The New Year's Night's Dream

  • GM Gserper
  • | Jan 5, 2014

Last week's column provoked a lot of comments. Most of you enjoyed the humorous puzzles, but some readers had different opinions. Some of them were quite interesting. Like one of the readers wrote: "Seems a bit silly to invent your world with its own chess rules just for a fluff article". Thank you! It was always difficult for me to answer the question ‘How come everyone loves "Star Wars" except you?’ Now I know my answer: “Seems a bit silly to invent your world with its own rules just for a fluff movie franchise!”

An image depicting Hatsuyume

Fortunately, most of the readers did exactly what the article was intended for: they smiled! There is a saying in Russia that can be translated like this: “You will act the whole year the same way as you have entered it.” I just hope that all of you fellow chess players entered the year 2014 with a wide grin on your face!

So, was the article completely useless from a chess point of view? Even if it makes you smile, can it make you a better chess player? You might be surprised, but the answer can be yes! For evidence, let me tell you a story described by GM Eduard Gufeld in his book. 

Eduard Gufeld

GM Gufeld was participating in the 34th Soviet Championship in Tbilisi. The tournament started in December 1966 and ended in January 1967. On January 1st he played a game against GM Aivar Gipslis. Gufeld had a winning position, but made a bunch of mistakes and eventually lost. Every chess player knows how difficult it is to sleep after such a disaster. But eventually he falls asleep and one random dream changes another. First he is playing soccer with his friends, then he goes for a long hike... Suddenly one of his coaches with a broad smile offers him to solve a chess puzzle: a checkmate in a half-move. Yes, this is the puzzle:

The puzzle we discussed last weekLaughing

Suddenly Gufeld realized the unbelievable opportunity that he missed in the game he just played:

During the game he thought that 2.Kh1 loses for sure after 2...Qe3!, but thanks to the humorous puzzle he suddenly found the way to win the game! Can you find it too?

After this startling discovery, Gufeld wakes up and goes to call his friend (a reporter who was writing about the tournament in a newspaper). So, he grabs a score sheet and.... realizes that it was just a dream in the New Year's night! In the real game the black pawn was on h5, which makes the whole combination unplayable:

After this incident Gufeld swore to always put his score sheet under his pillow. But of course considering Gufeld's terrible hand writing, he mentioned that this trick didn't actually prevent the future mistakes in his analysis while he was sleeping.

Now let's get back from a dream to the reality. Try to find how famous Soviet Grandmaster Leonid Stein finished his game against Hungarian GM Lajos Portisch.

In conclusion, let me state an obvious fact: even though, as you could see, a humorous puzzle can potentially improve your chess, you can learn much more about chess by studying the games of Fischer or Kasparov. Laughing



  • 3 years ago


    Here is a Goban from Go game, known as wei chi, 2500 years old, in Japan:

  • 3 years ago


     i nnn trestin


  • 3 years ago


    i dreamt of a chess theme park, on the cote d'azur

  • 3 years ago


    Why do hummingbirds hum?

    Asnwer: "Because they don't know the words to the song!"


    Happy New Year!

  • 3 years ago


    GM Serper, you remind me of a few of my favorite chess writers...Bronstein, Tal and Tartakower! It is, indeed, a tribute to the human spirit, that poetry, art and humor are found in an activity like chess, which is considered so mental by some.

    And although computers have taken some of the fun of the game out, the truth is that chess is much more than I propose a toast to the human spirit!

  • 3 years ago


    Good article

  • 3 years ago


    with those stories, one can die happy! who would say chess can do that?

  • 3 years ago


    I only study your articles. They are the best.

  • 3 years ago


    With all due respect, Grandmaster, I must oppose your disliking of the Star Wars franchise. I implore you to watch, re-watch, and study vigorously on the cutting edge concepts and classical beauty of what I would deem the greatest movie series ever brought to the big screen! People who don't like star wars (A) haven't seen any star wars (B) are lying (C) have significant mental or moral defects. As security chief of Her Majesty's Royal Naboo Guard, may I suggest The Phantom Menace, as I am heroically featured. Star Wars being great is a matter of fact, not opinion, I must contend! May the force be with you.

  • 3 years ago


    I remember that Gufeld story from The Chess-Player's Bedside Book, circa 1975. Amusing twist in the story. :)

  • 3 years ago


    You are awesome, i kind of never write to comment on an article, but yours are too damn good. Not too long, not too short, not too complicated, not too easy. Keep the good work!

  • 3 years ago


    happy new year Smile

  • 3 years ago

    FM Thunder_Penguin


  • 3 years ago


    Thank you

  • 3 years ago


    nice puzzlesCool

  • 3 years ago


    What a fascinating article. I love the history snippets you tuck in your prose!!! Brilliant games also..

    I should mention that you have given me reason to begin this year intentionally smiling Mr Serper

  • 3 years ago


    Reading this article makes it feel like a justification for the earlier two, for which there is no need, I believe. Maybe the (usually impossible) puzzles do not teach any Chess skills, as they derive from the rules that we know. But they do, like puzzles should, force you to think out of the box, which gives you a different perspective to things. This could help you grow as a person, which, by itself, can make you grow as a chess player.

  • 3 years ago


    The link given for last week's article seems to be the wrong one.. The puzzle was discussed in "The Shortest Checkmate", and not "The Impossible Checkmate, part two". :)

    EDIT: The very first link for last week's article seems to be the wrong one too.

  • 3 years ago


    nice article.

    from your article, i can conclude that playing chess960 or some other forms of chess variants helps your chess skills in some or other way.

    we just need to be open-minded to find such opportunity Smile

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