After nine of the 11 rounds in the $325,000 Sinquefield Cup at St Louis, the world champion Magnus Carlsen had drawn every game and lamented his inability to create positions with winning potential. The Norwegian finally won in round 10, but his recent vintage play was missing.

Overall, halved results averaged more than 80 per cent, and this in a tournament where agreed draws were forbidden. The grandmasters sidestepped the rule by repetition of moves and position, exchanging off all the pieces and pawns down to bare kings or, in the inventive case of Sergey Karjakin versus Carlsen, creating a stalemate draw with 10 men still on the board.

The prestige event, sponsored by billionaire FT reader Rex Sinquefield, still had a significant positive. China’s Ding Liren defended brilliantly against Carlsen, outplayed America’s No1 Fabiano Caruana, and boosted his credentials for a world title match.


Philip Williams is an unknown today, but in his lifetime the problemist had a large fan club who enjoyed his offbeat compositions. This 1908 puzzle has a striking piece arrangement. The middle 6x6 squares are empty, and both armies have congregated in the corners. White is ahead queen and rook for a pawn, yet needs care because the obvious 1 Rxh2?? and 1 Qc7?? give a stalemate draw. White can instead force checkmate in three moves, and there is just a single line of play. Can you work it out?

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