As a very pleasant way of staggering the jet lag I broke the trip to Vegas to visit an old friend in upstate New York and since he's only a few miles from the US Chess Federation (USCF) in New Windsor we went over there last Monday (coincidentally, just as the news was breaking that Karpov definitely wasn't going to take part in the contest.)
Still most of a continent away from the maelstrom in Nevada, I bought a couple of books, more for their aesthetic than for their combat value, including The Puzzle King (Pickard and Sons, pounds 16.99), a collection of the great Sam Loyd's 710 chess problems, together with 34 of his best mathematical puzzles.
One of his chess problems is reproduced as follows.
White to play, mate in three
Cleveland Voice, 1880
Sam Loyd was born, the youngest of eight children, in Philadelphia on 30 January 1841. From early childhood he was fascinated by conjuring, ventriloquism and puzzles of all kinds and indeed from the age of 27 until he died on 10 April he was a professional puzzle inventor.
Described by the American problemist Alain White as having " . . . a very handsome face, a high forehead, very quick eyes and a gentle kindly smile as though the rest of the world were little children, to be bewildered and amused by him", Loyd was the chess problemist of his century, and arguably all centuries.
It's been a pleasure dipping into his oeuvre again, though it is hard to resist a premature peep at the solutions which, logically but slightly irritatingly for solvers, are immediately under the diagrams: a temptation that can be resisted, however, with the help of self-control and a strategically placed piece of paper. My only other, small criticism of this splendid book is that just a modicum of textual explanation would have been welcome in the solutions - details such as the name of the theme.
Away from my library I fear that I therefore can't name this one, which involves the bishop crossing a critical square:
1 Bb8 d6 (or 1 ...Ke6 2 Re8+ Kd5 3 Re5 mate) 2 Kf7 Ke5 3 Rc5 mate.
Details of the 14 chess events and other games at the Mind Sports Olympiad, Olympia Conference Centre, London, 21-29 August (01707 659080; e-mail www.mindsports.co.uk