There was a bank row?
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 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.
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.
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.
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.