Bulletin No.41 – Christmas Puzzles and Quiz – ANSWERS

Bulletin No.41 – Christmas Puzzles and Quiz – ANSWERS

Photo by Photo by Kgbo (Wikimedia) CC BY-SA 4.0

How did you get on with our Christmas Puzzles and Quiz?

Answers to all 24 brain challenges are below.

A. Six Christmas Tree Chess Puzzles

It wouldn’t be Christmas without these!

1. Warm Up – What is the best move if it is White to move and also if it is Black’s move? Very Easy!


White to move 1.Nxc4#
Black to move 1…Qg8#

2. A bit more difficult but it should still take no more than a minute. It is White to move and mate in 2.



1…e3 2.Rxe3#
1…c3 or 1…g3  2.Ra5#

3. Now it starts to get serious! – White to move and mate in 2



1…d4 2.Qxd4#
1…Kxc3 2.Qa3#
1…Kxe3 2.Qg3#

4. Even trickier – Benko was famous for his puzzles. White to move and mate in 2.


1.Qc5! threatening 2.Qxd5#

1…Rxc5 2.Nd4#
1…dxc5 2.Re5#
1…Rd4 2.Nxd4# or 2.Qc8#
1…Kxf5 2.Qxd5#

5. This is possibly the hardest mate in 2 problem. It’s Black to move and mate in 2!


The key to this puzzle is to work out White’s last move and then realise there are only 2 legal ones.

If White has just played 1.c4 (from  c2) then 1…bxc3 followed by 2…c2#
If White has just played 1.e4 (from  e2) then 1…fxe3 followed by 2…e2#

6. And all mates in 3 are harder still. It’s White to move and mate in 3.



1…Kxb6 2.c8=R! Ka6 3.Rc6# (The point of the puzzle is that 2.c8=Q is stalemate)
1…Kc5 2.c8=Q Kxb6 3.c5#
1…Kd7 2.c8=Q#

B. Six Christmas Catchphrases

This game is often played around the Festive season!

Name the Six Famous Chess Players – ok, four are only famous to us locals!


Answer = Toe Knee Smiles i.e. Tony Miles

1. Very Easy – A good warm up

Answer – Mike Waddington (as opposed to Mike Boddingtons!)

2. Easy

Answer – John Nunn (John Lennon Nun)

3. Easy

Answer – Mike Jay (nothing more to say!)

4. Slightly Challenging

Answer – Michael Adams (Mike-Ale Addams)

5. Getting Harder

Answer – Barry Jolly (Bar-Ray Jolly)

6. Challenging

Answer – Paul Errington (Pool Hair-Inn-Tonne)

C. Six Unusual Trivia yet Interesting Quiz Questions

Guess the player or event – Ideal for Christmas!

Q1. Which ex British Chess Champion has appeared on Gogglebox?

a) Bill Hartston
b) Ray Keene
c) Jon Speelman
d) Nigel Short

Answer – a) Bill Hartston. He is known for appearing with a friend, drinking wine, with the backdrop being a large nude painting.

Q2. Which person connects the British Chess Championship to Stephen Hawking?

a) Nigel Lawson
b) Leonard Barden
c) Roger Penrose
d) James Dyson

Answer – c) Roger Penrose. Roger is the brother of Jonathan Penrose, the multi-time British Champion. After Hawking completed his PhD, his first papers on black holes were written jointly with Roger. In 2020 Roger received the nobel prize for this and other work.

Q3. Which British Champion co-wrote “The Mating Game”?

a) Bill Hartston
b) Ray Keene
c) Jonathan Rowson
d) Jovanka Houska

Answer – d) Jovanka Houska. This is not a chess book per se but rather a romantic thriller set around chess tournaments. According to some it is excellent with good plot twists (most Amazon reviews) or awful and contrived (most Goodreads reviews). Here is a little taster “He holds the tee-shirt up against himself and glances at me. Now I am only about six feet from him. He has beautiful, grey, bedroom eyes.” Perhaps we had better stop there!

Q4.Which British Champion won £250,000 on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

a) Jim Plaskett
b) Julian Hodgson
c) William Watson
d) Matthew Sadler

Answer – a) Jim Plaskett. It took Jim four attempts to get in the chair but he cashed in once he was there.

