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

Bloodless Victories

A bloodless victory in chess is a win for one of the players in which no pieces are taken.


Games of this genre tend to be short as longer games increase the possibility that a piece being taken or exchanged. The knight, with it’s ability to jump over pieces, and thereby avoid taking a piece en route to an attack, is disproportionally used in these types of games. Smothered mates are often seen.

A simple example of a bloodless victory is Fool’s Mate (1.f3 e5 2.g4 Qh4#)


Another simple example is Fischer-Panno, Palma de Mallorca Izt., 1970. The entire game went 1.c4 1-0. Panno had a dispute with the organizers and resigned here.

There are many more examples. Here is a favorite of mine.

Blindfold game
Havana, 1891
1.e4 e5 2.f4 Nc6 3.Nf3 d6 4.Bc4 Nh6 5.O-O (Interesting to note that the exact sequence of moves also occurred in S. Retout (1808)-S. Burnet, England Open, Charlton 1973 which continued with 5…exf4 6.d4 Qf6 7.Nc3 Bg4 8.Nd5 Qd8 9.Bxf4 Ne7 10.Bxh6 gxh6 11.Nf6# 1-0. But that game had some captures, so let’s get on with this game.) 5…Be7 6.d3 O-O 7.f5 Ng4 8.Nc3 Nb4 9.a3 Nc6 10.h3 Nf6 11.g4 Na5 12.Ba2 b6 13.g5 Ne8 14.h4 Kh8 15.Nh2 f6 16.g6 h6 17.Qh5


(ΔBxh6) 1-0

Even rarer is the bloodless mate. Same conditions, but the game ends in checkmate.


This is a recent game played by two amateurs.


“Daveacksh” (1241)-“bandabou” (1212)
Blitz Game, Feb. 21 2019
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 e6 4.c3!? Na5 5.Na3 a6 6.d4 b5 7.Be2 c4 8.O-O Bb7 9.e5 Be4 10.Ng5 Bg6 11.Bf3 Rb8 12.Ne4 Ne7? 13.Nd6mate 1-0

This type of mate, sans captures, has also occurred in Master (and near-Master) games.

Carl Hartlaub-H. H Rosenbaum
Freiburg, Germany, 1892
1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nc6 3.Nf3 f6 4.Nh4 g5 5.Qh5+ Ke7 6.Nf5mate 1-0

Chris W. Baker-Bernard Cafferty
British Chess Ch., Qualification Tournament
Clacton-on-Sea, 1974
1.e4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.e5 Ne4 4.Nce2 Nc5 5.c3 Nd3mate 0-1



Juan Antonio Palmisano-Guillermo Llanos
Buenos Aires, 1995
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 O-O 6.Bg5 c5 7.d5 Qa5 8.a4 Na6 9.Ra3 Nb4 10.Nge2 e5 (Black has the advantage so White wants to defend. But his move, while well-intended, allows Black to increase his advantage to a -+.) 11.Bd2?? Nd3# 0-1


Emi Hasegawa-Mi Yen Fong (1885)
Women’s Ol.
Istanbul, Aug. 28 2012
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.Nc3 d6 5.e4 O-O 6.Bd3 e5 7.d5 Nbd7 8.b4 Nh5!? (8…a5 is more popular. The text move deserves to be investigated more.) 9.O-O Qe7 10.Ne2 c5 11.b5 f5! (The main point of 8…Nh5!?) 12.Rb1 f4 (Black obviously has the advantage.) 13.Kh1 g5 14.Neg1 g4 15.Nd2 Qh4 16.f3 Ng3#

Smothered with Love

A smothered mate occurs when a Knight is checking the enemy king and that king is blocked by his own pieces so he cannot escape. These mates can roughly be broken down to three types.


The first, which can be called the “oops” variation of the smothered mate, occurs when a player entombs his own  pieces and forgets about a wandering Knight. This type almost always happens in the opening.


