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Did the dead man really give a checkmate?

Libor Havlíček st. | May 17, 2011 – 10:454 Comments | 1,965 views
Did the dead man really give a checkmate?

In Paris, after the World War I, many people suffered from hunger. Unemployed chess players were the ones, who suffered the most. They were very excited to visit a salon of a famous chess patron, who supported well-known French grand masters in form of high financial bets on the chess games they played against him.

One day this millionaire decided to visit dirty streets of Paris and played here against a poor champion, loosing on purpose. This was his way of helping him financially. After a while, he got tired and wanted to play against somebody else, therefore he made an offer: “Let’s play our last game. If you are able to give me a checkmate with white pieces in 20 moves, I give you 10 thousand francs. If not, you won’t get anything and our playing is over.”

The game was very intense. This was a one-time life chance for the poor chess champion. He was breathing hard, his face turned red and he was even suffocating.  In the move of the white player, the champion picked up a piece with a big effort, put it down on the chess board and shouted: “Checkmate”!  As a result of this huge pressure and lack of oxygen in his lungs, he immediately suffered a heart attack and fell dead on the ground.

After a while, when the dead body was removed and piece came back into place, the family of the dead champion came in and requested the winning of 10 thousand francs. There were many witnesses who saw the chess position at the moment of the death; however, nobody was able to remember the position of the black king. They rearranged this position:


The descendants of the chess master insisted on the winning. The patron however claimed that there was no checkmate, since the position of the back kings stayed unknown and there was no visible checkmate – wherever you put the black king, there was no checkmate. At the same time he announced, that if anyone would be able to show him the checkmate, he would accept the defeat and pay the winnings to the descendants.

Many more days passed by. After some time, one chess magazine published an article saying, that the family of the dead chess champion grew rich, as they received 10 thousand francs.

This is how this story became a part of literature and chess history. That’s how I was able to read about it in a chess book. Well, now we have to find out the solution of this famous chess problem…

Click here for the solution.

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