2010 Holiday Puzzler Answers and Winners

  • SonofPearl
  • on 1/1/11, 10:14 AM.

How well did you do in the 2010 Chess.com Holiday Puzzler?

There were 20 chess related questions, and a total of 32 marks to earn, but how many did you answer correctly?

Despite the questions being harder this year, the standard of entries was still incredibly high, and Chess.com would like to say a very BIG thank you to everyone who took part. 

So here are the results you've been waiting for! Five entries received full marks, and a further three members missed just one mark!  The number of prizes has been increased to eleven so that everyone who scored 30 or above wins a prize.

Tied scores were broken by a random draw.

First prize: One year Diamond membership, plus t-shirt to wanderingwinder (32)
Second prize: One year Platinum membership, plus t-shirt to Benws (32)
Third prize: One year Gold membership, plus t-shirt to peter2 (32) and Natalia _Pogonina (32)
Fourth prize: One month Diamond Membership, plus t-shirt to robrib2000 (32)
Fifth-Eleventh prize: One month Diamond Membership to NCKChess (31), Eiwob (31) , stingray0104 (31), Bohan97 (30), gladnost (30), AnuragKesarwani (30).

If you are one of the winners, then congratulations!  Chess.com will be in touch with you shortly to arrange for you to receive your prize.  If you just missed out please don't despair, there is always next year!  Anyone who is still unsure of their score after reading the answers, just send me a message and I'll let you know.


1. An easy one to start! Name all the chess grandmasters that have achieved an official FIDE rating above 2800 Elo. They are Garry Kasparov, Magnus Carlsen, Veselin Topalov, Vladimir Kramnik, Viswanathan Anand and Levon Aronian (1 mark if you got them all right)A few entries missed out Lev Aronian, who only recently passed the 2800 Elo mark on the November 2010 rating list.


2. Here is the position from the end of a game where white checkmated black.  What were the last 3 moves played? (white's move, black's reply and then white's checkmate move). This seems like an impossible final position unless you realise that the checkmate move was made en passant! 1 mark for the full solution.



3. Who are the following grandmasters, and what chess event in 2010 links them all together? This question proved to be one of the hardest, and with a mark each for the players and a mark for the connection it was a crucial one to get right. Clockwise from the top left they are: Suyra Ganguly, Peter Heine Nielsen, Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Rustam Kasimdzhanov. They were all official 'seconds' of Vishy Anand in his 2010 world championship match with Veselin Topalov.

1.jpg 2.png
4.jpg 3.jpg


4. One for the mathematicians now. In how many different ways can a standard chess set and board be set up with the correct opening position for a normal game of chess? This was another tricky question which baffled some members. If we start with the white rooks, then they can be arranged in two ways (one must go on a1 and the other on h1 or vice versa). Similarly, there are two ways to arrange the white knights and the white bishops. The King and Queen are fixed. Then there are 8*7*6*5*4*3*2*1 ways to arrange the white pawns. Exactly the same applies to black's pieces, and don't forget that the board can also be rotated 180 degrees!

So mathematically speaking there are (2*2*2*8!)*(2*2*2*8!)*2 ways to set up the board in the standard position = 208,089,907,200 ways (1 hard earned mark).

If there were board markings (a-h,1-8) then the answer would be half that given above, but credit was only given for this answer if the reasoning of having board markings was explained.


5. Who am I? Born in 1933, my father was a renowned geneticist. Both my brothers also achieved great distinction in the scientific world, but despite earning a PhD in psychology I became better known for my amateur chess career.  Winning my national championship a record number of times, I also competed in eight Olympiads between 1952 and 1970, winning a silver medal on two occasions.  Jonathan Penrose (1 point).


6. Can you identify the players in the following game, which won a Best Game prize at a tournament during 2010? White was Hikaru Nakamura and Black was Yuri Shulman (1 point for each player). The game took place at the 2010 US Championships. The prize was sponsored by Chess.com.


7. Despite producing some great chess, the FIDE 2008/10 Grand Prix series suffered because of rule changes during the competition.  Which two grandmasters dropped out in protest? Magnus Carlsen and Michael Adams (1 mark each).


8. This abstract chess set made the news this year. Who designed it and how much does it cost? Artist Barbara Kruger (1 point) designed this talking chess set, which would set you back $30,000 (another point).


9. Vishy Anand successfully defended his world title against Veselin Topalov earlier this year in Sofia.  But what was the name of the volcano that erupted and spewed ash over European airspace, halting flights and delaying the start of the match? (correct spelling required!) Eyjafjallajökull (1 point).


