Your friends Mark and Joe love playing all sorts of games. Board games, card games, modern games and classics, they played them all. One day when you were visiting them, they pulled out a chess board, and Joe said "We're going to show you something that will always guarantee a win!" He and Mark proceeded to play what appeared to be a well rehearsed game of Chess.

You studiously took notes as they played, trying to learn from the best. But as far as you could tell, there was no real strategy behind their moves. They kept making silly mistakes and obvious blunders, yet neither of them managed to reach check-mate. Then, after just 20 moves each, they came to a sudden stop. The game wasn't over - neither of the pieces were in check, much less check-mate.

You asked Mark how that was a guarantee win chess strategy, and he gave you a funny look, then said "We've shown you what you need to guarantee a win. With that, you don't need much of a strategy."

Now you're trying to figure out just what Mark and Joe were trying to show you. Here's the record of moves from their match:

1.  a4    a5 
2.  Ra3   Ra6 
3.  h3    e5 
4.  g4    d6 
5.  e4    Be7 
6.  d4    Bxg4 
7.  f3    Bg5 
8.  Rc3   Nc6 
9.  Be2   Bh4+ 
10. Kd2   Bxf3 
11. b3    Bf2 
12. Re3   Nh6 
13. c4    Qg5 
14. Ba3   f5 
15. d5    Rf8 
16. Kc2   Qg3 
17. Bd3   Rf6 
18. Re1   Bxd1 
19. Rxd1  Bd4 
20. Ne2   Ng4

What was the message that they were trying to give you?
You'll know the 2-word answer when you find it!

Slightly embarrassed, Mark walks up to you. "Joe and I made a mistake when we first gave you the puzzle. Here's an updated list of the required moves... Oh, and when you find the three seas, you should replace them with one cat with a full nibble and an empty nibble. You should know what that means when you get there."

Thanks to Tas for providing a GIF playthrough of the game described above: Updated GIF of the game

Hint 1:

Still musing over what the puzzle could mean, you ask Joe for some advice. He responds "We all have somewhere we've come from and somewhere we're going, but neither of those matter if you don't live in the present."
"Not life advice, advice about the puzzle you gave me!"
Joe gives you the same funny look that Mark gave you earlier and says "That is what I gave you, isn't it?"

Hint 2:

Mark is somewhat surprised that you haven't figured out what the game was trying to tell you yet, but informs you: "There may have been many games that contained the same information, but only 4 starting moves could have created the exact same message."

Hint 3:

You go to another friend, Bob, for some advice with the puzzle. It turns out, Mark and Joe already told him the answer! Bob responds, "You could ask me for help, but it wouldn't quite be what you need to solve this."

Hint 4:

With the GIF provided, you don't really need to know anything about chess. You don't need to know the names of pieces, the conventions for naming squares, the goal of the game, or even whether each move is valid.

Hint 5:

"You still haven't figured it out? Perhaps we should switch to a nice game of Catan instead? Or maybe try Gliński's Chess?"

Hint 6:

Mark and Joe are well known for developing a unique code for representing special characters.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Can you please provide a PGN of the game? $\endgroup$ – prog_SAHIL Nov 16 '17 at 1:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The game on lichess.org. $\endgroup$ – Sleafar Nov 16 '17 at 10:39
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I highly suspect that this is some message coded in binary. $\endgroup$ – padawan Nov 22 '17 at 16:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @padawan You may be on to something there ;) $\endgroup$ – DqwertyC Nov 22 '17 at 17:08
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The most "obvious" way to get binary out of the moves here is to look at the colours of the squares involved. (Note that this would fit well with hint 2; there are exactly four W->W moves available to white at the start of the game.) Well, those colours are certainly interesting but their patterns are so regular that it's hard to believe there's enough in them to get two words out of. Moves 1,2, 5,6, 9,10, 13,14, 17,18 are all WW BB; BB WW. Moves 3, 7, 11, 15 are all BW BB. The multiple-of-four moves, on the other hand, actually vary :-). $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Nov 22 '17 at 17:40

I think the intended answer is


If we take

the squares involved in all the moves, in their order of appearance, and turn them into bits (white=0, black=1) and group them in 16s, then we get 3CB1 3CBE 3CBD 3CBB 3CBA.

If we then

turn each 3C ("three seas") into 1F0 ("one cat with a full nibble and an empty nibble")

then what we get are

the Unicode characters denoting the ace, king, queen, jack and 10 of hearts.

This is

a royal flush, the highest possible hand in poker (unless you play with jokers, in which case I think five-of-a-kind outranks it). The Wikipedia "royal flush" page claims that those cards specifically in hearts are what constitute a royal flush, but other places I've looked don't seem to agree.

This will indeed more or less guarantee a win, but

of course not in chess. (But the puzzle does say that Mark and Joe play all sorts of other games.)

  • $\begingroup$ This finally proves, that hints 1, 3 and (arguably) 5 were totally misleading instead of helpful. $\endgroup$ – Sleafar Nov 28 '17 at 20:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I still don't really understand hint 1. Hint 3 is saying "you want something like ASCII but ASCII itself isn't quite right". Hint 5 is saying "think hex". I don't think they're that bad. $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Nov 28 '17 at 20:59
  • $\begingroup$ Hint 1 was trying to get you to look at starting/ending tiles for each move. Spot on for what hints 3 and 5 meant though. $\endgroup$ – DqwertyC Nov 28 '17 at 21:24
  • $\begingroup$ The starting/ending bit was clear; it was the "neither of those matter if you don't live in the present" that I couldn't make much of. $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Nov 28 '17 at 21:31

Partial solution

If we write down the first four moves in a different way, there is a pattern. We write the game as two lines. First line, we only write the letters of the squares, then we write the numbers. We skip the piece letters as Rook.

This gives us

aaaahegd 45363546

which is

the only possible sequence of these letters and number is the game on the board.

Thus, my guess is

First word is AHEAD

and the way I reach it

is somewhat stupid. Start from 6, end at the other 6. However, AHEGD does not mean anything, so change 4 with its previous occurance, which is A.

Why I think this?

Because of the first hint that says "We all have somewhere we've come from and somewhere we're going, but neither of those matter if you don't live in the present."

So, the answer should be something like

Ahead planning

Also, based on the comment,

I have realized that all the pieces except the white rook moves always forward.

  • $\begingroup$ An interesting take on the puzzle, but not quite. As an additional hint, now that a GIF is provided, you don't need to know the names of the pieces or the squares to be able to solve the puzzle :) $\endgroup$ – DqwertyC Nov 21 '17 at 21:46
  • $\begingroup$ Black's 19th move, Bxd4+, is not a forward move. $\endgroup$ – Herb Wolfe Nov 21 '17 at 22:52
  • $\begingroup$ Only one piece were captured by white.for the whole game. $\endgroup$ – maxasela Nov 25 '17 at 2:37

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