The Case of the Cowering Bishops

When Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson arrived at the Monastery of the Pious Pawnpusher, they saw at once that they were too late. The chessboard was deserted. "I fear I have delayed you, Holmes," Watson apologised. "I'm not as nimble on my feet as I once was. Sometimes I wonder why you always take me on your missions."

"You're a useful literary device to emphasise my genius," Holmes replied brusquely. "But look, the players have left the score-sheets on the table." Watson peered at the score sheet and shook his head ruefully: "This tells us but little, for the final eight moves on each side are indicated only by dashes," he said. "Time-trouble, I expect."

"But look at the last word," said Holmes. Watson peered at the final word: Stalemate. "Now we know everything," said Holmes with undisguised glee.

Watson, however, was still playing out the moves on the board. When they ran out, he had reached the diagram position. His face assumed an astonished look.

"The bounders," he said. "It's White to play, and they say that the game ended in eight moves with White stalemated. What arrant nonsense!"

"But it did end in stalemate," said Holmes. Then he shouted: "Inspector Lestrade, arrest those nine bishops! You'll find them cowering behind the door."

The policeman hesitated: "On what charge, sir?"

"Match-rigging and conspiracy," said the great detective. Lestrade swung open the door and there behind it were nine bishops, all apparently too frightened to move.

Can you work out the vital clues that led Holmes to his conclusion?

Answer: from the diagram play went: 1.a8=B Nxd6 2.c8=B Nxe8 3.fxe8=B Nxh5 4.Bf7 Nf6 5.e8=B Nxg8 6.hxg8=B dxe1=B 7.Bh7 Bg3 8.g8=B Bxb8 stalemate.