Graham Brown invites you to make ...
The Most Stupid Move
YOU are up somewhat. In fact, your forces are falling over themselves in the rush to kill the king and he is restricted to a measly two diagonally opposite white squares A simple win. In fact there is even a mate in three available ... GREAT! Look! It's flashing in neon lights above the board, MATE IN THREE! MATE IN THREE!
But do not be fooled ... because this is actually that nightmare scenario for any chess player ... far off the true chess path. You have wandered into an Alice in Wonderland type world and into a chess game that couldn't even be politely described as wild. You can't win. You're hesitating and the strange exotic audience is laughing, but even if you find the checkmate you'll be shunned if you ever return to the real chess world of Simpsons in the Strand, the Savoy Hotel or the Wargrave Arms. Yes you have been asked by an innocent, admiring non-chessplaying person to ... SOLVE A CHESS PROBLEM! ... and it's no use trying to bluff your way out. Oh no, not nowadays when the person who has requested you to finish Black off is liable to be steeped in Channel 4 gained knowledge. They can clearly see that you "playing with the white pieces" are well in the lead ... with an embarrassment of hot spots all over the board.
So go on-find the move! Maybe no one will find out. Bask in the glory, chess is big news at the moment. But it's not so easy is it? We chess players know that chess problems are carefully cooked up for us over many hours, days or sometimes even YEARS by titled composers. Problems are filled to the brim with tempting moves that fail ... just! Even Grandmasters can take hours to solve them but that doesn't concern your questioner. They can only see that White is a queen, two knights and two pawns to the good and Black has just a king ... you must come up with the goods ... and fast!
So how does the self-respecting chess player deal with such a request? Well ... let us look at an example of one of these wretched chess problems.
Deutsches Wochenschach 1907
Mate in 3
You as White are to move and deliver mate in three moves.
Let us start with the second law of problem solving ...
2. Turn your chess brain OFF and now here is the third law ...
3. In a chess problem every piece is there for a reason no matter how stupid the reason may be.
There are no stray pawns just hanging around to no effect like in the proper game we know and love. This fact can be invaluable to the chess player anxious to impress with their speed of thought. For example, what is that pawn on h4 doing? Good question? It is four moves from queening or should I say becoming a knight. (see law 2). It is not covering any of the escape squares since the black king is nowhere near it. It is doing nothing ... except one small job. It is quietly stopping the g6 knight from going to h4. So what? So ... luckily for us, the composer has had to avoid an altemative solution or "cook" (and a chess problem can have only one solution) involving the knight going via h4 to f5 and then d6 mate. That mating square d6 can already be suspected by a common theme in problems; the king is restricted to two diagonally opposite squares. It cannot escape to d4 or it is mate by the queen on b4. Therefore it must oscillate between these two squares and if a knight can check it the knight will cover both squares. Checkmate. So the knight can mate on, d6 and there are two other ways to get there. Via e5 or via h8. Which to try? Well e5 would seem to be the most sensible move to look at first since it:
(a) keeps the knight near the king and the action.
(b) controls eight squares on e5 and only two on h8.
However ... it is at this point that we must obey the first law of chess problems ...
1. ALWAYS LOOK FOR THE MOST STUPID MOVE ON THE BOARD!
Like Nh8 of course!