Saturday, March 8, 2014

Mind Games

I haven’t played a serious game of chess for years – ever, would say those who played against me. That said, I still enjoy solving the chess puzzle in the newspaper if it’s still in a readable condition by the time I get home from work. The incredible thing is nine times out of ten I can see the solution immediately. No, hang on a minute, that’s not the incredible thing... No, the truly incredible thing is, if I had had the exact same position in an actual match, nine times out of ten I would almost certainly have missed the winning move. Being told, ‘Look, stupid! Can’t you see it?’ makes all the difference; and not just when it comes to the trivial matter of solving chess puzzles, I suspect.

Occasionally, the solution seems so obvious, the mind boggles as to how the puzzle ever made it to print in the first place…

Black to play and win! Well, Queen takes rook, checkmate looks like a pretty strong move, don’t you agree? Even my wife would have found that one, and she can’t even play chess! Precisely. And this is the moment when your mind really goes into overdrive… Perhaps there’s a piece missing? Maybe one of White’s pieces should be on a different square? Which lucky moron actually gets paid for producing crap puzzles like these, anyway? And, oh my goodness, what’s that smell?

So, anyway, an angry grandmaster, hungry home and charred chicken later, this particular puzzle ended up in my CSI folder on the top bookshelf in my bedroom, where it lay, dead as a parrot, for many years… until the other evening when I stumbled upon it while trying to find a spare lightbulb for the bathroom. I never did find that lightbulb – such is life – but I did have a truly brilliant idea: ‘Let’s google the blighter!’

And here’s what I found...

White to play and win! Corrected by hand and lovingly scanned. Further investigation revealed that the original puzzle had appeared in Ocho x Ocho (Year IV, Issue 39), a popular Spanish chess magazine in the 80s, and doubtless still the source for my newspaper’s lazy chess correspondent.

[Just in case you’re remotely interested or still puzzled, the winning move is Queen to d2! followed by Queen takes bishop, check! and Rook to e7, mate.]

Detective Chief Superintendent Raphead stood in the foyer, pondering his next move.

              Knight takes queen, checkmate. Piece of piss.

            Failing to see that Knight takes queen, “checkmate” lost immediately to Rook takes said knight, and this time it really is checkmate, mate, Raphead put the paper down to focus on the matter in hand. His men were out there, combing the land; and he was in here, combing his hair. A young man’s life, the future of mankind, his promotion to Assistant Chief Constable... everything hinged on his cracking this case. It was a terrifying thought. Who would want to have “Ass. Chief. Con. C.Raphead” on their calling card?

                dayrealing, Chapter 40, “Fountain Of Sorrow”

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