Mahina Kaholokula Math 7: Mathematical Puzzles 23 May 2013 The Art of Chess Puzzles Chess is one of few things

that has stood the test of time. Originating as far back as the 6th century, it has developed over time to become the worldwide sport that you see today. There are clubs and competitions formed around chess; there are books and movies dedicated to its history and its strategies; and there are hundreds of different variations of the game now propagating around the world, from using non-standard boards (ex. in dimension), to non-standard pieces (fairy chess, for instance, may use a piece called the “nightrider” 1 which may move any length in the straight direction given by a standard knight move – i.e. 1 cell up, 2 cells to the side), or with non-standard rules (“suicide chess” has the surprising objective of wanting to lose your king first in the game). One twist to chess is to create puzzles and problems involving the general game rules for others to then solve. The scope and variety of the puzzles is enormous: some start out with a pre-configured chessboard and task the puzzler with having one side checkmate the other within a certain number of moves. Others start with the endgame and have the puzzler work backwards to figure out what the last move played might have been. There are “tour” puzzles that focus on the movement of pieces and on paths that could (and could not) be taken. While others still are “domination” problems,


“Fairy Chess Piece.”

) Still. chess players often use this type of puzzle to practice and further develop these skills of perspective and observation. no matter the skill level. Mate in 2 moves. chess puzzles are meant to be accessible to everyone. often a checkmate for one side or the other. including the fact that they all embody a certain elegance. in a given number of moves. as they will have more experience with seeing connections and interactions between the pieces. and the sentence “Mate in Y moves. here is one: Figure 1.interested in the attack range of the pieces and how to set up specific pieces to attack specific squares. For example. Thus we come to the classic chess puzzle. . White to move. This type of puzzle tends to advantage those who actually play a bit of chess. and they are all enjoyable to both create and especially solve. with a range of themes and difficulty levels. consisting of the chessboard. and the only information the puzzler really needs in order to solve these problems is knowledge of how the pieces move. The most common chess problems by far are those in which the board is set up in a pre-determined configuration and it is the duty of the puzzler to complete some task. The list is extensive. (In fact. X to move” (X representing a color and Y a number). but they all share a couple of key qualities. a configuration of pieces.

This means that once White moves. Black should not have any choice of which piece to move where because this is the only way to ensure that White will win every time no matter how Black tries to stop it. This will then lead to White’s winning move to checkmate. the rook is not only pinned in this space by the White bishop. then one conclusion you must come to is that there is a unique set of moves that will get White to mate in 2 moves. We can reject the first. The winning move here for White is then clear: when the Black rook takes the White queen at f7. if we are to believe that the puzzle is indeed possible. sacrifice is often necessary in chess and can have a winning payoff in the end. or move queen to f7. Thus we are looking for a move that forces Black’s next move.Now. but we lose what is called a “pin” in chess. but a new vulnerability to the Black king has opened up via . and White won’t shake Black’s defense at all. By moving queen to f7. Often this means putting the king in check in a way that only allows one option for Black getting out of check. Thus. since a trade of queens will likely ensue. move bishop from c4 to f7. then White loses the pressure that this pin strategy is useful for. moving the White queen to f7. If we move bishop to f7 and the bishop is taken by Black’s rook. we come to option 3. we force Black’s next move: rook takes queen (Black can do nothing else to get out of check since the King is not able to move into any square out of check). Let’s consider these choices. in fact. Here. It seems counterintuitive to move the queen to such a vulnerable spot. there are three options for how White can check the Black king: move queen to g5. where right now the bishop at c4 is poised to check the Black king as soon as the space in f7 is clear. The second seems plausible. This means that Black has no other option but to keep that space occupied. but.

White can now take advantage of this and move his rook to e8. The strategy obviously comes from looking ahead in the game. Figure 2: Examples of Knight's Tours. Furthermore. start noticing different connections between pieces and placements. and then taking advantage of that vulnerability. finding that first move to force the opposition into a vulnerable position. and all the while enjoying the challenge that the puzzle sets out for you. but it illustrates well the strategy and excitement of the game. .the square f8. by doing these puzzles more and more. watching as the drama of finding the right moves and exploiting vulnerabilities unfold in exactly the right fashion. This was more of a dense example to use with some formal tactics involved. thus checkmating the Black king. The lines represent each “jump” the knight makes. you learn different strategies and plays. The excitement is closely related.

