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There was a bank row?

by Frederic Friedel - 17/09/2023

Frederic Friedel, the co-founder of ChessBase and the man who has written thousands of chess articles, says, "My readers, and all my friends in the chess world, know that I am fond of puzzles. I keep giving the most talented chess players non-chess problems to solve, and they keep coming back for more." In this article Frederic torments one of his 2600+ friends with a particularly tough puzzle. Warning: you have to think outside the box. The reactions, like that of 2750-Gukesh, are priceless.

A puzzle that stumped Leon and Gukesh

By Frederic Friedel


Recently I had one of my favourite guests over. Leon Mendonca (pronounced Men-don-SA, incidentally) and his father Lyndon stayed with us for a week, and we had such a great time – playing Wordle, Geoguessr, with the kid joining basketball matches at the local school. During such visits we have long and interesting non-chess conversations, and Leon, like many other super-talents, has been confronted with a large number of my logical pranks. But this time I had a different kind of puzzle for him.

Leon Mendonca recorded a video course for ChessBase on Nf3 and e3 (Keymer Variation)

Leon knows that I spent part of my early childhood in a hill station resort in Lonavala, India (my German father had set up a herpetological research laboratory in the jungles surrounding the town). Many British families lived in the villas in Lonavala, and we had friends close by – the family O'Connell.

Frederic and Ingrid, who live in Hamburg, Germany, were in Lonavla in 2016. Here they are with the girl in the jungle Dipalee

Here's the puzzle I gave Leon and his father.

My English aunt Rosie O'Connell, living in the villa in Lonavala, often used to say "There was a bank row". To whom and why?

Leon and Lyndon could not work it out, and after a few days gave up. So I told them the solution, and had the boy rolling on the floor in laughter. After that, I said "There was a bank row" a number of times to him, and he complied! That's a hint.

Little Leon has been travelling with his father to tournaments since his early days in chess. The boy has now grown up, begun travelling alone and is moving very quickly towards the 2700 mark

Naturally I gave the problem to my usual customers, 2600+ and stronger super-talents. One was Gukesh, who to my delight has now, at the age of 17, climbed into the world's top ten bracket. He could not solve it, so I instructed Leon to give him the puzzle again while they were playing in the Turkish League. And he could give him the solution – under one condition: he must film Gukesh's reaction. With a little help, Gukesh actually solved the puzzle in their hotel room.

Gukesh's reaction after getting to know the answer!

Okay, what is the solution already? Well, I'm not going to tell you now. I will do it in a few days. Mind you, the vast majority of non-Indian readers don't have the slightest chance to work it out! However, the Indian readers will probably react the same way Leon and Gukesh did. I will do that with a wonderful 2700+ video very soon.

About the author

Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.

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