Features | 23.06.06 | 16:00
Move Over Capablanca: Armenian scientist says he has solved 98-year-old chess riddle
Alexander Avetyan, 58, says it took him a week of hard mental labor to disprove the generally accepted opinion that the problem composed by the charismatic world champion Jose Raul Capablanca back in 1908 is unsolvable.
The only chess problem by Capablanca then had a solution offered by the Cuban himself, but half a century later it was proved that the solution was not correct, and it was generally admitted by the chessmen of the world. Many a chessman has tried to solve this problem since, to no avail.
In 1936, at an international tournament in Moscow Capablanca was asked why, as a virtuoso of chess endgames, he wouldn’t compose any more chess problems. “When I was still young I composed one so difficult that nobody could solve. Since then I lost interest in chess compositions, because I consider it useless to compose problems nobody will solve.”
Chess fans will understand the problem. For the uninitiated, it is enough to say that nearly a century has passed without a solution.
The position: WHITE: Kd3, Rb1, Ne3; BLACK: Ka4, Rh7, PAWNS IN c5, c6, f6, g6, g5, g4, g3. White to play and win. That the suggested solution consisted in more than 24 moves (the number of moves is unlimited) revealed the difficulty to solve it.
In 1965, famous Armenian master in compositions Henrik Gasparyan showed on pages of the Science and Engineering Journal of Moscow that Capablanca’s 13th move – Rook a7 was wrong, instead playing Rook g2 Black could achieve a draw.
Twelve years later, Capablanca’s solution was disproved at the earlier move – 6th , after which the black could still achieve a draw.
In his article “Error of the World Champion” (“Chess in the USSR” magazine, 1979) Soviet grandmaster Yuri Averbakh made a detailed analysis of the problem.
The position of Capablanca was later subjected to studies of analysts and specialists, who finally proved that the problem had no solution, which meant that “one could hardly expect that anyone will do that”.
In March of this year, ALM TV challenged its viewers to solve this puzzle – a dare, to solve what was seen as “unsolvable”.
But after spending many days and nights at a chess board with his Siamese cat Psto by his side, Avetyan finally cracked it. And when he did he did not know that it was unsolvable. “I think my mathematical skills and inquisitive mind helped me solve it,” says Avetyan, who worked at the Mergelyan Institute for many years.
He says that the main move was the knight’s move – that after 5th move (Knight c3), offered by Capablanca, the black would not lose. For that purpose one had to play Knight e7. And by this the Armenian chess fan in fact disproved that this problem has no solution.
He says that a computer analysis at the Chess House in Armenia proved that the suggested move solved the puzzle and the computer began to repeat all the moves of Avetyan after the crucial 5th move.
Khachik Artsruni, a chess writer for the Football Plus weekly who studied the solution offered by Avetyan and wrote an article about him, says: “The solution found by Avetyan is original and beautiful. And most importantly, no one has disproved it yet. Let’s hope it is the only and final one.”
Avetyan says that his solution, although was taken with great enthusiasm among representatives of the chess world in Armenia, still did not attract due attention from the Chess Federation.
The chess problem solver is now going to send a letter to FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and expects a different reaction from him. He says he wants to be recognized as the co-author of the Capablanca chess problem.