The Indian, According to Loyd
By Gary Kevin Ware   
January 31, 2009
Gary Kevin Ware's article includes over 15 problems for you to solve, and outlines American composer Sam Loyd's fascination with the Indian problem. For more problems, check out Gary's Gems on

Although it was the Reverend Henry Augustus Loveday who originated the Indian Theme, Sam Loyd was among the first to explain the merit of the theme and to foresee the many possibilities which the theme permitted. Of the Indian Theme problems composed following Loveday's problem, Loyd's certainly take the leading place. In the words of Johannes Kohtz and Carl Kockelkorn, writing in Das Indische Problem (1903), as translated by William Shehan, "Among those who have dealt with the idea of the Indian problem, Loyd has no peers."

But before we cover Loyd's contributions to the Indian Theme, first let us review and expand upon what I wrote on it in the 64-Square Problem Tour. Henry Augustus Loveday (1815-1848) was born in India, and went to England in 1824. Around 1838, when he graduated from Cambridge, he played a few games with Howard Staunton 'without disadvantage to either side'. Soon afterwards, he returned to India, and in August 1844, he sent his famous problem to Staunton, accompanied by a letter signed 'Shagird', a Persian or Turkish word meaning student. Although Staunton revealed Loveday's identity more than once, he referred to him, truthfully but misleadingly, as a native, indigenous Indian. In 1920, seventy five years after its publication, through the research of the English problemist, John Keeble (1855-1939), who published his researches in the British Chess Magazine, it was established that Loveday, of the Bengal Ecclesiastical Establishment, was the composer of the problem.

Henry Augustus Loveday, Chess Player's Chronicle 1845 #3

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The interference move (2 Rd2) releases Black from a stalemate situation, a common but not essential ingredient of the theme. In the original problem, there was an extra black pawn on b6 and mate in four was stipulated. There were nine  keys and many duals, but the problem was not considered unsound since the composer's intentions cannot be circumvented: White can fulfill the stipulations only by means of the 'Indian' maneuver. Critical play is a problem term for play featuring the move of a line-piece (the critical move) across a cutting-point (which thus becomes the critical square) later occupied by a piece (which interferes.) Although critical play had been shown in the old game, Shatranj, through mansuba, the Arabic term for a composed middlegame or endgame position that is set for instruction or solving, this is the first known example in a problem of the modern game, and its publication marked the beginning of the so-called transitional period. Here is an example that is over 700 years old. 

Bonus Socius c. 1266 #4 with the bishop (Alfil)

Keep in mind that under the rules of Shatranj, the Bishop (Alfil) and the Queen (Fers) move differently. The bishop still moves on the diagonal, but only by jumping one square. The queen only moves one square diagonally. But when a pawn is queened, it is now able to jump in straight lines or diagonals, one square.  So, in the diagram above the bishop from c5 can go to a3, a7, e7 and e3. When the pawn queens on a1, it can make its own move to b2, and jump to a3, c1 and c3. The solution is 1 Rb2 a1=Q 2 Ra2+ Qa3 3 Bxa3 Ka7 4 Bc5#. In the words of Kohtz and Kockelkorn, "A trace of the Indian problem shines through."

For more than three and a half centuries of the modern game, problemists largely failed to see the possibilities of the new line-pieces, Queen and Bishop. Then, in 1845, Staunton published the Indian Theme problem featuring critical play. This stimulated the imagination of problemists, who soon invented other kinds of line-themes such as cutting-point themes, doubling themes, Bristol Clearance, and developed other ideas, including decoy themes and focal play, and introduced tasks such as the Albino and Excelsior. The years 1845 to 1861, in which the content of problems was so greatly enriched, is sometimes called the transitional period. Critical play was examined thoroughly by Johannes Kohtz and Carl Kockelkorn in Das Indische Problem (1903). My chess correspondent, William Shehan, is translating Das Indische Problem from German into English. He  contacted me  for his thesis on chess folklore. If you have any ideas for him, you can contact him at or visit his website,

In my last article, Problem Potpourri , I showed a problem by Adolf Anderssen, The Proto-Indian, a forerunner of Loveday's Indian.