10. Oh dear. The anagrams below have gone slightly wrong because one extra letter was included in each by accident (oops! Wink).  Can you still unscramble the anagrams to find the names of three famous chess players?  (1 point for each)


11. Who is this smartly dressed gentleman? He was the great Andor Lilienthal (1 point) who passed away in 2010 aged 99.


12. The Armenian Lev Aronian won the World Blitz Championship in Moscow this year, but which two rivals at the event decided that 38 rounds of blitz were not enough and played a friendly blitz match against one another into the early hours of the morning? Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura (1 point each). These crazy guys played around 40 blitz games against one another into the small hours of the morning.  The result of the informal match is not known, but some video footage is available...


13. What is the best move for white in this position? The key to this question was to realise that because the white King and Queen are on the 'wrong' squares and could not have moved, then contrary to appearances white is playing down the board, and black up. The best move for white is therefore Nxc3 checkmate! (1 point)


14. Who is the most successful tournament player in history, winning more major chess tournaments than any other player? Anatoly Karpov (1 point) is widely recognized as the most successful tournament player in history with over 160 tournament wins.


15. Which player hurt his back during the early stages of a tournament in 1985, but completed the event by playing his remaining games lying prone on a medical table? The late Tony Miles (1 point) at Tilburg in 1985. He finished joint first!

Anthony Miles, Tilburg 1985.JPG


16. This unassuming gentleman is an amateur player, so why is he famous in the chess world? Another tough question...the full picture gives the game away, with the gentleman's son on the right. Henrik Carlsen is Magnus Carlsen's father and manager (1 point).

Henrik Carlsen and Magnus Carlsen.jpg


17. Can you solve this fun selfmate chess problem?  It's WHITE's turn to move and he must force BLACK to checkmate HIM in three moves. A tricky puzzle, so well done if you worked it out! The key move is 1.Qd3 (1 point).  You needed to give the full variations (for another point) depending on how black promotes his pawn.



18. In which novel from the 1920's is a chess player electrocuted while playing a game? The story is called "The Chess Problem" by Agatha Christie which was also published as part of her novel "The Big Four" (1 point for either title). The poor player was murdered when he played his favourite opening, the Ruy Lopez. Moving the bishop to square b5 on the third move connected an electrical circuit which killed him. The moral is to vary your opening repertoire...Wink

19. Which famous Grandmaster won the national championships of the Soviet Union, Netherlands and Switzerland? Viktor Korchnoi (1 point)


20. Who are the two protagonists from this unusual game in 1968? The players are Marcel Duchamp (1 point) and John Cage (1 point) at the Toronto Arts Festival in 1968. The chess squares were connected to electrical switches which either turned on or off musical instruments being played.  It's art, you know...Wink


8715 reads 37 comments
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  • 6 years ago


    Apparently Carlsen beat Nakamura 24.5-15.5 in the blitz match. Quite a decisive margin of victory! Cool

  • 6 years ago


    I agree that the question may be ambiguous, but I find it a bit hard to believe that some players have never seen a board without coordinates on them.  As far as I can tell, the board in the Nakamura/Carlsen video on this very page doesn't have coordinates.  And it looks like none of the boards used at the World Blitz have coordinates:


    This reminds me of something that happened a few weeks ago.  A kid in the school chess club I was helping out with was upset because the board had been set up with the white queen on e8.  He refused to play until we flipped the board around, even though I tried to tell him it didn't actually make any real difference.

  • 6 years ago


    @ WanderingWinder - a nice summary. Smile Congratulations btw!

    Part of the intent of the question was to test if people remembered that the board could be rotated (assuming that there are no co-ordinates, of course), which is easy to overlook when you are focusing on the piece positions.

    The idea for the question came from a book called 'Amusements In Mathematics' by Henry Ernest Dudeney, which is available free for download here.

    There are lots of chess-related puzzles, and no.346 is the one I used. The wording goes:

    I have a single chessboard and a single set of chessmen. In how many different ways may the men be correctly set up for the beginning of a game? I find that most people slip at a particular point in making the calculation.

    And the answer is given as:

    The White pawns may be arranged in 40,320 ways, the White rooks in 2 ways, the bishops in 2 ways, and the knights in 2 ways. Multiply these numbers together, and we find that the White pieces may be placed in 322,560 different ways. The Black pieces may, of course, be placed in the same number of ways. Therefore the men may be set up in 322,560 × 322,560 = 104,044,953,600 ways. But the point that nearly everybody overlooks is that the board may be placed in two different ways for every arrangement. Therefore the answer is doubled, and is 208,089,907,200 different ways.