and it was quickly observed that there was no one unique solution to find. George McKay. Although there are multiple methods that have been proven successful. 4 Watkins. which has been around for over 1000 years. Brendan D. John J. mathematicians. is the Knight’s Tour2. In fact. named after the man who discovered it in the early 18th century. . and other curious puzzlers have dedicated time and effort to solving this problem. The object of the game is to find a path around a chessboard that allows a knight to move to each square on the board exactly once. requires a little more personal investment in the game. a fellow named Brendan McKay created a computer program to calculate the total number of Knight’s Tours possible on the standard 8 x 8 chessboard and the result was an astounding 13. computer scientists. His idea was this: start in the outer ring of the board (the outer 2 loops since a knight must always move in an “L” shape) and stay as close as possible to this outer ring before working your way in to cover the center squares4.364.267.410.5323! Mapping out these journeys for the purpose of a puzzle.One very popular chess puzzle. A common variation on the puzzle is to distinguish a “closed” path from an “open” one (a closed path ends on the same square it started on where an open one doesn’t have this restriction). however. 2 3 Jelliss. one of the simpler ones is de Moivre’s technique. Over the years. many chess masters.

which allows for more flexibility among the inner rings later on in the game. easy to remember and implement. part of its success must be based on the fact that by touring the outer ring first. Figure 3: Number of Possible Moves. so that the vertices of the graph represent the squares of the board and the edges connect the vertices that a knight could legally move between. you are touching on those squares with the fewest options for further movement first. By this I simply refer to the fact that a knight can only move to a certain number of squares from any given square.Figure 2: De Moivre’s technique. A very important outcome of this puzzle has been its connection to the mathematical field of graph theory. is always a good place to start when trying to find a Knight’s Tour around a new board. since a knight cannot move outside the board. and this number is obviously smaller on the edges of a board. creating a closed path solution. This representation . Interestingly. This graph shows the number of possible moves a knight can make from a given square. By starting on square 1 and moving around the outer ring of the board. Figure 2 above is a Knight’s Graph representing an 8 x 8 board. the tour can end on square 64. For example. only moving into the inner rings briefly when necessary. The idea is to represent the Knight’s Tour as a graph. square 64 can also connect back to square 1. Although I did not delve into the details behind the technique. This strategy. Clearly there are more options amongst the inner squares.

This connection between the Knight’s Tour and graph theory led in 1991 to Schwenk’s Theorem. While I will not probe deeper into the proofs of these conditions. created by Allen Schwenk.becomes analogous to a Hamiltonian path. so it is impossible to do a Knight’s Tour on a 4x4 chessboard. I think it’s interesting enough to note them down here: Schwenk’s Theorem: An m x n chessboard with m ≤ n has a Knight’s Tour unless one or more of the following three conditions hold: (a) m and n are both odd. or 4. . than a Knight’s Tour is possible. which lists out on what chessboards (by dimension) a Knight’s Tour exists. than there is no legal Knight’s Tour possible on the board5. (A Hamiltonian cycle is similarly paired with a closed Knight’s Tour. The bottom line is that if a Hamiltonian path exists. There is no Hamiltonian path that exists here. or 5 Watkins. Figure 4: A Knight’s Graph representing a 4x4 chessboard. John J. which is simply a path that touches every vertex in a graph exactly once. (b) m = 1. and if a Hamiltonian path does not exist.) These representations in graph theory led to the ability of mathematicians to determine whether our not a Knight’s Tour was even possible on a chessboard of any given dimension. 2.

Starting out as a sport for nobles. are being developed by this game? It turns out that there may be more than you might imagine. indeed. or 8. it has taken on a new vitality in the past couple centuries. and. new solutions and strategies have been brought into existence. studies have been held that prove that this is time well spent. Chess has always been considered a pastime of intellectuals. and continues to do so even to this day. 6. as playing chess does take a great deal of skill that only the noble class of earlier centuries had the time to develop. many more people have the time to dedicate to learning such skills. Famous minds from Euler to Babbage7 have toyed with the puzzle. John J. and of course there are numerous variations on the puzzle including straying from the standard 8x8 board or using other pieces instead of the knight (with various restrictions here as well).6 While the problem of the Knight’s Tour has been around since the 9 th century. For instance. These stereotypes did not evolve completely without reason. however. such as focus 6 7 Watkins. Today. there are the more obvious qualities that chess promotes. A good question raised here is what skills.(c) m = 3 and n = 4. specifically. Jelliss 8 “The History of Chess” . chess retained its reputation through the 19th century as a game purely for educated and cultured society before attitudes changed and chess became more widely played across the social ladder8. The drama and excitement of finding that perfect journey around a chessboard has thus captured and held the attention and curiosity of minds all around.

