Can You Solve These Spooky Chess Puzzles?

FunMasterMike's note: For this Halloween, we are digging up some spooky puzzles from "Professor Pando" (NM Bruce Pandolfini's alter ago). Enjoy these fun, silly, and hopefully not too scare problems!

Professor: Hello, ChessKids. Happy Halloween!

(Smiles and good cheer.)

Zephyr: Do you have any treats for us today, Professor?

Professor: Treats?

Rachel: You know, like tricks or treats.

Lucian: I really like gummy bears.

Zephyr: Forget gummy bears. She means tricky chess problems.

Professor: I know a few horrific puzzles.

Idris: Like the horrors of the Vienna Game?

Ryan: The Frankenstein-Dracula Variation?

Thomas: After taking on e4, it gets scary.

Professor: Let's not open any coffins yet.

by amyeb007

Zephyr: Professor Van Helsing, can't you get into the spirit of this?

Professor: I have. Haven't I?

Rachel: Let's dig up some chess graveyards?

Professor: Okay, Buffy and crew. See if you can slay our first problem.

Question 1: What was Black's last move?

It didn't take long before the problem was slain. The answer produced a chuckle. Nothing yet seemed insidious. 

Idris: That looks like one of those Smullyan problems.

Professor: It is . . . well, a version of one.

Lucian: Hey, the solution of his version has variations.

Zephyr: I thought you were phobic about variants.

Lucian: And mutants!

Professor: Speaking of phobias, consider our next plunge into triskaidekaphobia.

Thomas: Triskaidekaphobia?

Hale: Fear of the number 13.

via twitter


Professor: That's right. In the next problem, White has 14 different moves.

Ryan: So what?

Professor: Only one of them doesn't mate.

Zephyr: You mean, 13 of them DO?

Rachel: And just ONE of them doesn't?

Professor: I get the feeling we're in a Vincent Price echo chamber of terrors.

Question 2: What is the only white move that doesn't give mate?

This treat proved to be much trickier, but with all team members on the edges of their seats, the one non-mating check was unearthed.

Thomas: Who thought up that moving shock therapy?

Professor: It comes from the mind of K. Fabel and was first shown to the public in 1952.

Lucian: I love revolting movings and movies from 1952.

Zephyr: Yeah, like that classic, "The Castle of Dr. Caligari."

Lucian: The film I know has a different title.

Professor: Well, the answer to the next problem has a different solution.

Question 3: Can White take back a move and then give mate?

Ryan: So White takes back his or her last move?

Hale: And from there, White has to play another move that gives mate?

Professor: We must still be in the same echo chamber.

This actually took some time, since the class reverberated the answer in an ever lessening decrescendo. 

Professor: Tell you what. Let's try another kind of puzzle.

Rachel: What kind did you have in mind, Professor?

Professor: The kind where the losing side goes first, playing moves that help the winning side win.

Zephyr: Like senseless moves maybe a mummy would play?

via mycreativitis

Ryan: Actually, some mummified grandmasters play pretty well.

Question 4: Moving first, how can Black help White mate in 4 moves?

The coven had a lot of trouble here. But with Idris and Ryan driving the analysis, the  solution was worked out.

Hale: Wow! That was tough.

Lucian: And getting the answer was even tougher.

Thomas: Well, it's Halloween.

Zephyr: Hey, Dr. Jekyll, I mean, Professor: Is there a final problem?

Professor: Yes there is. I call it "Knights of the Living Dead."

Rachel: Anything we should know about it?

Professor: Well, it's not about the number 13. 

Thomas: So what is it about?

Professor: The number 14. 

Question 5: Can White mate in 14 moves or less?

It was Hale who actually solved the problem before anyone else, getting the idea almost immediately. Enough fun in the classroom. It was time to party away from the chessboard.

Zephyr: I've had enough of this session. I hated it.

Lucian: I liked it. The entire session.

Zephyr: Actually, me too, especially now that it's over.

Professor: So, are you all going trick-or-treating this evening?

Thomas: I am.

Rachel: Me too.

Hale: So am I.

Ryan: I'm going to a party.
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Idris: A costume party?

Ryan: Yes.

Lucian: And what are you going to be, Zephyr, the "Wicked Witch of the f-file?"

Zephyr: Aha, and I can't wait to put a spell on your KB2 square.

Professor: I think it's time to go. To all of you, Happy Halloween!

Answers below -- Try to solve NM Pandolfini's puzzles first!

Answer 1: In the original position, Black's king was on h7 and White had a knight on g6. White then moved the knight to h8 (or captured something on h8), and after Black's king moved to h8 (or recaptured on that square), we arrive at the position of Diagram 1.


Answer 2: Every single white move mates except for 1. Rf6+. That unpins the g7-rook, which can then end the check by capturing the bishop on a7


Answer 3: Taking back a move, we place the white king on e1 and the f1-rook on h1. White had castled kingside! (How do we know that? It's Halloween, so trust me.) Now, instead of castling kingside, White castles queenside, and that's mate!


Answer 4: This is a version of a problem composed by the Hungarian composer Gábor. With Black's wonderful help, White is able to mate after 1...Qb1+ 2. Kc4 h1/R  3. Kd5 Rh8  4. Ke6 Qh7  5. Ke7 mate. Both sides have played 4 moves and White has mated, thanks to Black's helpful play.


Answer 5: In a variant on a problem composed by Theodorous Kok, White wins with 4 underpromotions. The main winning line is shown in the diagram.

Take Note:

From week to week, the problems presented in this column have a practical basis to them. That is, no matter how far-flung they may seem, the setups could arise in real games.

Practicality has little to do in this week's column. It's Halloween, the kids want their candy, and I'm thinking of going to a party later myself. If not, there's always a scary movie.

Happy Halloween ChessKids!