    So realising that the board could be rotated was part of the question. However, this book is from 1917 and I think you may be right that co-ordinates on boards are now fairly common in the modern era (related to the advance of algebraic notation, perhaps?).  Sadly, this means that it's impossible to tell if someone is answering the question without accounting for board rotation is just assuming that the board has co-ordinates, or has simply overlooked the possibility altogether!

    I guess I should have picked a different question! Laughing

    To me, a 'standard board' doesn't have co-ordinates, which is why I used the phrase.  This is based on my own experience, and photos of players in action at major events.  Clearly, many people including Natalia have a different view, which I didn't anticipate!

    If I set the quiz again next year, I'll need to be even more careful.  It's hard to spot these potential problems beforehand! Cry

  • 6 years ago


    I've never seen the esteemed Ms. Pogonina seem so upset. Clearly, it's a matter of principle for her, and somehow I like that it takes principle to get such a reaction - though obviously I'd prefer it if nobody ever needed to be upset. :)

    I'm inclined to agree with SonOfPearl that boards don't need coordinates. My first several boards didn't have them (I think it's only about the last decade that I've had those that do, though I wasn't playing in "real" events before then either), and you have to imagine that 50 or certainly 100 years ago they were playing on boards which did not have them, and nobody thought a thing of it. Also, whenever I've seen people play informal blitz matches (GMs included), the usual way of resigning seems to be to shove all the pieces across the board, switching colours for the next without switching the board around or switching seats. This is no big deal, and all of this is distinct from having the board sideways, where, for example, if I'm playing a Spanish, my "Ruy Lopez bishop" would be a dark-squared bishop! Sideways boards drive me nuts, backwards boards don't.

    On the other hand, I also have to agree with Natalia. Boards certainly can have coordinates, and every board I can ever remember (off the top of my head) having seen be used in competition has had them. I was actually shopping for boards the other day, and though there were some boards you could get without coordinates, many did not have this option, and it was always the default to have them.

    In short, it seems to me that the question was ambiguous, and whilst in such cases I always try to ask for clarification and/or provide an explanation with my answer (as I did in this case), and though I assumed that the question was as SonOfPearl intended it to be, I can't see how providing a correct answer under a perfectly valid (if unintended) interpretation of the question should need any clarification, and so I'd be inclined to count either answer as correct if I were running the contest, especially as I'm sure there are plenty of people nowadays who have never seen a board without coordinates. But that's just me.

  • 6 years ago


    What a coincidence! I have $30,000 in my wallet but it seems no-one can see it but me!

  • 6 years ago


    My chess set talks but nobody else can hear it but me.  

  • 6 years ago


    I earned only 26 points Surprised. That's too bad. But that was really interest'n and would like to know how to crack anagramsWink

    In #16 the celebrity father does'nt look like Magnus in any way, bt I can't change da fact. 

  • 6 years ago


    Just out of curiousity, in that Carlsen vs Nakamura video, around 2:18...doesn't it look like Carlsen's knight is hanging for several moves? I'm probably missing something here since there's no way those two super GMs wouldn't have noticed that, so could someone please explain why Nakamura can't capture it? (Maybe there's a piece defending it that I didn't see properly? But as far as I can tell they were down to a two rooks vs rook+knight (and pawns) ending.) (Or does Carlsen have some kind of promotion threat? But it should be trivial to stop the passed pawns with two rooks against one alone.)

  • 6 years ago


    Mrs Pogonina IS competitive Smile

  • 6 years ago


    gladnost:  Actually, #13 asks what is white's "best move", not "strongest move" -- which, in my interpretation, is not limited to just options on the chess board, but also beyond it.  "Best", in my world, is to be a man of integrity -- and so calling the arbiter is the closest to this I could think of. 

    It's indeed a problem fitting of Sherlock Holmes, as SonOfPearl pointed out (thank you!).

  • 6 years ago


      I know it is very hard to make good questions that are not ambigious. We learn from what we hear and see, but can we trust the media or even ourself? What is the correct answer to 9? My answer was 9. The vulcano is named Fimmvörðuháls (next to the glacier Eyjafjallajökull). I doubt if anyone else had the same answer. But we can maybe say the hole island Iceland is one big vulcano. Happy new year to all

  • 6 years ago


    Actually Natalia, you could transfer that "Gold" membership to poor old me!

