The $1 Million Chess Puzzle
GM Hou Yifan. Photo: Klein.

The $1 Million Chess Puzzle

| 29 | Chess Event Coverage

Forget all the job postings seeking computer programmers. There's now a prize much higher than helping us code four-player chess.

The Clay Mathematics Institute of America is offering a cool $1 million to the person or team that successfully programs a computer to solve larger versions of a problem you've likely attempted yourself.

That juicy contest leads off a wide array of chess stories in this edition of "In Other News."

The $1 Million Chess Puzzle

You've probably heard of the famous "Eight Queens" puzzle in chess. Chess teachers rely on it to bamboozle kids for a few minutes at summer camp, while the 1990s video game "The 7th Guest" even used it as part of the story arc.

It's simple: on a blank chessboard, place eight queens of one color so that no two aim at each other along any of the files, ranks, and diagonals. There are dozen of solutions, many of them mirror- or 90-degree versions of themselves. If you've never solved it and want to try, don't look directly below!

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But now instead of flummoxing kids at camp, the Clay Mathematics Institute of America wants you to program a computer to be able to solve this puzzle as the dimensions of the board and number of queens both increase. Mathematicians believe that successfully doing so would allow for many other applications of the code.

The prize is $1 million, but the challenge is immense. The exponential difficulty and problem itself remind a lot of Ramsey Theory, which is related to this challenge in two ways. First, Ramsey Theory numbers are only known at the smallest nodes -- anything more is still too large to be solved. Secondly, Ramsey Theory was largely developed by mathematician Paul Erdős, who had his biography written by Paul Hoffman, who is himself a chess player and chess writer!

Taylor Swift's Brief Homage To Chess

One of the world's biggest pop stars, who seems to think that despite legions of adoring fans that the world has turned against her, needed an analogy for this perceived injustice. Enter: chess.

It's only a few seconds, but readers of these pages may like to think that our game help the multi-millionaire break a record with 19 million views in the first day.

But don't get too many warm fuzzies about of the impact of our royal game. Three days later she released yet another video for the same song, and the second iteration now dwarfs the chessic one, 544 million views to 80 million.

FM Carissa Yip Makes "Her"story

Next up is a story about a woman who dominates on the board instead of using it as a prop. On just about the same day in August that Swift released her video, FM Carissa Yip had the earbuds out while becoming co-champion of the 2017 U.S. Cadet Championship.


2017 U.S. Cadet Co-Champions FM Ben Li and FM Carissa Yip. Photo courtesy Yip family.

In doing so, she became the only female winner in the event's 30+ year history. She's likely one of the youngest winners, too. The U.S. Cadet is an invitational tournament only for players below the age of 16. Yip, at only 13, has a few more chances to defend her title.

As if that's not enough, she's also a regular video author and article writer for, where she showed off some important moments from the event.

GM Hou Yifan Obtains Another Sponsorship

World Chess, a "commercial partner of FIDE" that is generally synonymous with Agon Limited, has decided to take on its first general sponsorship of a chess player. GM Hou Yifan, the best active female player in the world, will now be an "ambassador" for World Chess.


GM Hou Yifan, already sponsored by Tradimo, lands another strategic partnership. World Chess will be hoping she can pull in other corporate sponsors. | Photo: Klein.

Agon has previously signed players like GM Sam Shankland to contribute reports and analysis. In the news release, World Chess suggested that signing Hou would help attract corporate sponsors.

GM Ben Finegold Opens Chess Center In Atlanta

As Vince Vaughn might say, "He's all grows up and he's all grows up!" That's right, GM Ben Finegold is now a businessman, having recently opened the Chess Club & Scholastic Center of Atlanta.

That name should sound familiar. After all, Finegold was the first-ever resident GM at the St. Louis version. Here's his guided tour of his own venture:

His own club is 3200 square feet, which is about the right size for his larger-than-life personality. The club's first tournament took in nearly 100 players and there are events nearly every night.

Not to worry, he will still be making funny and instructive videos on


GM Ben Finegold and his new bride, Karen Boyd, who also helps him manage the club. Photo courtesy Chess Club & Scholastic Center of Atlanta official site.

NFL Coach Nearly Expert Chess Player

Move over John Urschel? The recently-retired Baltimore Raven has to hit the chess books (or the videos) if he wants to match wits with San Fransisco 49er Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh.

Actually they could very well be equally matched already. Urschel has played very few rated games to get his 1600 U.S. Chess rating, while Saleh gave his own rating as 1950, although that appears to be an online rating since he's not recognized on the U.S. Chess Federation or FIDE web sites.


Will try to get John Urschel and Robert Saleh to play a match? Most certainly! But first the 49ers have to figure out how to come back from their 0-5 start.

Saleh does seem to have one large impediment to overcome. While he has to call plays in only a few seconds in NFL games, his brother reported that he can take "20 or 30 minutes to make a move."

In the article, Saleh is reported to have brought a chess set along on his work travels. He once took the entire flight from Houston to Chicago to finish one game. His NFL coaching peers describe him as "methodical" and "organized." We're guessing with these impulses that he doesn't call blitzes too often.

He reportedly always beats his brother, but once, David Saleh got the best of him in an online game. Many players on this site might be able to guess the reason. David was cheating.

"It would tell me what move to make and I would wax him that way,” David said about his computer use. David, if it's this site you're playing on, please let this be a one-off just to prank your brother!

Saddam Hussein Chess Set Returned

Do power-hungry despots play chess? Apparently, yes. But they don't get to take their gilded chess sets with them into the afterlife.


These are likely the "black" pieces, judging by the darker bases. Photo: U.S. Embassy Baghdad Facebook page.

The late Saddam Hussein had his chess set stolen by someone during the 2003 U.S. invasion. It ended up in the hands of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, which finally returned it to the Iraqi government late this summer.


From a real war comes our game of ersatz war. Photo: U.S. Embassy Baghdad Facebook page.

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