Fun Opening Tasks

An opening task is simply a goal that must be met from the initial position of the pieces. All moves must be legal to reach the goal and complete the task.



Tasks have been proposed such as the finding or creating a game in which have the most consecutive pawn moves by one player.



Years ago, in my early twenties, I challenged myself to find the quickest way to deliver a smothered mate. To my surprise the solution was quite easy to find. In fact, there were two solutions.


1.Nc3 g6 (alternately White can mate by 1… e6 2.d4 c6 3.Ne4 Ne7 4.Nd6#) 2.Ne4 e6 3.d4 Ne7 4.Nf6mate 1-0



Then I wanted to find the quickest way to win a game by a promotion. Better, if I can find an underpromotion. So, in these pre-Internet days, I had to find the answer in a chess book.


I searched longer than my previous quest, but I did find such a game. If remember correctly, it was from a Chernev book.


Strasbourg, 1880
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.b3 Qh4+ 4.g3? fxg3 5.h3? (Black now has a forced mate in three.) 5…g2+ 6.Ke2 Qxe4+ 7.Kf2


7…gxh1=Nmate! 0-1


The time between these two tasks, and the third one presented below, was about 30 years. This third task was proposed by a member of who asked, “What’s the minimum number of moves to force a checkmate using 3 bishops, assuming the position is farthest from checkmate?”


This is what I came up with.


[Escalante, 2020]
1.e4 e5 2.d4 Ba3 3.dxe5 Bxb2 4.Bxb2 d5 5.Bc4 d4 6.Ba3 Kd7 7.e6+ Ke8 8.exf7+ Kd7 9.fxg8=B Nc6 10.Bce6+ Ke8 11.Bgf7mate 1-0




Of course, the King of such opening tasks is Sam Loyd (January 30, 1841 – April 10, 1911), who not only solved some very unusual opening tasks, but created literally thousands of chess problems, math puzzles, logic problems, and folding paper tricks.





One of his most famous tasks was to find the least number of moves in which a stalemate position can occur.


The solution may not be known to most players, but two enterprising young Swedish players decided to use it in one of their games. Apparently, they didn’t know or care what the organizers thought about their rather short game. Probably the latter.
Johan Upmark-Robin Johansson
Swedish Jr. Ch.
Borlange, 1995
[ECO: A10]
1.c4 h5 2.h4 a5 3.Qa4 Ra6 4.Qxa5 Rah6 5.Qxc7 f6 6.Qxd7+ Kf7 7.Qxb7 Qd3 8.Qxb8 Qh7 9.Qxc8 Kg6 10.Qe6 1/2-1/2

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!



Let’s first start off with the answers from last week’s simple (or maybe not-so simple) problems.




(1)  This one is very easy. White can only make legal moves. So, he must play 1.d4. And Black can only respond with 1… b5. The problem continues with 2.d5 b4 3.axb4 a3 4.c5, and mate cannot be avoided.



(2) Cook’s problem also can be solved with just making the only legal moves available. 1.c4 leads directly to mate. Incidentally, if it is Black to move in this position, he also mates with legal moves, starting with 1…f5.



(3) Black threatens promoting and winning with his two pawns on the seventh rank. White must therefore check to have any chances at winning.



White must play 1.bxc3+. If Black king was to step on a white square, White would immediately have winning endgame after Qb3+. Black then has to stay on the dark squares and plays 1….Kc5. And White continues with 2.cxd4+. If you can see the pattern forming you figure out the rest.



(4) Since it is White to play and win Black must have made the last legal move. But which one would let White win?



To save a little time, I’ll just mention that Black’s last move was 1…f7-f5. Now you can figure it out.





There are a number of chess tournaments being held this weekend. Perhaps the best well-known is the American Open, being held in Costa Mesa, California. See website for details:








One thing I enjoy about chess is the endless possibilities for exploration. Here is a recent blitz game, and maybe I’m wrong, but it rapidly goes into new territory.



Blitz Game, Nov. 23 2019
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e6 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.Be2?!


