11 November 2011

The Camel and the Grasshopper

We have a special date — and I present a special chess problem. Its author is the Slovak problemist Bedrich Formánek who is well-known for his humorous chess compositions.

Bedrich Formánek
SV CSTV C, 1966
3rd Prize

Let's have a look at the diagram. We know the position has to be legal. So, we ask ourselves what Black's last move was. Obviously, it must have been the move Kg6-/xh5. Consequently, the king on g6 had been in check by the white bishop d3. Now, we reach the crucial point: How did that bishop give a check? Maybe, you didn't realize — but I already gave you some hints!

Yes, the bishop could not give the check directly by moving to d3. It needed the help from another piece. That assistant gave a discovered check by moving to h5 and was then captured by the black king. I can imagine your objection "There is no piece that can accomplish this?!". Yes, you're right — partially. Let me add one word to that statement. There is no orthodox unit that can perform the desired task.

Think about the situation with the black king on g6, once more. What requirements are there for the discovered check? We need a white piece which moved from either e4 or f5 to h5 where it was taken by the black king. Do you know any piece which is capable of doing so? I know you do! A grasshopper (G) can go from f5 to h5. Additionally, we have the camel (CA) that can leap from e4 to h5.

Two remarks: 1. There might be other choices, as well. However, camel and grasshopper are the obvious, since best known, appropriate units. 2. Sure, they are fairy pieces. But you've been alerted with my introductory words, right?

Okay, we now even have two possible last moves for Black. So much for the look into the past. The stipulation is to checkmate in one move. Though we have a nice pawn on g7 being ready to promote, it doesn't help us in any way?! Wrong. Remember, we just have proven that there already has been either a grasshopper or a camel on the board. Do you see something, now?

Assuming that the last move was Kg6xGh5, we can play 1. gxh8=G#. Similarly, if the last move was Kg6xCAh5, 1. g8=CA# delivers checkmate. Yeah, we solved it! I like this funny fairy retro a lot. How about you?

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