Griffith-N.N., 1888
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d3 Ne7 5.Nxe5 c6 6.Nc4 cxb5 7.Nd6mate 1-0
Dundee, 1893
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e5 5.Nb5 Nge7 6.Nd6mate 1-0
Israel, 1958
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 c5 5.Nge2 Nc6 6.a3 Qa5 7.Bd2 e5 8.axb4 Nxb4 9.Rxa5 Nd3mate 0-1



The second type occurs when a piece of the same color as the mating Knight give supports to the Knight by pinning one or more of the other side’s pieces. For the naming conscious person, we’ll call this the “Pinning and Winning” variation.
Cologne, 1912
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nd4 4.Nxe5 Qg5 5.Nxf7 Qxg2 6.Rf1 Qxe4+ 7.Be2 Nf3mate 0-1
Munich, 1923
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Qe2 Ngf6 6.Nd6mate 1-0
Vienna, 1925
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ng4 4.Bf4 Nc6 5.Nf3 Bb4+ 6.Nbd2 Qe7 7.a3 Ngxe5 8.axb4 Nd3mate 0-1


Tiflis, 1934
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.e3 c5 4.Bd3 b6 5.Nbd2 Nc6 6.b3 cxd4 7.exd4 Bb7 8.O-O Nd5 9.c4 Nf4 10.Bb1 Nxd4 11.Bb2 (11.Nxd4 Qg5 12.g3 Nh3#) 11…Nde2+ 12.Kh1 Qg5 13.Rg1 (13.Nxg5 Bxg2#) 13…Qg4 14.h3 Qh4 15.Be4 Bxe4 16.Nxe4 Nxh3 17.Nh2 Nxf2+ 18.Nxf2 Ng3mate 0-1


Rochester, 1945
[Chernev, 1001 Best Short Games, # 442]
1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Bc5 3.b4 Bxb4 4.c3 Bc5 5.d4 exd4 6.Nf3 Nf6 7.e5 Ne4 8.O-O Nxc3 9.Nxc3 dxc3 10.Bg5 Be7 11.Qd5 Rf8? (Naturally castling is the better move.) 12.Bf6 gxf6 13.exf6 Bxf6 14.Rfe1+ Be7 15.Ne5 c6 16.Nxf7! cxd5? (16…Qc7, to make room for the king to run, still loses to 17.Rxe7+ Kxe7 18.Re1+ Kf6 19.Qg5+. The text move, however, loses even faster.) 17.Nd6mate 1-0


Edward Lasker-I.A. Horowitz
New York, 1946
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.e3 c5 4.c4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 e5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Nc3 d4 8.exd4 exd4 9.Nb5 Bb4+ 10.Bd2 O-O 11.Bxb4 Nxb4 12.Nbxd4 Qa5 13.Nd2 Qe5+ 14.Ne2 Nd3mate 0-1

USSR, 1967
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 d4 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.Nbd2 Qe7 6.a3 Nxe5 7.Nxd4 Nd3mate 0-1


The last type of the smothered mate is preceded by a piece (usually a Queen) sacrifice that either removes a defending piece or forces a defending piece to capture the sacrificed piece on a square next to the king and thereby remove the last flight square for the king.


Simul, 1935
1.e4 e5 2.Ne2 d5 (This powerful retort is one reason why Alapin’s opening is not played during these modern times.) 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.Nbc3 Qa5 5.d4 Nc6 6.d5 Nb4 7.Bd2 Bf5 8.Rc1 Bxc2 9.Rxc2 Nd3mate 0-1


New Orleans, 1856
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 g5 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.d4 Nc6 7.Nf3 Qh5 8.Nd5 Kd8 9.c3 Nf6 10.Nxf6 Bxf6 11.e5 Bg7 12.h4 f6 13.Kg1 g4 14.Nh2 fxe5 15.Nxg4 exd4 16.Bxf4 Rf8 17.Bg5+ Ne7 18.Qe2 Re8 19.Ne5 Qxe2 20.Nf7mate 1-0


Bochum, 1936
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.b3 Bg7 4.Bb2 c5 5.e3 O-O 6.Nd2 Qa5 7.Bd3 cxd4 8.exd4 Nc6 9.Ngf3 d6 10.a3 Nh5 11.O-O Nf4 12.Bc2 Qh5 13.Ne4 Bh3 14.Ng3 Qg4 15.gxh3 Qxh3 16.Ne1 h5 17.Ne4 Bxd4 18.Bxd4 Nxd4 19.Bd3 f5 20.Ng3 h4 21.Nh1 Qg2+ 22.Nxg2 Nh3mate 0-1


When the Queen sacrifices herself on the back rank, this variation is known as Philidor’s Legacy. However, Philidor was not the first; this idea has been around since Greco.


