Chess

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Otto Blathy, a Hungarian problemist who died in 1939, was a master of compositions of grotesque length. If you ever see a position with the words "White to play and mate in 293" underneath it, chances are it's by Blathy. Today's position, however, is one of his more modest efforts. It's White to play and mate in 10, but don't be put off by its briefness, the solution is delightful and amusing.

Where do you start with a mate in ten? Long problems usually have some repeating theme - a tactical sequence that may be played more than once to force some concession each time. Such a sequence may not be obvious, but you usually recognise it when you find it.

In this position, the natural opening move is 1.Qxh8, threatening Qxe5 mate and forcing 1...Bxf5 (1...Rg7 will not last long after 2.Qxg7). Now there's something that looks promising: 2.Qa8+ Rc6 (c6 allows Qa2 mate) 3.Qa2+ Rc4 but after 4.Qg2+ Be4 White runs out of steam. He'd like to play 5.Qg8 mate, on aesthetic grounds if nothing else, but the g-pawn is in the way.

And that should give you the vital clue. Here's the full answer: 1.Qh1+! g2 2.Qxh8 Bxf5 3.Qa8+ Rc6 4.Qa2+ Rc4 5.Qxg2+ Re4 (Be4 allows Qg8 mate) 6.Qg8+ Be6 (Kc6 allows immediate mate by Qa8) 7.Qa8+ c6 8.Qa2+ Rc4 9.Qg2+ Re4 10.Qxe4 mate. A splendid double spin by the white queen.

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