The old man was sitting alone at a corner table in the chess club fiddling with the pieces on the board in front of him. As I approached, he placed a piece on the board to reach the position illustrated above. Then he heaved a great sigh, folded his arms in front of him in a gesture of finality and, without looking up, said: "White to play, mate in two moves."

I glanced at the position for no more than a few seconds, then said dismissively, "I'm afraid this still needs some work. There are too many solutions. For instance any king move will force Kxf7 when 2.Qxd5 is mate."

I moved my arm towards the board to demonstrate what I had just said, but he angrily brushed it aside and grunted something in a bad-tempered voice. I was fairly sure that what he said was: "No! Without the white queen on the board." So I removed the white queen from the board and looked again for a mate in two.

When I had found it - which took again no more than the slightest effort - I told him the first move and said, "Quite neat, but not too difficult to solve."

More angrily than last time he grunted another correction: "I said without the rook, not without the queen!" So I set up the diagram position again, but this time removed the white rook.

Again it was only the effort of a few moments to find the mate in two, but once more it was apparently not good enough for my companion.

"Not without queen, not without rook," he growled. "Without bishop!"

Determined not to let him get the better of me, I kept my patience and again returned to the diagram position. This time I removed the white bishop. You have probably guessed what then happened. I found the mate in two, only to be told that I should have been looking for one without the knight. For the last time, I set up the starting position and removed the knight. When I demonstrated the final answer, he rose from the table, packed the pieces away and, without a word, shuffled out of the club room. We have never seen him again.

Answers: a) 1.f8=Q and 2.Qg8; b) 1.f8=R Kxd6 2.Qa6; c) 1.f8=B Kf7 2.Qxd5; d) 1.f8=N+ Kf5 2.Qf1 mate or 1...Kf7 2.Qxd5 mate. A neat composition by Bo Lindgren. On each occasion, the solution is to ensure immediate reincarnation, by promoting a pawn, of the piece that has just been removed from the board.

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