Adolf Anderssen Aufgaben 1842 #4

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3. Kf6 forms a battery to avoid stalemate, and then opens the battery with mate on the following move, an exact anticipation of Loveday's idea, except that the mating Bishop does not cross the critical square (f6). "It is by no means impossible that the idea for the Indian problem may have been triggered by Anderssen's idea, because in May 1843, the Palamede reproduced it, and through that paper, it travelled all the way to Delhi, the cradle of the Indian problem."- Das Indiche Problem(1903)  by Johannes Kohtz and Carl Kockelkorn

Another problem that resembles Anderssen's problem and Loveday's is the following by Theodore Herlin.

Theodore Herlin Palamede 1845 #4

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The similarity with Anderssen's problem is even easier to recognize if we move everything down by one rank, and switch right for left.

White to Mate in 4

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The checkmate positions of the two problems are identical and the moves of the king to f6 and g6 are also in common. The only significant difference between the two is that Kf6 occurred only in the third move in Anderssen's problem, while it happened on the first move in Herlin's problem. In Anderssen's problem, the key idea lies in the last two moves. Herlin separated those two ideas so that the first one is the beginning of his solution.

The critical move precedes the two moves of Anderssen's, Herlin's bishop maneuver has been inserted between these two moves. So, in the 'Herlin maneuver', the front man of a battery is first moved into position, and then the rear piece is brought 'around' behind it. So instead of getting into position by crossing the critical square, the rear piece goes around it, or makes a 'pericritical play'. If we wanted to reverse the order of the two moves in the Indian problem, this could only be accomplished by replacing the critical move with Herlin's maneuver. Herlin's problem turned out to be very challenging. Just as with the Indian problem, it demands that the problem solver has recognized the intersection point, before he decides to make the first move. He must know, in the original version, that by playing 1 Kc7, he has given the intersection its significance. Mangelsdorf said in the Leipzig Illustrierte Zeitung on November 9, 1872, that people considered the problem to be unsolvable, and even tried to prove mathematically that it could not be solved in four moves, but only in five moves.

When Loveday's Indian problem was shown to Loyd in 1855, it is said that he solved it almost at a glance. This was the problem that had proved so difficult to all solvers ten years previously. Loyd might well date his skill as a solver to this early achievement, but he did not underrate the problem. In 1858, in his column in the Musical World, Loyd wrote, "The Indian problem, of worldwide celebrity, is often spoken of as the finest position extant, and is held up to composers as a model of beauty and of difficulty. It is quite common for editors when they give a very difficult stratagem, to say 'it will almost compare with the Indian problem.' This is a false impression and should be done away with, for it is far from being difficult, and, as it first appeared, showed but little skill in its construction." "The Indian problem should therefore be esteemed more on account of its being the germ from which a numerous class of problems have sprung." In Sam Loyd and His Chess Problems by Alain C. White, White comments, "I do not hesitate to say that this is probably the sanest piece of problem criticism ever written by a youth of seventeen." Twenty years later, in Chess Strategy, Loyd wrote, "Looking upon the old Indian problem as the origin from which sprang the innumerable problems of this class, we must yield to it the admiration we would upon seeing an ancient blunderbuss or steam engine; for it is not the beautiful or difficult problem which many suppose, and it can readily be improved upon by any modern problemist."

Loyd defined the Indian theme thus: "The theme of the Indian problem culminates in a stalemating position, which White has provided for by preparing an ambush so as to allow the defense a move that may expose him to a discovered mate." "The leading feature of the old Indian problem does not consist in the discovered mate, but in the unexpected and apparently useless withdrawal of the two pieces to a remote quarter of the board, the one intersecting the protection of the other so as to allow the adverse King a move. The feature of the discovered mate is but a secondary consideration and not a necessary part of the theme."

