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Tales of the Arabian Knights: A Little Puzzle Print E-mail
By Rick Kennedy   
September 29, 2008
Sheherazade. Art by Pamela Key.
“I am meeting with some important men soon,”
said the King. “I need my wits to be sharp and my mind clear. Do you have some little puzzle that will give my thoughts a spark?”

She smiled, thought a moment, and then set the following position before him.
“Pawns against pieces,” the King murmured, and his eyes sparkled when he noticed “and two light squared bishops!”

“The task,” she told him, “is for White to checkmate the black king in six moves.”

“Well, let’s try 1.b7 Bxb7 2.d7 checkmate – no, no, that is hardly the best defense for Black, is it?”

The king smiled broadly and began to study the position.

“How droll,” he said presently. “What do you make of this?” and he played out on the board: 1.f7+ Bxf7 2.d7+ Bxd7 3.b7 Bfxe6 4.Kf6 a3 5.g8=Q+ Bxg8 6.c8=Q+ Bxc8 7.bxc8=Q#

“Of course, I could have reversed my first two moves with the same result.”

She coughed gently and reminded him “The task is to checkmate in six moves, Majesty.”

“Oh,” said the King, with little loss of enthusiasm. “Well, then, let’s try 1.b7 as before, although Black has the much better 1…Bcxe6. I promote my pawn with 2.c8=Q+… and Black slyly responds 2…Kf7 for what little good it does him: 3.Qxe6+ Kg6 4.f7+ Kh5 5.fxg8=Q Kg5 6.Qh8 a3 7.g8=Q checkmate!”
“Oh, no” the King sighed. “That’s seven moves again.” He returned to deep thought.

Finally, the King smiled. “At last, here it is. 1.b7 Bcxe6 2.c8=N! The under-promotion is the key. Of course, Black cannot take the knight, just like he could not take the queen before, because then 2…Bxc8 3.bxc8=Q+ Kf7 4.Qf5 Ke8 5.f7+ Bxf7 6.Qc8 is checkmate. In six moves.”


She smiled.

“But if Black ignores the knight, it goes to e7 and brings about the enemy’s downfall, like 1.b7 Bcxe6 2.c8=N a3 3.Ne7 Kf7 4.b8=Q Bc8 5.Qxc8 a2 6.Qxg8 checkmate.
“Black can try the tricky 1.b7 Bcxe6 2.c8=N Bgf7, but White simply reverses his next two moves with 3.b8=Q Bg8 4.Ne7+ Bc8 5.Qxc8+ Kf7 6.Qxg8 and checkmates as well.”

“His Majesty is clearly ready for his meeting” she said.

(The puzzle in the story was created by David Zimbeck for his recent Zimbeck's Chess Puzzles.)