chess William Hartston

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Mars is a foreign planet and they play chess differently there. Take this years girls' under-8 championships for example. Since chess on Mars is forbidden as time-wasting to any who have reached puberty, this is the highest section of their championships, though restricted to females with seven or fewer pseudopods.

The event ended in a tie for first place necessitating, according to the rules, a four-game play-off between the two best players Phobia and Dementia. The first game reached the diagram position with Phobia, playing Black, to move.

Had they been humans, of course, Black would have played 1...Qxd3 and eventually won with queen against rook. But the Martians are an advanced and co-operative civilisation and winning takes a low place in their aesthetics. In fact, Black played a move, White replied, Black played another move, and then Dementia delivered mate.

Remarkably, in the second game, with Dementia now Black, they reached an identical position, except that the piece on a6 was not a queen but a black rook. Again it was Black to play, and again White delivered mate on her second move.

In the third game, it was a black bishop on a6, and in the fourth a black knight. And in all cases, with Black moving first, White delivered mate on move two. Can you find the moves?

Answers: a) 1.Qf6 Nc5 2.Qb2 Ra4; b) 1.Rb6 Rb1 2.Rb3 Ra1; c) 1.Bc4 Ne1 2.Ba2 Nc2; d) 1.Nc5 Nc1 2.Na4 Rb3.