It was two days before Christmas at the North Pole and Santa had just returned from kibitzing at the European Rapid Chess Championship in Warsaw. The elves had worked well in his absence and he was looking forward to a trouble-free Christmas Eve when he noticed a black cloud approaching.
As it drew nearer he could see that it wasn't a cloud at all, but the Wicked Witch of the West riding her broomstick at the head of a phalanx of evil goblins.
Santa shook his head in frustration. Hadn't she learned last time they met that he could match her—magic for magic, trickery for trickery? Had it only been three years since they had played a chess game at odds, with Christmas as the prize? Resigned to further unpleasantness, he stood at the gates of Santaland
Why have you come, Philomena?” he asked, for that was her name. “Your magic will no longer work against Christmas since you lost your power in our chess game. What evil can you hope to accomplish without it?”
I want the return of my power,” she snarled, and so angry was she that spittle flew like venom from her lips as she spoke. “I lost it in a chess game and I can get it back the same way, by defeating you. I've come for a rematch”
And these are your Seconds, no doubt,” Santa said, nodding toward the goblins.
This is my army!” snapped the witch. “If you don't agree to play they will attack your elves and destroy your stockpile of toys. Will you risk it?”
Santa shrugged, accepting the inevitable. “All right, Philomena, I'll play if I must.”
There's a condition!”
There's always a condition with you,” said Santa. What is it?”
Once during the game, if I decide my sisuation is hopeless, I want to turn the board around and continue with your pieces.”
Santa agreed and the goblins all snickered, knowing that any time Santa had a won position the Witch would be able to swap sides and claim victory.
They commenced to play and, eventually, found themselves in this position:
At this point the Witch was faced with defeat she could find no defence to 1. Qh8#. (If 1...g6 Santa would play 2. Qh7+ Kf8, 3. Qh8+ Bxh8, 4. RxB#) so she called on Santa to reverse the board.
Unperturbed, Santa reversed the board and played 1...Rh4.
The witch was furious, for the mating threat had vanished. She couldn't capture h4 with her rook because 2...Qe1+ led to mate next move, and 2. Qxh4 Bxh4 allowed Santa an enormous material advantage, but she had 2.Nxh4, and grasped it with alacrity.
Unfazed, Santa played 2...Qc3 once again threatening mate on the move.
We agreed to reverse the board once, Philomena,” said Santa, “but if I allow you to reverse it one more time will you agree to leave this land and never to interfere with Christmas again?”
Are you insane?” she snapped. “There is no way you can win if you do that.” (3.Kc1 Qa1+, 4.Kd2 Qxh1 regaining the rook and winning the knight) “Of course I agree. But when I win this game my powers will return, and after that, we shall see!”
Once again the board was reversed and Santa smiled as he played 3.Qh8+ Kxh8, 4.Ng6++ Kg8, 5.Rh8#.
With a cry of anger the Wicked Witch burst into a cloud of oily smoke and her molecules were spread on the four winds so that she would never again be a threat to Christmas.
A merry Christmas to everybody, and in the new year may all your pawns turn into queens and give your opponents nightmares.
(This position is attributed to Alexander Alekhine.)
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