    I dropped two points in this fashion:
    #10  A Land Shark Ravioli. Who's this "famous" person that only 5 (or slightly more I gather) entrants could have guessed?

    #13  Did we have to start from a "legal" position? I mean, how typical is the board presentation (colours reversed)? My answer was f2-f3. Valentin's answer - call the arbiter - I think would not have been white's strongest move!

    Of course, I'm happy with my one month "Diamond" membership. I will hardly enjoy it because of travels. But, the questions being what they are, I'm thankful.

    Love your articles, Natalia (very thoughtful and professional) and I'm hooked to chess.com. Happy New Year to all!

  • 6 years ago


    @ _valentin_  Question 13 is actually from the chess puzzles of Sherlock Holmes, so you can blame him! Wink

  • 6 years ago


    In principle, I find that Natalia is correct.

    Anything that is not part of the explicitly defined rules of a problem should be assumed to be normal according to the world we live in.  Otherwise, what if the answer (to some imaginary problem, not this one) would change in case, say, the sun never comes up at dawn?  Since we all know that this is not how the Earth works, then the fact that the sun does rise at dawn need not be stated explicitly, but also problem solvers need not have it stated in their responses either -- they can safely assume it.


    Regarding question #13, I agree that it is borderline incorrect to ask it -- because there is no legal way that this position could have been reached in a real game, and it is fair to assume for a chess player (like all of us, presumably) that since this is a game of chess, there must have been a way to conform to its rules.  The correct answer to #13, I think, ought to be, therefore, "call the arbiter and restart the game from a legal position".

    Once again, as in the case that Natalia commented on, the lack of information (regarding whether this is a puzzle or a legal position) implies that the normal thing (i.e., a legal position) ought to be expected.  The rest is trying to be tricky, which is okay so long as expectations are not set that this is serious matter.


    I do need to add that I have no personal stake in this, besides the issue of principle, since I did not take part in this competition.

  • 6 years ago


    @ Natalia_Pogonina - it seems I have unintentionally upset you, for which I am very sorry. I appreciate that your chess ability and experience is considerably greater than my own as an amateur player, and wouldn't seek to lecture you about anything chess related! Sealed

    I also enjoy your contributions to this site, of course...and want them to continue.

    I think our only disagreement has been whether a standard chess board has co-ordinates. In trying to back up my belief I quoted the FIDE rules (which are not an 'obscure text', I hope) since you said that it was FIDE regulations that a board should have markings. 

    I still can't find anything which says that a standard board should have co-ordinates, so maybe the answer is that it can be either way.  In which case, I'm happy to accept that the question was ambigious.

    Since you sent your answers almost immediately and didn't notice my clarification of the issue in the comments, I've changed your mark so that you have 32 points.

    I have randomly drawn a prize again, and the result was a Gold Membership. I hope that ends the matter satisfactorily. I will amend the article shortly to reflect this.

    (All the existing prizes for other members still stand, this is in addition to them).

  • 6 years ago


    "Neither do I want to...  ...get public lessons in how a chess board looks. Smile"

    LOL, I love you Natalia Tongue out

  • 6 years ago

    WGM Natalia_Pogonina

    @obregon26 It is easy to guess that I don't care about the prize (being a titled player, I don't need any additional premium subscriptions since I already have life-time diamond - thanks to Chess.com). Neither do I lack $20 (or whatever) to buy a Chess.com t-shirt Laughing Being pretty sure I would get all the questions right, I was going to ask Chess.com to pass it to someone else anyway.

    However, I won't put up with a wrong answer proclaimed right at the the most popular chess website in the world, thus confusing people. Neither do I want to see my score reported inaccurately & get public lessons in how a chess board looks. Smile

  • 6 years ago


    Son of Pearl and Natalia Pogonina are great contributors to this chess site.  I hope you both can come up with a win-win solution to the issue at hand.  I think this debate is more about defending one's principle than it is about winning a prize. 

  • 6 years ago


    Natalia Pogonina all the way! She is correct. 


    As fellow chess players, ya'll should know the power of a logically valid arguement.


    Natalia is in the right.

  • 6 years ago


    #13 is total crap... nowhere did it say the position had to be reachable by a legal series of moves, and no a "puzzle" doesn't imply that the positiont is "legal". If you want to be picky about it... it is possible that illegal moves were made and no one caught them.

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