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Creative Chess Problems that Computers cannot solve

Posted by Arun J on

If Kasparov had challenged IBM's Deep Blue to a kickboxing match, I'm sure he would have been more content. Chess and its logic fit a computer's capacity like a glove. It calculates millions of positions and plays the best move. As technology evolves, the algorithms behind computer decision-making also evolve. Alpha Go, Google's neural network-based chess computer would have crushed Kasparov more cunningly than Deep Blue, which is not even as strong as Stock Fish engine running on a typical commercial laptop. 
In the historic return match in New York, 1997, Kasparov suffered the humiliation of being defeated by a heartless monster. The World's greatest Chess player had to bite the dust, especially in the last game where he lost in 19 moves! 

 

In mid-2017, Scientists from the Penrose Institute published a chess puzzle (below) that was aimed at confusing traditional Chess computers. Even the best chess engines showed that black has a significant advantage in the below position, but even a little kid can tell you that it's impossible for black to win because of the strictly closed nature of the position. There's absolutely no entry for black! But the computer looks at each and every single possibility and can't see positions intuitively as humans do. This is the dividing line between humans and computers. Human intuition can rationalize and make decisions based on experience. 

 

 

Creative twisted-logic Chess puzzles are such beautiful challenges humans excel compared to the machines, which needs special programming to even understand the challenge. One such challenge is the n-queen puzzle (You might remember this challenge where you have to place 8 queens on the chessboard in such a way that no queen attacks any other queen), where you'll have to place n-queens (say 100 queens) on an n-by-n chess board (say 100 by 100) chess board. The puzzle could take decades for computers to solve, and if you think you can write a code to solve this, you can win the $1 Million prize fund offered by the University of St Andrews. 
 
There are other genres of creative puzzles that computers are bad at. Here are a few of them to challenge your creativity! Remember, these problems can be very difficult. 
 
Puzzle 1: The White King has just made himself become invisible! Now it's your turn to defy such a magic trick and find the white king as well as the last few moves made to reach this position. Be careful, if you notice carefully you'll see that the black king is in check! Now, ask yourself, where is the white King hiding? And what were the last few moves? How did this position arise? 
[BOOK Recommendation: The Chess Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes & The Chess Mysteries of the Arabian Knights by Raymond Smullyan! These are wonderful books to solve if you love creative logical puzzles.]

 

  

Puzzle 2: The drunk king puzzle. 

 

The White King is drunk! He kicks the f-pawn aside (which lands on f3) and decides to leave his Kingdom. As he treks his way to h4 (via f2-g3), the enemy King comes to know about it, and orders an assassination attempt. Now, the challenge is this: Deliver checkmate when the King lands on h4. Remember, without the King at the throne white pieces will not move an inch. Also, remember - you should NOT block the white King's path with an attack.
 
Puzzle 3: Create a four-move legal chess game which results in the exact position you find below. This should be a lot easier than puzzle 1 and 2.

 

 

Puzzle 4:  Find out the last few moves for white and black. 
Black obviously moved his King from a7 to a8. But what was white's previous move? The Bishop could not have moved because there seems to be a Check! It's an easy retrograde analysis problem.

 

Puzzle 5: White to play and checkmate in 8 moves. 
The Rule is that you have to make these eight moves with the same pawn. The only exception is that you should not give any check before the final checkmate!

 

Puzzle 6: Create a legal game that starts with 1. a3 and checkmates on move 5 exactly with the Rook that originates from the a1-square. The Rook can move around but checkmate the black king exactly on move 5. Since a3 is the first move, you only have four more white moves (and black responses) to deliver checkmate. 

 

Puzzle 7: White to play and checkmate the black King with only one Rook move(and any number of King moves!)
This position is taken from the famous Dvoretsky's Endgame manual. The position helps you understand the fundamental concept of opposition in King and Pawn Endgames. It can be an interesting puzzle if you have never seen this before. 

 

Backward Thinking in Chess: 
Solvers use different thinking procedures to solve different types of puzzles. A few puzzles from above (example: the Drunk King Puzzle) can be solved effectively using the process of backward thinking. It can be easily understood using a very simple helpmate puzzle. Consider the following position. 

 

 

Black to Play. White Wins. Helpmate in one move. 
What it means is that black is in suicide mode(helpmate), and helps white to checkmate black King in one move (one black move and one white move)
Backward thinking works like this: 1. Find a mating pattern (In this case, If the black Rook were on h7, white mates with Qf8: This will be our pattern). 2. Work backward and see if you can validate the pattern using the given problem statement. In this case, we are able to checkmate in one move (as per puzzle instruction) - So, success! 3. If this pattern doesn't work. Find the next pattern and repeat with step 1. Remember - You'll have to work backward after discovering the pattern.
 
Here's another puzzle to help you try it out. 
 
Puzzle 8: There are two puzzles hidden in the same diagram:
  1. White to play, black wins/helpmate in 3 
  2. Black to play, white wins/helpmate in 3

[The Problemist is a great website for such puzzles!]
 
In the above position, you'll have to find out all the different checkmate patterns and work backward, more like reverse engineering, to see if you find the right answer. One such pattern will stand out and prove to be the right answer as indicated by the problem statement. Others will fail you, and you'll have to repeat the process again.
 
Below is a TED video on "Thinking Backward" by Grandmaster Maurice Ashley to help you with.
 
 
We hope you enjoyed solving these puzzle! Don't forget to post your answers in the comment section below! We look forward to seeing your creative solutions. If you like to share your favorite puzzles, don't hesitate. 

 


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