A few months ago, in my post, Abandon All Hope, Ye who Enter Here, I presented a problem that purported to be one of the most difficult problems to solve. This week's problem also lays claim to that distinction; and it stumped some of the best chess players in the world. The problem and text come from The Joys of Chess: Heroes, Battles & Brilliancies by Christian Hesse.
'A game begins 1 e4, and ends on move 5, with the move, knight takes rook. What was the game?'
"This is the 1999 ChessBase Christmas puzzle. Frederic Friedel tells a very amusing story about it. This happened in 1986, when he was travelling by car, from Zurich to Lucerne, in the company of Karpov and Kasparov, the two best players in the world. To entertain them, during the journey, he set them this problem. They tried to find the solution during the whole journey, and during the following days in their hotel: with no success. One day -- a goodly time later -- Frederic Friedel found on his answering machine, a message from Kasparov, with the urgent request to ring him back. Friedel rang back, and came upon a noticeably disgruntled Kasparov: "You are a dead man, Fred. You have put me in a very embarassing situation."
"What had happened? He, Kasparov, had together with Botvinnik, set this problem to the students of the latter's chess school, and gave them some days to think about it. When the students got nowhere, and asked for the solution, the thinking time was extended by a day, during which Kasparov and Botvinnik also worked intensively on the problem. Kasparov was even of the opinion that the problem had been wrongly set, and was impossible to solve. This is how it came to his call to Friedel. When the latter gave the solution over the phone, he could clearly hear Botvinnik in the background, groaning in surprise."
"Many years later, Frederic Friedel set the problem again, as the ChessBase Christmas puzzle. It went the rounds on the Internet, and many chess fans tried to crack it, partly with concerted action. Many hundreds of reactions were sent in to the ChessBase homepage, of which a number of representative and remarkable ones were published. Here is a selection of these:"
"Frederic, I am going nuts still trying to solve this thing. When and where will you be posting the solution? I won't be able to quit until I know the answer."
"I have discovered a truly marvelous solution to this problem, which however this text box is not large enough to contain."
"Naturally, after spending many hours brooding over the problem, I hadn't found a solution. Then I committed the very serious error of showing it to my colleagues at the chess club. They also invested many hours, and now, just like the students in the Botvinnik school, they are demanding that I show them the solution; they are convinced that there is none."
"Some 'solvers' also sent in proof of why it was impossible: 'Although I hate to submit this as an answer, but I must state that the scenario of knight takes rook mate is not possible. I will try to explain why I believe it is so, in less than 100 pages."
"Yet other very ingenious contributions used the pieces of fers and alfil, instead of queen and bishop: 'My analysis leads me to conclude that it is an original game from medieval Arab times, with an Alfil on the board.'"
"Amongst the solutions entered in this sense, is this one: 1 e4 Nf6 2 Ne2 Nh5 3 g3 Nf4 4 Rg1 a6 5 Rg2 Nxg2#, since the Alfil on f1 cannot take the knight on g2."
"But in spite of all claims and proofs to the contrary, there is actually a quite normal sequence of moves with the pieces, using their modern moves."
5 points for sending me a complete solution, at firstname.lastname@example.org , by next Wednesday.