 These two passages were the texts on which Kohtz and Kockelkorn's book on the Indian problem was written. The withdrawal move, to be followed by the intersection, is called by the German writers, the "critical move", and is made, as Loyd suggested, the touchstone as to whether any given problem is really an Indian or not. Loyd called Das Indische Problem, "The best thing ever 'made in Germany'" In the revised Chess Strategy, Loyd gave a very clear interpretation of the Indian "trick", "It is a three-move theme: first, the withdrawal of a piece, the critical move; second, its ambush to prevent a stalemate; and finally the mate. The term 'discovered mate' is not used, because the mate may be effected without it; but the prevention of stalemate is absolutely essential."

Sam Loyd Cleveland Voice February 11th, 1877 #4

This was Loyd's favorite among the dozen or more Indians he composed. "The theme is very hidden, where the Bishop cannot give check, but is utilised to prevent the escape of the King....The Indian theme is not threatened; it is merely introduced as a contingency, dependent upon Black's play. The only blemish in this position is the fact that the Rook is attacked by the Black Pawn. White's strength of position and pieces necessitated threatening the Rook to prevent other solutions; but the oddity of the move and the freedom of the Black King justifies the weakness. It is for the good taste and judgment of composers to decide when certain accepted points of construction can be violated, for they are bound by no rigorous rules."

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New York Herald, 1889, #3

After Loyd had mastered Loveday's Indian and analyzed its theme, he lost no time in composing his own. He reset one of his previous problems to this mate in three published in the New York Herald, 1889. 

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The previous problem, that he had reset, was published in the Saturday Courier, March 1856. From Das Indische Problem, "Loyd must have been 12 or 13 years old at that time (actually he was 15, when it was published). Is it too bold if we express our conjecture that the brilliant thought of the Indian problem had been the spark that ignited the chess fantasies of this genius boy back then?"
Loyd, Chess Monthly, #4


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Variations from the Loveday motif soon suggested themselves. "A fine variation of this favorite theme is where the covering of the key-piece is for the purpose of allowing an intermediate piece, other than the Black King, to move." An example of this is this mate in four published in Chess Monthly, February 1857.

Loyd's attempt to double features of the Indian theme led him to the composition of the first double Indian, but that did not satisfy him; he threw in a castling key, to add to the surprise.

Sam Loyd New York Albion August 21st, 1858 #4


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Loyd thought that "by the skillful use of the pieces, it would not be a difficult matter to illustrate how half-a-dozen little Indians might dwell harmoniously in the one wigwam." "Double Indians exist galore, and Wolfgang Pauly (1876-1934) succeeded in getting a three-fold combination, but Loyd's "half-dozen Indians in one wigwam" are still in the remote future, and even the four-fold Indian appears well-nigh impossible, and we no longer have Loyd to show us how it is done." I featured Wolfgang Pauly's Triple Indian in my article, Problem Potpourri , but here it is again.

Wolfgang Pauly Chemnitzer Day Sheet 1925 #5


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In his treatment of the Indian theme, Loyd was most particular as to what he admitted into the tribe and what he rejected under the name of "Half-breed Indians". The presence of a withdrawal move and an impending stalemate was rigorously required by him of every candidate for admission to the tribe. In the following problem, though, a mate in five published in Chess Monthly, April 1858, Loyd and modern Indian theorists would have differed.
White to Mate in 5

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Loyd saw in the key and second move, 1 Rh2, 2 Rh1, a proper Indian withdrawal or critical move. Modern Indian theorists would say that these moves were imperfect, or round-about (peri-critical), because the actual square of intersection (g1) was not traversed by the Rook in its withdrawal.

On all other points, Loyd is supported by the modern school. Loyd called attention to his mate in two problem published in Wilke's Spirit, May 9th, 1868 to emphasize that a discovered mate does not create an Indian.