Rome, 1620?
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.O-O Nf6 5.Re1 O-O 6.c3 Qe7 7.d4 exd4 8.e5 Ng4 9.cxd4 Nxd4 10.Nxd4 Qh4 11.Nf3 Qxf2+ 12.Kh1 Qg1+ 13.Nxg1 Nf2mate 0-1


Rome, 1620?
1.e4 e5 2.f4 f5 3.exf5 Qh4+ 4.g3 Qe7 5.Qh5+ Kd8 6.fxe5 Qxe5+ 7.Be2 Nf6 8.Qf3 d5 9.g4 h5 10.h3 hxg4 11.hxg4 Rxh1 12.Qxh1 Qg3+ 13.Kd1 Nxg4 14.Qxd5+ Bd7 15.Nf3 Nf2+ 16.Ke1 Nd3+ 17.Kd1 Qe1+ 18.Nxe1 Nf2mate 0-1


New Orleans, 1849
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 Bg7 5.d3 h6 6.O-O Nf6 7.c3 b5 8.Bxb5 c6 9.Bc4 d5 10.exd5 cxd5 11.Qe2+ Be6 12.Bb3 O-O 13.d4 Ne4 14.Bc2 f5 15.Nbd2 Nc6 16.c4 Bxd4+ 17.Nxd4 Nxd4 18.Qd3 Qb6 19.Kh1 Nxc2 20.Qxc2 Nf2+ 21.Kg1 Nh3+ 22.Kh1 Qg1+ 23.Rxg1 Nf2mate 0-1


Paris, 1859
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.O-O Nxe4 6.Re1 d5 7.Bxd5 Qxd5 8.Nc3 Qh5 9.Nxe4 Be6 10.Neg5 Bb4 11.Rxe6+ fxe6 12.Nxe6 Qf7 13.Nfg5 Qe7 14.Qe2 Bd6 15.Nxg7+ Kd7 16.Qg4+ Kd8 17.Nf7+ Qxf7 18.Bg5+ Be7 19.Ne6+ Kc8 20.Nc5+ Kb8 21.Nd7+ Kc8 22.Nb6+ Kb8 23.Qc8+ Rxc8 24.Nd7mate 1-0


London, 1886
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Nc3 g4 5.Ne5 Qh4+ 6.g3 fxg3 7.Qxg4 g2 8.Qxh4 gxh1=Q 9.Qh5 Be7 10.Nxf7 Nf6 11.Nd6+ Kd8 12.Qe8+ Rxe8 13.Nf7mate 1-0


Young – Dore’
Boston, 1892
1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Bc4 Nf6 5.Nf3 Nxe4 6.O-O Nd6 7.Nxc3 Nxc4 8.Re1+ Be7 9.Nd5 Nc6 10.Bg5 f6 11.Rc1 b5 12.Rxc4 bxc4 13.Ne5 fxg5 14.Qh5+ g6 15.Nf6+ Bxf6 16.Nxg6+ Qe7 17.Rxe7+ Bxe7 18.Ne5+ Kd8 19.Nf7+ Ke8 20.Nd6+ Kd8 21.Qe8+ Rxe8 22.Nf7mate 1-0


Prague, 1910
1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Bc5 3.g3 Nf6 4.Bg2 d6 5.Nge2 Nc6 6.d3 Be6 7.Na4 Qe7 8.Nxc5 dxc5 9.O-O O-O-O 10.f4 c4 11.f5 cxd3 12.fxe6 dxe2 13.Qxe2 Nd4 14.Qf2 Ng4 15.Qxf7 Qc5 16.e7 Nf3+ (16…Ne2+ would have worked just as well.) 17.Kh1 Qg1+ 18.Rxg1 Nf2mate 0-1


New York, 1915
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Bc5 5.c3 Qf6 6.O-O d6 7.Bg5 Qg6 8.cxd4 Nxd4 9.Nxd4 Qxg5 10.Kh1 Qe5 11.Nb5 Bb6 12.N1c3 a6 13.f4 Qc5 14.Na3 Nf6 15.e5 Ng4 16.Ne4 Qe3 17.Qc2 Bf5 18.Nxd6+ cxd6 19.Qxf5? Qg1+ 20.Rxg1 Nf2mate 0-1


