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CHRISTMAS 1928 was a jolly time for friends of the Hungarian problemist Dr Otto Blathy. For he sent them a card adorned with the diagram position, greetings from 'The Chess Problem Amateurs of Budapest' and the instructions 'White to play and win'.

The solution has a good deal in common with one of those children's toys with sliding blocks in a square array and only one vacant space. Indeed, White is so short of moves, that the first few play themselves: 1. Bc1, 2. Kb2, 3. Ra2, 4. Ka1 and 5. Rb2. Black will need to ensure that his b-pawn is defended at the end of that sequence, so he has no time for 1 . . . Kxh6.


So we may assume that Black meets 5. Rb2 with Kc5 or Kc6, but where does White go then? The next few moves are again the only way to make any progress (though it is still unclear where it is leading): 6. Rb4, 7. Ka2, 8. Bb2, 9. Ba1, 10. Kb2, 11. Kc1, 12. Rb2 and 13. Rc2] Now after 13 . . . dxc2 14. Kxc2 and 15. d4 White gains enough room to win. So Black does not take the rook, which lets White get on with 14. Kd1, 15. Rc1, 16. Ke1, 17. Kf1, 18. Kg1, 19. Kh2 and 20. Re1.

Black will then defend his e- pawn with 20 . . . Ke5 and White has to find another idea. The systematic plan seems to be 21. Rg1, 22. Rg2, 23. Kg1 and 24. Rh2, with Rh5 and Rxg5 to follow, but Black simply plays Kf6, Kg6 and Kxh6, then blocks the game with Kg6 and h6. So how does White manage to win? (Answer tomorrow.)