Five sets of answers were received by the deadline of 3 January, although one (Stephen Lewis) had only provided three answers. He did find the answer to the fourth one, but three days too late!
So that leaves four contenders for the prize, in alphabetical order: Nathan Barnes, Chris Chambers, Kevin Greenacre and Steve Lovell.
All four provided correct answers, but only one person had them absolutely correct. For the winner, see the foot of this article.
Here are the answers:
||From this position (left), the moves were: 1… Ne5+, 2. g4 fxg3 3. Kxe5, which gives us the position in the problem (right):||
||There appear to be two possible alternatives for White’s last move: e4 and c4. As all eight black pawns are still on the board, they can only have reached the given position by making at least ten captures. As there are only six white pieces remaining, all the captures of white pieces must have been made by the black pawns. White’s f1 bishop cannot have been taken on its starting square by a black pawn, so it must have been allowed to move. This would only be possible by the e-pawn having moved some time before. Therefore the only move is c4, with mate following by bxc3 abd c2.|
||This was the easiest of the four puzzles, and everyone got it right. 1. Qd6, maintaining the symmetry. If the Black king takes a pawn, then Qa3 or Qg3. If …d4, then Qxd4.|
||Whilst everyone found the correct answer, only one person had it exactly right. Black’s last move must have been g7-g5. It couldn’t have been g6-g5, or Kg7-h6, as checks would’ve been involved. Steve Lovell said the only two-move mate would be if the last Black move was g7-g5. Kevin Greenacre said that he ‘thought’ Black’s last move was g7-g5. Nathan Barnes thought the previous Black move was one of three possibles.
So, after Black played g7-g5, White took en passant hxg6. After Black’s only move Kh5, Rxh7 is mate.
That leaves just one person, Chris Chambers (who appreciated that g7-g5 had to be the last Black move). Chris wins the book prize!
For those who don’t know Chris, he was a strong player back in the ’80s, who left chess to concentrate on the game of Bridge. Now to find out where he lives…