Carlsbad, 1929
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 (The Classical Variation of the Nimzo-Indian is considered stronger now than 20-30 years ago. Maybe Capablanca was on to something.) 4…c5 5.dxc5 Nc6 6.Nf3 Bxc5 7.Bf4 d5 8.e3 Qa5 9.Be2 Bb4 10.O-O Bxc3 11.bxc3 O-O 12.Rab1 Qa3 13.Rfd1 b6 14.cxd5 Nxd5 15.Ng5 f5 16.Bf3 Qc5 17.c4 Ndb4 18.Qb3 e5 19.a3 Nc6 20.Bxc6 [Mattison reads the handwriting on the wall and resigns instead of 20…Qxc6 21.c5+ Kh8 22.Nf7+ Kh8 (22…Rxf7 23.Rd8+) 23.Nh6+, well, you know the rest.] 1-0


New York, 1937
[Remove Nb1]
1.e4 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.e5 Nfd7 4.e6 fxe6 5.Bd3 Nf6 6.Nf3 Qd6 7.Ne5 Nbd7 8.Bf4 Qb4+ 9.c3 Qxb2 10.Qc2 Qxa1+ 11.Ke2 Qxh1 12.Bg6+ hxg6 13.Qxg6+ Kd8 14.Nf7+ Ke8 15.Nd6+ Kd8 16.Qe8+ Nxe8 17.Nf7mate 1-0


C. Bloodgood-B. Evans
Norfolk USO, 1961
1.g4 (The Grob, as played by its most dedicated and infamous adherent.) 1…d5 2.Bg2 c6 3.g5 e5 4.h4 Bd6 5.d3 Be6 6.e4 Ne7 7.Nd2 O-O 8.Bh3 Bxh3 9.Nxh3 f5 10.gxf6 Rxf6 11.exd5 Nxd5 12.Ne4 Rf7 13.Bg5 Be7 14.Qg4 Qa5+ 15.c3 Bxg5 16.Nhxg5 Rf8 17.Qe6+ Kh8 18.Nf7+ Kg8 19.Nh6+ Kh8 20.Qg8+ Rxg8 21.Nf7mate 1-0


Grischuk (2606)-Ponomariov (2630)
Torshavn, 2000
1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3 g6 5.Bc4 Nb6 6.Bb3 Bg7 7.a4 a5 8.Ng5 e6 9.f4 dxe5 10.fxe5 c5 11.c3 cxd4 12.O-O O-O 13.cxd4 Nc6 14.Nf3 f6 15.Nc3 fxe5 16.Bg5 Qd7 17.dxe5 Nxe5 18.Nxe5 Rxf1+ 19.Qxf1 Qd4+ 20.Kh1 Qxe5 21.Bd8 Qc5 22.Ne4! +/- Qb4 23.Ng5! Kh8 (Obviously not 23…Qxb3 24.Qf7+ Kh8 25.Qe8+ Bf8 26.Qxf8#. But Black is quite lost without looking for free pieces.) 24.Qf7 +- Bd7 25.Bxe6 Rxd8 26.Qg8+ Rxg8 27.Nf7mate 1-0


Bischoff (2561)-Ka Mueller (2517)
German Ch., 2004
1.c4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.e3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.d4 Nbd7 6.Qc2 Bd6 7.b3 e5 8.Bb2 e4 9.Nd2 a6 10.Be2 Qe7 11.O-O-O b5 12.f3 exf3 13.Bxf3 bxc4 14.bxc4 Ba3 15.c5 Bxb2+ 16.Kxb2 O-O 17.Rhe1 Qd8 18.e4 dxe4 19.Ndxe4 Nd5 20.Nxd5 cxd5 21.Nd6 Nf6 22.h3 Be6 23.Qc3 Qc7 24.Ka1 Rfb8 25.Rb1 Qc6 26.Rb3 Qa4 27.Bd1 Rxb3 28.Bxb3 Qa3 29.Re3 Rd8 30.Qe1 Rb8 31.Rxe6 fxe6 32.Qxe6+ Kh8 33.Nf7+ Kg8 34.Nh6+ Kh8 35.Qg8+ Nxg8 36.Nf7mate 1-0