Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Chakirah, Jblogs and Chess

Back in my Yeshiva days, it was always a challenge to see both sides of an issue. My innate sense of right and wrong, black and white, always picked the one side of an argument that was most amicable with my world-view. Rare was the time that I was truly able to see both sides of the issue.

There have been some rumblings as of late as to whether Chareidi news web sites should remove their commenting feature. On the one hand, they offer the community a way to voice their concerns and they increase revenue for site owners who can charge per hit. On the other hand, they are unfortunately very difficult to control with regard to slanderous speech.

I am happy to report that the main objective of running this blog was an experiment to see if a Jblog can actually run free from Loshon Hora. So far we have been successful.

This snippet of a chess position comes from an actual game played some 70 years ago. White moves north and the pawn at B7 can Queen. However, the ingenious player realized that Queening will not help, as Black will simply capture the Queen. Quoting from the rule book, that a player may promote to any piece (other than a King), White chose to underpromote to a Black Knight! Check Mate!

The judges ruled that he was correct, but quickly changed the rule going forward that one may only promote to a piece of his own color.

Now for the Chakirah. Suppose we have the following position (before the rule change) and it is given that it is Black’s move and he has never moved his King. Can Black castle?

The astute reader will realize that the only possible move for White was a pawn from A7 or B7 promoting to a Black Rook at A8. The rules of castling are pretty clear. One may castle if the King, and the Rook towards which it is castling with, has not moved. So has this Rook “moved” or not? Please respond in the comments.

Hat Tip: Prof. Ray Smullyan


  1. I hear you. Do you say that the rook moved, since the original rook obviously moved, or do you say the the new rook never moved, hence castling is permitted. Very clever. What would be if white promoted a pawn from b7 to b8? According to the position that it is a new "briah", black would still be able to castle. Is this professor Jewish?

  2. How about if he promoted a pawn at C8? Would he then be able to castel?

  3. No. The rules of castling state: "Castling consists of moving the king two squares towards a rook, then placing the rook on the other side of the king, adjacent to it."

    If the rook promotes on C8, the king is unable to make the initial "move".

    Incidentally, the reason why the king must move first, is because of ambiguity. Let's say that black picks up his rook and moves it to C8. Is his move over? Perhaps he is in the middle of castling. So the question for B8 is a great question, but C8 is not.


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