” chess is a beautiful game. There is no trick. This choice of which piece to move to what spot also causes the player to think ahead. Beverly Ferguson. and strategizing can all help advance your status and quality of life. and another study in Canada involving 500 fifth graders in the 1980s corroborated this finding. One study by Stuart Margulies involving 9 mid-elementary schools showed that chess improves reading skills9. it certainly seems that many of the same qualities that develop in a good chess player – such as focus. Beyond the perhaps more tangible benefits mentioned above. and chess puzzles posses this quality. and self-esteem due to chess as well. Various other studies and surveys have shown increases in creativity. The elegance of a good puzzle is something to be appreciated. no attempt to fool or lead anyone astray with distractions or red 9 10 Byrne. chess puzzles should be valued in their own right. etc. in directness. to anticipate how that move will affect future play.10 While these studies may have been based off playing legitimate games of chess. memory. Robert C. although the correlation between these may not always be as obvious. Often preceded by the words “the art of. They manifest elegance in simplicity. there is no reason to believe that the same won’t hold true for puzzle variations of the game. looking forward. These skills are crucial not only to chess but to life in general. . studies have shown that there are other benefits to playing chess. However. patience. Intuitively. where concentration. creativity. patience.and patience in choosing a next move. A study in China in the late 1970s concluded that chess improves math and science skills as well. and anticipation of future consequences – will also develop in a good chess puzzler.

the result is that. because chess puzzles are purely intellectual. chess puzzles are simply worth all the time and effort they require. in the end. whether you look at it from an academic viewpoint. Thus. the puzzle is straightforward and success is based purely upon will and focus and determination. . or a personal one.herrings. Furthermore. (and not based upon unraveling complex and abstract word problems for instance. a practical viewpoint.) the feeling of accomplishment you feel when you finally find the solution is magnificent. The emphasis on strategy and economy (how each piece has a completely unique and necessary function without which the puzzle is impossible) only adds to the elegance of the solution.

Web. "Benefits of Chess. Print. 15 May 2013. Oracle Foundation. <http://library. 14 May 2013. "Scientific Proof: Chess Improves Reading Scores. 3> Ferguson. 22 Sept.wikipedia." Benefits of Chess." ThinkQuest. Web. .htm>. 29 April 2013.Works Cited Byrne. <>. John J.thinkquest.” Australian National “Knight’s Tours of an 8 x 8 Chessboard. <http://www.mayhematics. Inc. 2010. “Fairy Chess Piece. "The History of Chess. Across the Board: The Mathematics of Chessboard Web. <http://en. "Introducing Knight's Tours. 2004. Jelliss. Wikipedia Foundation.chess." Introducing Knight's Tours. 2004. Robert C. PDF file. <http://chesspuzzles. Watkins." Chess. 22 May 2013. 15 May 2013.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Brendan D. Godden. 2008." Chess Coach Newsletter 6 (Spring 1993): Mephisto and Fidelity. Web.shtml>. McKay. 14 May Princeton: Princeton UP. Web.html>. "A Tour of the Knight's Web. 1997. 15 May 2013. George.pdf>. Kurt. <http://www.

<http://en. 21 May 2013. < of_possible_moves. John. <http://www. 21 May 2013. Figure 4: “Knight’s Web. Inc. Web. "The Knight's Tour. Eric>. 2007. Web. Web. 21 May 2013.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.Image Bibliography Figure 1: Bain. . Figure 2: Weisstein.wolfram. Scientopia. 10 Sept." Mathematics Dissertation 'The Knight's Tour'. <http://mathworld." MathWorld. Web. <>. 22 May 2013. 2000.html>.svg> Figure 5: "Puzzling Graphs: Problem Modeling with Graphs. 22 March 2013. Wikipedia Foundation. Figure 3: Keen. "Chess Puzzles!" ChessPuzzles. "Knight Graph. Mark R." Good Math Bad>.wikipedia.markkeen. 21 May 2013. Wolfram.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful