In a story that hit the newswires this week, it seems that Leonardo da Vinci may have created some illustrations (one is shown here) for a Latin manuscript of chess puzzles written around 1500 entitled “Of the Game of Chess”. (Experts Link da Vinci to Chess Puzzles)
I have not seen any of these puzzles published yet, but it would be interesting to compare them to the ones that follow. Here you will find some of the most astonishing puzzles I have been able to find, including a Morphy stumper and least one that I believe will make you laugh out loud. Let us begin with the former. The composer is believed to be Dietrich Wasmann.
It is White to move, and we see that Black is attacking the White knight with his pawn. Most people might either move the knight or slide the bishop off to the side, gaining time with a discovered check. Alekhine took one look at this puzzle and saw the answer, but Count de Basterot wrote in 1863 that Morphy took more than an hour to divine the solution. Can you see it? The first move is so innocuous, that it is almost invisible.
In the following gem from Kovacs, there are 8 different variations, depending on which pawn Black decides to queen, but all end in a mate for White in two moves.
As long as you get the first move, then second one mates, providing that the bishop moves to the file that blocks the resulting queen.
The next one by Mortimer is rather difficult. Consider the following position, which is the result of the puzzle.
The task is to reach this position in four complete moves from the starting position. Give it a try.
The following puzzle by Rubin is rather amusing. Here the task is not to win, but to lose, and it is White to move.
The next morsel is from Shinkman. Black’s pieces have 49 possible moves and surround the White king; but it is White to move, and he has one that freezes Black and results in a stalemate. Can you find it?
I have written two previous blogs in which the amazing Belgian Georges Koltanowski (I love Belgians, they are wonderful people) was recognized for his prodigious memory. [The first blog is Blindfold Chess and the second is A Tour of the Knight's Tour]. Here is a puzzle composed by King George that is quite delightful. It is White to move with a mate in two, no matter what Black’s move is. I provide one of the solutions, and leave you to discover the others for yourself.
We will finish with my favorite – a composition by Fabel which made me laugh aloud when I first saw it. Look at the following position.
Your task is to begin with the starting position, and reach the position above after White’s sixteenth move! I hope you are as tickled by this as I was. It’s worth memorizing to win bar bets (if you hang out at bars with intellectual people).