A puzzle

“You can never have enough puzzles”, I read in a recent article. It’s hard to argue with that!

In that spirit, and also in an attempt to remain true to the theme of this site, you may like to compare your abilities to those of Irish players and puzzle solvers from 65 years ago. The Evening Herald of November 5, 1952 posed the following question:

Evening Herald puzzle 1952
Irish correspondence championship 1951-52, group F
1… ?

The puzzle was submitted by one of the players, Gerard Mac Gartain, of Drumcondra, Co. Dublin. “It is Black’s move, but the question is: Who wins?”

One of the difficulties of puzzles, problems, and studies is that the solver is usually on notice that there is something of interest present: there is a warning bell that isn’t there during a normal game. So for this puzzle I won’t say whether it is very hard or very easy or something in between.

Answer in a few days.

Update, July 27, 2017: see comment for answer.

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One Response to A puzzle

  1. Sean Coffey says:

    It’s easy to see that Black doesn’t have time to round up White’s K-side pawns: 1… Kd4 2. Kc2 Ke3? 3. Kc3 Kxf3 4. Kb4 Kg4 5. Kb5 Kxh4 6. Kxb6 Kxg5 and Black is 3 tempi short.

    But sitting still doesn’t necessarily work either, since White can play f4-f5 at a suitable time, e.g. 1… Kd4 2. Kc2 c3 3. f4 Kc4 4. f5! gxf5 5. h5 f4 (or 5… Kd5 6. g6 hxg6 7. h6) 6. g6, and White will promote first, with check.

    Nevertheless with best play it is a draw: Black needs only to sit still in a way that keeps his king out of check when White promotes. Thus 1… Kd4 2. Kc2 Kd5! (… Kc5 or … Ke5 also work) 3. f4 Kc5!, and now 4. f5 only draws.

    If instead (1… Kd4) 2. f4, it is essential for Black to play 2… Kc5! (2… Kd5? 3. Ke3! and wins).

    So how did the solvers do 65 years ago? The Evening Herald (November 26, 1952, p. 5) gave the proposer’s solution, which ran 1…. Kd4 2. Kc2 c3? 3. f4 Kc4 4. h5?? Kb4?? 5. h6 Kxa4 6. Kxc3 b5 7. Kb2 Kb4 8. f5 gxf5 9. g6 hxg6 10. h7 and wins. Not only does that diverge from best play, but two additional horrendous blunders are thrown in: after the simple 4… gxh5 , it is Black who wins.

    However two weeks later the column published a different take by Alex Montwill: “In my opinion, White has no win in any variations.” After 1… Kd5 2. Kc2 he gave 2… Kd5! 3. Kc3 Kc5 4. f4 Kd5, or 3. f4 Ke5, in each case giving White nothing better than a draw by repetition (Evening Herald, December 10, 1952 p. 7).

    (Alex Montwill, ca. 1935-2013, finished equal first in the Irish championship in 1962, losing out on tie-break, and was (joint) Irish correspondence champion in 1962-63.)

    The continuation and outcome of the actual game are unknown.

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