These days, chess fans all over the world are blessed with an abundance of chess events. Some of them can really improve your chess game but aren’t much fun to watch. Think of a Berlin final perfectly played by two super grandmasters. On the other side of the spectrum are really entertaining games that can hardly make you a better chess player. Yes, I’m talking about the very popular ball games.

The recently concluded 2022 Puzzle Battle World Championship was a unique event in that it was great fun to watch while also being able to really improve spectators’ ability to see tactical patterns.

It was easy to see Puzzle Rush’s bright future when it appeared on about three years ago. At that time, I was writing about how addictive it was and also highlighting its educational value. Puzzle Battle was a great addition to the original Puzzle Rush that brought a competitive element to puzzle solving. I’m sure we’ll see a lot more additions and improvements because it’s just human nature: we like to solve puzzles and compete with other people. By the way, these two common human traits are the main source of income for chess scammers. We have already touched on this dark side of chess in this old article. Here is another example.

Imagine that you are playing a large popular Open tournament and after your game is over you enter a kibitz room. You quickly notice a guy coming up to people and showing them something about his pocket chess set. You are intrigued and you get closer. The guy shows you the next position and asks you to find checkmate in one move.

After a quick review, you tell the stranger that the puzzle has no solution, but the guy insists there’s checkmate in one move. Long story short, you have a bet with him and demand to show the solution or he loses the bet. He smiles and demonstrates checkmate in one motion.

You try to protest that the guy never said it was Black’s turn to move. He replies that he didn’t need to state the obvious since the position could only occur if it was White who made his last move. You’re crazy, but you finally have to admit that he was right. After returning to your hotel room and telling your roommate the story, you hatch a plan for revenge together. The next day, your roommate walks into the kibitz room and quickly spots the same guy with his pocket set. When your roommate approaches him, he sees a familiar position.

The roommate thinks that because you were upset you just forgot about that pile of coins in the lower right corner of the board, but that doesn’t really make a difference, does it? The roommate pretends to solve the riddle then says, “Oh, I see, there’s a one-hit checkmate!” But this time, the stranger insists there is no one-hit checkmate in this position. A new bet is made and the roommate asks the stranger to play as Black, but the stranger says “Come on man, don’t you know that in puzzles White moves first!” The roommate smiles and asks: “OK, what was your last move in this case?”. “Why, I just promoted my h2 pawn to madman, so it’s up to you now!”. And that’s how the scammer wins his second bet!

There is a special type of unusual puzzle where the traditional rules are bent. Such puzzles won’t make you a better chess player, but they will definitely improve your creativity. A good example is the following position composed by Edward Dunsani. It was making the rounds on social media last week being posted by at least two grandmasters:

You are supposed to place White’s king and White’s bishop on the board, then White starts and delivers a checkmate in two moves. The puzzle is not very difficult, but fun. You will find the solution to this riddle at the end of this article.

Of course, puzzles with modified chess rules are the real treasure of chess scammers. The legendary Moscow hustler Dima Gnesin, nicknamed “schoolboy” because of his youthful appearance, offered the following game to everyone who wanted to bet with him. He removed his two rooks and the game proceeded according to the usual rules of chess with one exception: once per game, he was allowed to make a move for his opponent. Even though it didn’t seem so important at first glance, in reality I think his opponents were doomed. To illustrate this point, two popular responses against 1.e4 (1…e5 and 1…c5) lose instantly! Looked:

It is quite possible that one of these tricks got Dima Gnesin killed while he was trying to recover the money he had won…

Speaking of quirky puzzles, here are my two favorites:

Can you figure out the moves that could lead to this position? Think about it, then read the solution below.

At first, the position seems absolutely illegal. Indeed, how could the white bishop get to h4 to hand over the check? Then you suddenly realize that the white king could go from g3 to f3, making it an open check. But then the following question arises: how was it possible that the white king on g3 was simultaneously checked by the rook on g5 and the bishop on e5? Again, this sounds like an absolutely illegal position until another light bulb goes off in your head. So here is the final solution:

Although this puzzle is not that difficult, the second one will be a challenge even for grandmasters! You need to set up a position where white only has a king, knight and pawn and black has a king and queen. The position must be legal and the black king is unchecked. So it’s up to Black to play and yet despite his turn, Black loses! Think about it then check the solution at the end of the article.

Finally, let me offer you another test of your creativity, but I must warn you that this is probably the most difficult puzzle of all!

Here you have to place a black piece on the board to make sure black can’t win!

Now the solutions to the puzzles:

1) The king and the bishop puzzle

Place the white king on e2 and the bishop on f1. Then after 1. Rxe1+ Re2 2.Bxe2 checkmate!

2) The king, the knight and a pawn

3) Place a black puzzle piece.

You need to place another black queen on g2 which will ensure that it’s white to move into that position and so it’s a dead end. If you place Black’s queen somewhere else (say Qd5), White’s last move could have been Kf2-e3 after Black promoted a new queen by e2xf1=Q+!

Hope you enjoyed today’s puzzles as much as you enjoyed Puzzle Battle World Championship 2022!