[FEN "8/8/8/6pp/6pk/R7/6KP/8 w - - 0 1"]

1. Rh3+ gxh3+ 2. Kf3 g4+ 3. Kf4 g3 4. hxg3# 1-0

What is the source of this simple chess problem (White to mate in four) which somebody showed me at a chess club 50 or 60 years ago?

I suspect it's from the very early days of chess because it's so simple (no variations), and because of the unfashionable checking key, and because it involves only moves which have never changed in the history of chess (no queens or bishops or double-step pawn moves).

I tried searching the Meson Chess Problem Database and Yet Another Chess Problem Database without success, not sure I did it right.

  • 5
    Google finds lots of uncredited instances of this problem, but the closest so far to a source is chessgames.com/~phony+benoni?kpage=13 which shows a related study (S.Gruber, 1932 = Chernev's Chessboard Magic #11) and says that the Rh3+ problem itself is "a famous problem supposedly composed by Akiba Rubinstein." – Noam D. Elkies Jan 13 '16 at 6:38
  • @NoamD.Elkies Thanks! Not as old as I thought, then. Uh, how do you Google a chess position? – bof Jan 13 '16 at 6:49
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    @bof you're welcome. I didn't Google the position directly, instead asking for the distinctive move sequence "Rh3+ gxh3+". I agree that I'd have expected the position to be considerably older, and wouldn't even be surprised to learn that it's a "mansuba" that predates the modern rules of chess (because it uses only moves that existed in Shatranj [medieval chess]) – Noam D. Elkies Jan 14 '16 at 5:53

PDB attributes it to Francisco Javier Marquez de Burgos, and cites it as El Museo Universal, 17 Mar 1867, p.88, no. 74.

In his blog Open chess Diary, Tim Krabbé quoted this problem in his entry "The Ponziani Mate", which may be found on this web page. (Unfortunately, the individual blog entries do not have individual URLs.) He quotes a problem by Ponziani, published in 1769, which shows a similar idea, though in a heavier setting, and without the initial rook-sacrifice.


I happened to find the position in an old book: on page 87 of "The Basis of Combination in Chess" by J. du Mont. The diagram is shown with the names "Rubinstein vs N.", without date and place. Probably a game in a simultaneous exhibition. The book was first published in 1938 and Dover reprinted it in 1978.

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