White to Mate in Two

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In the problem that I used as an example of Loyd "thinking out loud", in my article, Compose Like Mozart , Loyd showed that the discovered mate can be entirely dispensed with by resorting to the principle of Passive Sacrifice, the surrender of its power and activities by any piece (usually White), without its actual removal from the board by capture. Loyd, in his analysis of what is not an Indian, said that even a withdrawal key, followed by intersection and discovered mate, is not necessarily Indian, so long as the stalemate feature is absent.
Sam Loyd "Happy Thoughts" Cleveland Leader Tourney August 24th, 1876 #3

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Our next two problems are both Double Indians, and taken from Don French's website.

Don French, Mate in 4

This problem is titled, The Problem that Stumped Walter Browne because it was included in a problem competition that six-time U.S. Champion Walter Browne entered.  French writes, " Walter claimed this problem had no solution. This was not a timed competition. Walter had several weeks to consider his entry. Although I could certainly never beat Walter Browne in an over-the-board chess game, I was elated to have triumphed over him in this chess contest."

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Here is Don French's other Double Indian, also a mate in four:

White to Mate in 4

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Our next two problems come from the book, 100 Classics of the Chessboard by A.S.M. Dickins and H. Ebert.

"With its beautifully symmetrical setting and the fine long-range withdrawal key move, this miniature Indian seems unlikely ever to be surpassed for economy, simplicity and beauty." "The right hand board edge prevents a second symmetrical solution by the bishop along its other diagonal."
Johann Breuer Die Schwalbe 1928 #4

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Previously, when I wrote that "the four-fold Indian appears well-nigh impossible", that was a quote from Alain C. White in Sam Loyd and His Chess Problems. But the following problem by W.J. Wood, published in Chess Amateur, 1925, would appear to be a Quadruple Indian, but Dickins and Ebert write, "(The problem) shows an attempt at a task record, namely to compose a Double Indian, one in the left-hand bottom corner of the board, the other in the top right-hand corner, in two variations of a seven-mover. In both cases, there are batteries formed by White with his Bishops, but the critical move to avoid stalemate is not fully achieved."
Mate in 7

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Is it possible to combine the Indian Theme with another theme? In my article, Problem Potpourri , I showed the original Bristol Clearance by Frank Healey. The following problem, taken from Brian Harley's Mate In Three Moves: A Treatise on the Three-Move Chess Problem, combines the Indian Theme with the Bristol Clearance.
Henry D'Oyly Bernard British Chess Magazine May 1931 #3


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"The magic of the two names has induced several composers to combine the themes. This specimen is the first economical rendering, with regard to the White force, the Queen and Bishop enter into both thematic variations. In the Bristol line, the Bishop does not necessarily support the Queen, so that the variation is "pure" in this respect. On the other hand, some critics maintain that in the true Bristol, the mating piece should follow right up to the key-piece, for the clearance idea to be perfect. Here, the Queen stops one square short of the Bishop, and it seems that a version of the Indian-Bristol, which will satisfy everybody, has yet to be made."

I hope that you have found my article on the Indian Theme interesting and instructive. I may have a follow-up article when the translation of Das Indische Problem by Johannes Kohtz and Carl Kockelkorn is completed. For solvers, as with my example by Gilbert Dobbs, in Start Solving Now: Part II , I hope that now, when you see Black with only one or two legal moves, and his king stalemated, that could alert you to a possible Indian Theme, and thus you will be able to solve the problem thematically.

Speaking of solving, here are the standings of those who have so far participated in Gary's Gems at

Standings for Gary's Gems after six weeks
Jon Leisner 40
David Dana-Bashian 30
Barry Keith 28
Thomas Langland 26
William Shehan 20
Otis Lewis 15
Daniel Maxwell 13
Mark Baranowski 8
Alexander George 8
Worlee Dennis 4

Former solvers can still claim their points from the Steven Dowd era, by contacting me at Also look for Gary Kevin Ware's blog from the upcoming U.S. Amateur Team West.