Our weekly chess column today: The longest checkmate


Otto Blathy, best known for his role in inventing the modern transformer, loved the kind of chess problem called “long-movers”. He once created an issue with the “white to play and mate in 290 move” stipulation which is still considered the longest such issue. But it sounds more interesting than it actually is because these long troubles usually involve repeated King Marches by White in order to lose tempo. Once you get the main concept, it all becomes monotonous and boring.

What is neither monotonous nor boring is the geometrically longest mate that can be delivered on a chessboard: a mate that covers the entire large diagonal. Just imagine the visually pleasing sight of a queen moving to the a1 square to subdue the enemy king in h8. He is an extremely rare guest, even in the field of chess compositions.

White play and mate in three moves – Phillip H Williams (1908)

There is a fairly obvious checkmate in four strokes. White can just play something like 1.Qxh2 Kxa7 2.Qd6 Kb7 3.Rh7 + Kc8 4. Qf8 #. Reaching the same goal with one less gesture is not that easy. Now that we know the theme, we can see it’s a checkmate if we can get the white queen to the long diagonal while somehow protecting the a7 pawn.

The solution is delicious, both visually and geometrically. 1.Kb2! a1 = Q (Or other) 2.Rxa1 h1 = Q (Or other) 3.Qxh1 #.

Your columnist encountered the following problem almost a quarter of a century ago during his second year of playing chess. It still resonates strongly because it took over three months of obsession to resolve it.

White to play and checkmate in three moves

Again, it is possible to achieve the objective in four moves by “normal” means. For example, 1.Qg1 Kxh7 2.Nf4 Kh8 3.Ne6 Kh7 4.Qg7 #. Our theme should point you in the right direction to find a partner in one less move.

1.Nb2! cxb2 2.Na1! bxa1 = Q 3.Qxa1 #

Here is an even more difficult, but truly spectacular problem. Even my computer struggles with this one.

White to play and checkmate in four moves

First of all, it’s important to understand the orientation of the board, and yes… these three black pawns are about to be promoted.

The white queen is under attack. Let’s try the natural moves (1.Qg3 and 1.Qh4) to bring the queen closer to the end of business. 1.Qg3 Rg1 2.Qxg1 a1 = Q and 1.Qh4 Rh1 2.Qd8 Rh7 means that black has just enough resources to answer.

The only option left for White is to try the idea of ​​checkmate Nb4-d5-c7.

1.Nb4 c2 (1… Rxe1 2.Nd5 followed by 3.Nc7 #)

Now 2.Nd5 will not work because of 2… c1 = Q when square c7 is covered. White must therefore find a creative idea to stop this.


2.Qc1! – An amazing idea

Now it looks like Nd5-c7 # is inevitable, but black is surprising.

2… b1 = B!

All of a sudden White cannot perform the intended knight maneuver because of the stalemate. But there is enough time and resources for one final twist.

3.Nd3! exd3 4.Qh1 #. The longest mate strikes again!

Finally, here’s an unusual problem with bringing out your inner Sherlock Holmes.

One Stroke and Checkmate – Sam Loyd

White has just made a move and realizes they could have given a checkmate instead. What was White’s move and what was the checkmate that he missed? Remember that when you remove White’s last move, Black King cannot be in check. For example, you cannot remove Ke2-f1 and play Ng4-f2 # instead.

If you are unable to find the solution, please try to remember our theme and try again.


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