Q5. It is well known that Lennox Lewis and the Klitscho brothers are amateur chess players.
But which world chess champ was an amateur boxer?

a) Alexander Alekhine
b) Max Euwe
c) Michael Botvinnik
d) Boris Spassky

Answer – b) Max Euwe. Apparently he liked to keep fit in general and was a proficient boxer.  Perhaps he would have been interested in Chess-Boxing!

Q6. In which town or city has a strong Xmas Open been held from 26th to 30th December every year since 1977?

a) Wijk aan Zee
b) Zurich
c) Hastings
d) Riga

Answer – b) Zurich.  The tournament still went ahead in 2020 but on the internet.

D. Six Tricky Non-Christmas-Tree Festive Puzzles!

Perfect to challenge the mind after a heavy Xmas lunch!

1. Black is about to promote any one of his/her 8 pawns and win but it is White to move and mate in 2.



Whichever pawn moves (except the c-pawn) the bishop goes to the same file e.g.
1…a1=Q Ba6#, 1…f1=Q Bf5# etc

1…c1=Q B anywhere mate.  The knight had to block the c-file as the bishop cannot do that.   So 1.Na6? and 1.Nd7? fail to c1=Q/R

1…Kg8 Be6#

2. Isn’t White losing? White to play and win.

Answer (this was a tough one)

1.Rc8+ Rxc8
2.Qxa7+! Kxa7
3.bxc8=N+! and White captures the black queen, leaving a winning endgame.

If 1…Kxb7 then 2.Rxd8 wins but not 2.Qxd8?? Qe1#

3. Other than the squares they are on what is the difference between these two positions? (Martin likes this one!)


The first diagram is legal and White’s last move was h8=B# or gxh8=B#.
The second diagram is illegal as no previous White move could have brought about this position.

4. Isn’t Black easily winning? White to play and draw (Peter likes this one! It is his favourite of the year!)


1. Kc8! b5
2. Kd7!! White goes back from whence he came 2…b4 this may look like a hopeless chase but..
3. Kd6 Bf5
4. Ke5 White picks up a vital tempo on the bishop 4…Bc8
5. Kd4= White has lured the pawn forward and now will capture it

2… Bf5+ 3. Kd6 Bc8 (3… b4 transposes to the mainline) 4.Kc5 Ba6 5. c8=Q Bxc8 6. Kxb5=

4… b3 5. Kxf5 b2 6. c8=Q b1=Q+ =

1. Kd6? Bf5 2. Kc5 Ke4 3. Kb6 Bc8 -/+
1. Ke6? Ke4 -/+
1. c8=Q? Bf5+ 2. Kc7 Bxc8 -/+
3.Ke6? Ke4 -/+

Click here to see the solution on an interactive board.

5. All of White’s chess pieces and pawns are on the board and only 2 of Black’s but can White stop Black mating with …Bxc7? It’s White to play and draw.

Once White has secured the draw, how does Black then avoid losing?


The key to this is to be able to safely play Re5 to free the b5 square for the knight on a3.   To do that White must clear a path for the queen to h2.  So…

1. Bh2 Bxh2
2. g3 Bxg3
3. Rf4 Bxf4
4. d6 Bxd6
5. Qh2 (providing an  X-ray defence of c7 and dragging the bishop back to the right side of e5 so the rook can block it) 5…Bxh2
6. Re5 Bxe5

White has avoided being mated and now Black must find the draw

7…Bh2/g3/f4 (other bishop moves lose)
8. f6 (forced) Bxc7+
9. Nxc7 stalemate.

Click here to see the solution on an interactive board.

6. This one looks drawn but how does White break through? It’s White to play and win!

Interestingly, chess engines cannot solve this problem straight away!


The idea is to organise a break on the queenside to drag the black king in that direction and then organise another break on the kingside.  White can always queen in sufficient time to win.  There is only one initial move that wins.

This is quite a long solution, so we recommend you click here to see the solution, including variations, on an interactive board.

For those of you that like to follow it all in your head we give just the mainline below.

1. d5! exd5
2. exd5 cxd5
3. a5! bxa5
4. b5 axb5
5.cxb5 Ke8
6. b6 Kd7
7. g5 fxg5
8. h5 gxh5
9. f5 a4
10. b7 Kc7
11. b8=Q+ To gain a tempo when queening on f8      11…Kxb8
12. f6 a3
13. f7 a2
14. f8=Q+ and White will mop up the pawns to win

We hope you enjoyed the puzzles and are sure that Santa will have been very impressed with scores of 18 or more!