A computer-proof chess puzzle

Submitted by Juan on Thu, 03/23/2017 - 20:51
The Stockfish engine analyzing the position after 53 moves of depth

Even when it's well known nowadays the power of chess engines has left behind the human playing abilities by far, recently it appeared on the web a chess diagram that gets the attention from we all curious and chess players. The diagram is a puzzle proposed by the Penrose Institute and it's a clever way to prove how big is still the gap between computers (even despite of its greatest capacity to calculate variations) and human mind.

In the diagram we can see a position where computers analyzes and grants a victory for black because of its huge material advantage over white. For a human being this position is a draw at a glance. How is it possible?

The quick answer is that we know the draw is granted for white if he only moves the king along the board because of the 50 movements with no pawn moves or captures. Nevertheless, in the original article published by The Telegraph we can read that stalemate (and even a win after a black's blunder) is possible. So, can we solve this puzzle?

We should start by analyzing the circumstances under we can stalemate the white king on this position, and maybe take a reverse approach on it. How could we put the white king on c8, a black bishop on c7 and close the escape square on d7 with a queen (or even a rook)? What if we stalemate the king on b1 by limiting the access on diagonals with bishops and the c2 square with the queen? What variations can take us to these positions?

And that's how the creativity and common sense of humans can surpass the computer power to calculate millions of variations in a few seconds. There's no doubt it's a good chance to sit down with your chess board and a cup of coffee, and try to unveil the mystery.