Chess Puzzle of the Week (199): Solution

Monday’s puzzle was a mate in 2 by Comins Mansfield, published in the Morning Post in April 1923.

If it was Black’s move in this position, White would mate next move. After a horizontal rook move, Ng3 would be mate, and after a vertical rook move N1d2 would be mate. The rook cannot hold both key squares. Black’s only other move, d3, takes away a possible flight square, allowing Qe7#.

Frustratingly, White can’t maintain the position as there’s no suitable waiting move, so you have to think of something else.

The beautiful solution is 1. Qa6!. Now the rook has to hold the g6 and e2 squares. So a horizontal rook move will now allow Qg6# while a vertical rook move will allow Qe2#. And if 1… d3, then 2. Qe6# happens.

This sort of problem, with changed mates, is known as a mutate. In this case, after every possible black move the mate changes between the set play (what would happen with Black to play) and the solution.

Amazing! There are two reasons why you should investigate the world of chess compositions. Solving them will improve your calculation skills, imagination and creativity. It will also introduce you to a parallel universe which values aesthetics and beauty rather than the violence of competitive chess.