Here is a game I've recently played with my 6-year-old nephew. I am the black pieces.

My last move was Bxf3.

I emphasize on this because of those of you who are thinking about 50 move rule :)

enter image description here

As you can see, I have an unstoppable mate (Qg2#).

It's white's move. My nephew asked me a question. I gave an answer. And then he saved the game.

  1. What was his question?
  2. What was my answer?
  3. How did he manage to avoid mate?

Here is the FEN string of the game:

8/kPR5/ppB1p3/3p4/1p5P/5bPq/5P2/6K1 w - - 0 1


The question was about the rules of the game.

Apparently, I had to take the accept back

because even though

Gareth McCaughan found the move to save the white's game, the questions are not yet correct.

Here are some more hints.

Hint 2:

I am around my thirties and yes, we played this game recently. Not hundreds of years ago.

Hint 3:

I did not try to make an exception for my nephew. My aim was to win the game.

Hint 4:

The question he asked was seemingly a very simple question about the current rules of the game.

Also, him being 6-year-old is slightly relevant because children are able to think outside the box more than adults intuitively.

  • $\begingroup$ you don't really have an unstoppable mate in one, but an eventual mate in 5, there is no way white can save themself if black plays correctly $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 20:53
  • $\begingroup$ @micsthepick You're right. It is not mate in one, but the next move white does not check, black checkmates. However, my nephew was able to save this game! $\endgroup$
    – padawan
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 21:00
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Your definition of "Recently" really varies with mine if Gareth's answer is correct $\endgroup$
    – Sid
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 21:15
  • $\begingroup$ Also, the "6-year-old" part is puzzling me a bit... $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 6:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The game was going on with the cırrent rules. But then he asked "what happens if a pawn reaches 8th rank?" and the a answer is "it can become any piece." It is not necessarily because of a loophole of old rules, but a loophole in my answer. $\endgroup$
    – padawan
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 19:50

5 Answers 5


Cheaty solution

Once upon a time, the rules of chess

failed to specify that when you promote a pawn it must become a piece of your colour.

With these rules, White can

play b8=N# -- if it's a black knight.

(The rules were fixed some time ago.)

As for the three questions: perhaps the answers are:

1. "If I promote my pawn, does it have to be to a white piece?" 2. "Nope." 3. By promoting to a black piece and thus delivering checkmate. Too bad your answer was factually wrong, though.


1. "Can I promote my pawn to a black piece?" 2. "Oh, all right, go on then." This makes your nephew's move (arguably) not cheating but exploiting a deliberately-granted loophole.

... Of course, after this happens there should be four questions, beginning with "Why is this knight unlike all other knights?".

[EDITED to add:] Apparently OP is unsatisfied with my answers above. I worry that this is getting into what-am-I-thinking territory, but here's another try. (It still involves white doing something that's not actually permitted according to the current game rules. I don't think there's any avoiding that.)

1. "Doesn't something special happen when my pawn gets to the eighth rank?" 2. "Yes, you can replace it with any other piece." 3. (As before.)

  • $\begingroup$ Exactly! I'm really surprised you found the answer that quick. $\endgroup$
    – padawan
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 21:11
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ But but... That's cheating. :O $\endgroup$
    – Sid
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 21:11
  • $\begingroup$ Can you answer all three questions as well? $\endgroup$
    – padawan
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 21:12
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Yup. @padawan, there's a famous puzzle along the same lines (set before the rule change). See here where you will probably enjoy the castling problem presented alongside it. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 21:13
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ A more likely question would have been "How does pawn promoting work, again?", with OP forgetting to mention the bit about the piece color. Kurt Richter's "chess short stories" book ("Shakkitarinoita" in Finnish, the original is probably "Kurzgeschichten Um Schachfiguren", published in 1955) has a series of problems, each one only solvable under the given particular misstatement of the promotion rule. The problems deal, IIRC, with omitting these bits: when a pawn enters the last rank, it must be immediately promoted to a different piece of the same color, but not a king. $\endgroup$
    – Bass
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 7:44

Are these the correct answers?

  1. What was his question?

Can we swap sides?

  1. What was my answer?

Yes! (Because that's what good uncles do)

  1. How did he manage to avoid mate?

Because he changed side, and thus was the one who caused the checkmate

  • $\begingroup$ Good one! But that is not it. $\endgroup$
    – padawan
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 21:06
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @padawan In what way does this answer not satisfy the requirements in your question? Given that you've tagged it "lateral-thinking", asserting that there is One True Answer is a little bit silly. $\endgroup$
    – Sneftel
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 14:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Sneftel: Fair argument about the One True Answer, but rewriting the premise of the puzzle defeats the purpose of posing a puzzle in the first place. Similarly, performing a move that's not allowed in chess (and simply having the OP allow his nephew to do so) would "win" him the game, but makes the situation meaningless as a puzzle. $\endgroup$
    – Flater
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 17:40

His question could have been

Can the pawn become any piece

but seems like this is not the answer, as described in the hints it is not a current rule.

Instead, a possible question could have been

Can a king capture the other king,


If your nephew understands that he can choose any piece, attempts to exploit a loophole in the rules disallowing your king to move onto his second king

  • $\begingroup$ Yes, all three are correct :) And the second alternative question is very clever too! $\endgroup$
    – padawan
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 11:57
  • $\begingroup$ A king can capture a king. This is why you're never allowed to put yours next to the opponent's (because he would legally capture your king with his king). Secondly, that also invalidates making the piece into a second king, since it's a move that allows the opponent to capture your king on his turn (which is explicitly disallowed by the rules) Thirdly, we'd need to define how the rules work for a second king (do you need to lose both to lose the game, or one of them?), which simply has not been established and you can't make a guarantedd play based off of an undecided rule. $\endgroup$
    – Flater
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 17:43

is this the answer? Spoiler.

Before some time a ago,(i cant remember the exact time),chess rules were that you can get any piece when you queening a pawn,of course except additional king or a pawn.note that it mentioned any piece without king or pawn.if then,he might be able to get a black knight.if he promoted the pawn to a black knight you are mate !.


Or if black plays slightly inaccurately you will be able to avoid mate, just go b8# Kxb8 Rb7# Ka8 (Kc8 is better) Rf7# Kb8 Rxf3, then immediate check mate is avoided, although not in the long term obviously.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Puzzling! Why don't you take the tour and earn your first badge? In my opinion, this isn't avoiding mate (as it still could happen), but others may disagree. $\endgroup$
    – boboquack
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 2:25

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