Unusual chess puzzles for creative people

Today, chess fans around the world are blessed with an abundance of chess events. Some of them can really improve your chess game, but are not fun to watch. Think of a Berlin endgame played flawlessly by two super grandmasters. At the other end of the spectrum, there are some really entertaining games that can hardly make you a better chess player. Yes, I’m talking about the wildly popular bullet games.

The recently concluded 2022 Puzzle Battle World Championship was a unique event in that it was a lot of fun to watch while really improving the spectators’ ability to see tactical patterns.

It was easy to see the bright future of Puzzle Rush when it appeared on Chess.com about three years ago. I then wrote about how addictive it is and also underlined its educational value. Puzzle Battle was a very nice addition to the original Puzzle Rush that added a competitive element to puzzle solving. I’m sure we’ll see many more additions and improvements, because it’s just human nature: we love to solve puzzles and compete with other people. Besides, these two common human traits are the main source of income for chess players. We already discussed this dark side of chess in this old article. Here’s another example.

Imagine you are playing a big popular Open tournament and after your game was over you entered a kibitz room. You soon notice a man coming up to people and showing them something on his pocket chess game. You get intrigued and get closer. The man shows you the following position and asks you to find a checkmate in one move.

On a quick search, you tell the stranger that the puzzle has no solution, but the man insists there is a checkmate in one move. Long story short, you have a bet with him and demand to show the solution or else he will lose the bet. He grins and demonstrates checkmate in one move.

You’re trying to protest that the man never said it was black’s turn. He replies that he need not be obvious, as the position could only take place if white was his last move. You’re crazy, but eventually have to admit he was right. After you return to your hotel room and tell the story to your roommate, come up with a revenge plan together. The next day, your roommate enters the kibitz room and soon sees the same man with his bag set. When your roommate approaches him, he sees a familiar position.

The roommate thinks that because you were upset you forgot that pile of pieces in the bottom right corner of the board, but they don’t really matter, do they? The roommate pretends to solve the puzzle and then says, “Oh, I see, there’s a checkmate in one move!”. But this time, the stranger insists that there is no checkmate in one move in this position. A new bet is made and the roommate asks the stranger to make his move as black, but the stranger says, “Come on man, don’t you know that in puzzles, white comes first!” The roommate grins and asks, “OK, what was your last move in this case?”. “Well, I just promoted my h2 pawn to bishop, so now it’s your move!”. And so the hustler wins his second bet!

There is a special kind of unusual puzzle where the traditional rules are bent. Such puzzles will not make you a better chess player, but they will certainly improve your creativity. A good example is the following view of Edward Dunsani. It made rounds on the social network last week and was posted by at least two grandmasters:

The idea is that you place the white king and the white bishop on the board and then white starts and delivers a checkmate in two moves. The puzzle is not very difficult, but it is fun. The solution to this puzzle can be found at the end of this article.

Of course, puzzles with modified chess rules are the real treasure trove of chess players. The legendary Moscow swindler Dima Gnesin, nicknamed “schoolboy” because of his youthful appearance, offered the following game to anyone who wanted to bet with him. He would remove both his rooks and play would proceed according to the normal rules of chess, with one exception: once per game he was allowed to make a move for his opponent. While it didn’t seem that important at first glance, in reality I think his opponents were doomed. To illustrate: two popular reactions to 1.e4 (1…e5 and 1…c5) immediately lose! Look:


It is very possible that Dima Gnesin was killed by one of these tricks when he tried to collect the money won…

Speaking of unusual puzzles, here are my two favorites:

Can you think of the moves that could lead to this position? Think about it and then read the solution below.

At first, the position seems absolutely illegal. Indeed, how could the white bishop ever get to h4 to deliver the check? Then you suddenly realize that the white king can move from g3 to f3, making it a discovered check. But then the next question arises: how could the white king on g3 be checked simultaneously by the rook on g5 and the bishop on e5? Again, it seems like an absolutely illegal position until another light bulb goes off in your head. So, here’s the final solution:

While this puzzle isn’t that hard, the second one will be a challenge even for grandmasters! You must set up a position in which white has only a king, a knight and a pawn and black has a king and a queen. The position must be legal and the black king is not checked. So it is Black’s move and yet Black loses despite his turn! Think about it and then check the solution at the end of the article.

Finally, I want to offer you one more test of your creativity, but I must warn you that this is probably the hardest puzzle of all!

Here you have to place one black piece on the board to prevent black from winning!

Now the solutions to the puzzles:

1) The King and Bishop Puzzle

Place the white king on e2 and the bishop on f1. Then after 1. Kxe1+ Re2 2.Bxe2 checkmate!

2) The king, knight and a pawn puzzle

3) Place a puzzle with black pieces.

You have to place another black queen on g2, which causes white to move into this position and therefore it is a stalemate. If you put the black queen elsewhere (say Qd5), white’s last move could be Kf2-e3 after black promoted a new queen by e2xf1=Q+!

I hope you enjoyed today’s puzzles as much as you enjoyed the 2022 Puzzle Battle World Championship!

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