers. One hint: how come Sagar and Vishy were able to solve it, as well as Gukesh with a little help? And thanks to Leon for the video of that. It will go online on Wednesday.
madzientist madzientist 9/17/2023 05:39
15 seconds. You have to know Hindi, unfortunately. That should have been made clear.. It is quite funny, as bad dad jokes go.
shivasundar shivasundar 9/17/2023 04:43
Any hints at all? [Apart from the perceptive question by RegCB on a possible homonym?] Life is short Fred, what with your puzzles dancing around like marbles in our humble heads....
Let us laugh a little.
RegCB RegCB 9/17/2023 04:35
It might help if we knew how you are pronouncing "row". Does it rhyme with "go", or with "cow"?
brian8871 brian8871 9/17/2023 02:42
I assume the answer relies on knowing Britishisms, which I don't.