Independent Pursuits: Chess

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Helpmate in 2

THE DIAGRAM is a helpmate in 2, which means that Black moves first and assists White in delivering mate on his second move (ie it goes BWBW, with the second W being mate). If you can solve it in the time it would normally take to read to the

solution at the end of the column then you are either a genius, an exceptionally slow reader, or lucky enough to take up gambling professionally.

What do chess teams do on aeroplanes? Do they chat; read; fret about air traffic controllers who delay them, the person in front's back, the one behind's feet or their neighbour's elbows;, do crosswords; as a last resort, even play chess?

These moves were played in a casual game between Jonathan Mestel, who was presumably White - though he wasn't certain when I phoned him - and Nigel Short, en route to the Thessaloniki Olympiad in 1984. I think that it rapidly ended in a draw, and certainly can't vouch for the move order, but the salient point is that White produced the splendid 17 Rfc1 on a closed file.

A few weeks later, while the Olympiad was still in progress, a certain Anatoly Karpov (perhaps helped by a parapsychological chum?) hit on the same idea in the 31st game of his interminable first match against Gary Kasparov in Moscow.

In these somewhat more serious circumstances, it helped Karpov towards his fifth win, 42 moves later.

White: Jonathan Mestel

Black: Nigel Short

En route to the Thessaloniki Olympiad 1984

Queen's Gambit Declined

Back to the helpmate, which John Nunn produced for our delectation on the flight back from the European Team Championships in Moscow in 1977. I took about an hour to solve it then (four minutes this time, since I had a residual memory of the first move). But Jonathan Mestel, who very kindly reproduced it for me - I have a dreadful memory for problems - hit a blind spot and spent the whole three-hour flight struggling with it.

The problem is the diversion created by the "set play" with White to move: 1.Re4 Rg7 2.Rh4 mate.

For as it should be, the solution is quite different: 1 Qa8 Bb3 2 Rh6 Rc7 mate.

1 Nf3 d5

2 d4 Nf6

3 c4 e6

4 Nc3 Be7

5 Bg5 h6

6 Bxf6 Bxf6

7 e3 0-0

8 Qc2 c5

9 dxc5 dxc4

10 Bxc4 Qa5

11 0-0 Bxc3

12 Qxc3 Qxc3

13 bxc3 Nd7

14 c6 bxc6

15 Rab1 Nb6

16 Be2 c5

17 Rfc1!