[Theory recommends Nxc6 on this move or the next. Here is a game showing at least one possibility of the Nxc6.


Sadek (2183)-El Ghazali (2362)
Golden Cleopatra
Cairo, Apr. 7 2002
1.c4 c5 2.e4 Nc6 3.Ne2 Nf6 4.Nbc3 e6 5.d4 cxd4 6.Nxd4 Bb4 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.Bd3 Bxc3+ 9.bxc3 Qa5 10.O-O O-O 11.Be3 Ba6 12.c5 Bxd3 13.Qxd3 Ng4 14.Rfd1 Rab8 15.h3 Nxe3 16.Qxe3 Rb5 17.Rxd7 Rxc5 18.Rb1 a6 19.Rbb7 Rxc3 20.Qf4 e5 21.Rxf7 Rc1+ 22.Kh2 1-0.


But I didn’t want to play it. Blitz games can help you learn more about your pet opening in two ways. One, it is a good way to try out new ideas, and two, it is a way to find out why a suggested move is usually better than one’s own idea. Here’s a game to try out a different, but not necessarily better, move.]


6…Nge7 7.O-O O-O 8.Be3 Bxc3 (8…d5 is better for Black as it opens lines for a possible attack.) 9.bxc3 a6 10.a4?! (OK, this move doesn’t do much other than gain space for White on the queenside. Perhaps better is still Nxc6!?) 10…Qc7 11.Qd2 d6 12.f4 f6?! (Black should keep developing with 12…Bd7. He soon falls behind in development and piece play.) 13.Rab1 e5 14.fxe5 dxe5 15.Bc4+! Kh8 16.Ne6 Bxe6 17.Bxe6 Rad8 18.Qf2 Qd6 19.Ba2 Qa3? (Black gets greedy and being behind in development category is not good for his game.) 20.Bb3!


20…Rd7?? (Black should admit his mistake and move his queen back to d6, with White having an advantage, but not necessarily a winning one.)  21.Bc5!! (Now White has winning advantage as Black’s queen is trapped.) 21…Rfd8 22.Bxa3 Rd2 23.Qe3 Ng6 24.Bd5 Nf4 25.Qxd2 Nxd5 26.exd5 Na5 27.Qd3 1-0


Easy Problems?

Chess problems are not supposed to be easy. After all, that is why they are known as “problems”.

Nevertheless, there are some problems that are easy to solve. One just has to know how the pieces move, add in a little logic thought, and the solution readily presents itself.

We’ll start with the easiest and move onto the ones that are a little more difficult (but still easy) to solve.




All are White to move and eventually mate.



Ropke, no date




E.B. Cook, 1926



Korolkov, 1958
[Hint: The black pawns are ready to promote and check the White king.]




Escalante, 1994
[Hint: Black is threatening mate in one, three different ways.]


Solutions, in case you need them, will be presented next Thursday.

The Joseph Theme

In 1921, David Joseph, then 25 years old, was traveling in a train in England. It was during or about this time (sources differ) that he created a series of chess problems. The one given below appears to be simple to solve, but that is an illusion.



White Wins
[Joseph, 1921; Additional Analysis by Roycroft, The Chess Endgame Study, #145, pg. 104, and Escalante – just to make the notes easier.]




We are going to skip some space here so you can try to solve it yourself.




(You can write some notes here if you want)






(It’s more fun to try to solve a problem that just to look at the answer.)






(The answer is just below.)






1.h8=Q (1.h8=B? a1=Q 2.Bxa1 is not stalemate, but it does not win either.) 1…a1=Q 2.Qg8 (Of course not 2.Qxa1?? because it’s stalemate – RME ; 2.Qe8? Qg7 and soon draws, either by exchanging queens or by perpetual check.) 2…Qa2 3.Qe8 (Again, Black seeks a stalemate by offering his queen – RME ;  3.Qf8? Qa3, with, again, a perpetual, or stalemate if the black queen is taken.) 3…Qa4 4.Qe5+ Ka8 5.Qh8 +- (White wins. – RME)