As long as we are discussing old chess problems, here is one I found in American Chess Bulletin, August, 1913, page 190.


The caption says: Problem No. 871, - By Joseph Ney Babson, "The Wandering Jew". With regards to Otto Blathy.

Black - 11 pieces
White - 8 pieces.

White mates in 131 moves.

White to Play and Mate in 131 Moves

"Problem No. 871 has several pretty and ingeniously concealed ideas. One variation will suffice, in case the weather is warm. Take it with you on vacation - 'twill prove restful."

Unfortunately, I do not know the solution. I was able to find the September 1913 issue of American Chess Bulletin in the Mechanics Institute Library in San Francisco, but the page with the solution to this problem had been cut out with a razor blade.

Apparently, somebody before me also wanted the solution.

I have not been able to find old issues of the American Chess Bulletin anywhere else.

I believe that I have the solution, or at least the idea on which the solution is based: White forces the black king to b8 with 1. Qc5+ Kd8 2. Qd4+ Kc8 3. Qd7+ Kb8 4. Qd8+ Ka7 5. Qb6+ Kb8 .

Now, White has time for a free move and plays 6. Kc1. Black must respond with 6. ... Kc8 because the only other reasonable move is 6. ... Ka7 which allows 7. Qd8 mate.

After Black plays 6. ... Kc8, the cycle is repeated. White must play 7. Qc5+ because otherwise black will next play Qb8 and his queen will get out winning.

After White plays 7. Qc5+ the cycle is repeated with 7. Qc5+ Kd8 8. Qd4+ Kc8 9. Qd7+ Kb8 10. Qd8+ Ka7 11. Qb6+ Kb8 . Again, White has a free move and plays 12. Kb2.

This cycle continues as White captures the pawns on b4, b5, h5 and f5. However, white must be careful. In crossing his king to capture the pawns on h5 and f5, he cannot cross a black square, because then black would play Qa7 pinning the white queen and winning.

Therefore, White must follow the circuitous route of K-b3-b4-c4-d3-e2-f3-g2-h3-h4-h5-g5-f5, each of these moves being interspaced by the five move checking cycle above.

After capturing these pawns, White retreats his king and moves his pawns up to h5 and f5. He then pushes h6. Black presumably captures with gxh6 and White pushes the other pawn with f6. Black captures with exf6 and now White pushes with g7 forcing a queen.

Since each of these moves involves a five move cycle between them, we have 15 king moves, 3 h-pawn moves and 2 f-pawn moves times 6 for 120 moves.

To prolong the game to 131 moves, I believe that Black does not capture the h-pawn with gxh6. Instead the pawn marches to h7 and queens on h8, with a further 5 move cycle in between each move. Finally, white mates with Qxf8.

This works out to just about exactly 131 moves, although I suspect that there is still more to this problem.

What I find remarkable is that I did not find this when I first looked at it in June, 1996, almost two years ago, but found it easily just now. Perhaps I have been sleeping on this problem since then.


By the way, the reason that I happen to have this issue of American Chess Bulletin is that Judge Michael Gamble, a crooked judge in Amherst County, Virginia, ordered that all of my old personal papers and records "be deposited in a waste disposal site." As a result, all of my old chess magazines, books, games and records were to be consigned to the trash dump. However, somebody named Joe Buck in Madison Heights, Virginia salvaged part of them and sold them to the Haunted House Book Store in Lynchburg, Virginia. When I went to that bookstore, I found my old chess books for sale there. I was able to buy back several of my old issues of American Chess Bulletin. Other items, such as my complete set of Chess Informants, I could not afford to buy back. I was also able to salvage several old issues of the Virginia Chess News Roundup from the 1950s, some of them edited by none other than Claude F. Bloodgood III. Other issues of that publication, of which I may have had one of the few surviving copies, have been lost forever.

The e-mail address of the Haunted House Bookstore in Lynchburg is The proprietor is Walt Carey. However, I believe that by now he has probably sold all or most of my good or rare old stuff.

Sam Sloan

Here is someone who got this problem from my site, plus he has five other problems.

Here are links:
Sam Sloan's Chess Page

My Home Page

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