The $10,000 Puzzler Hunt, Chess, and Thank You Notes


Can you solve mind-bending puzzles? Then you might win $10,000 from a contest, still active at the time I am writing this, that began May 3, 2022. The contest introduces a book which contains, among other puzzles, several chess puzzles. That book’s author, along with another author, deserve thank-you notes from me.

The Puzzler

The Puzzler: One Man’s Quest to Solve the Most Baffling Puzzles Ever, From Crosswords to Jigsaws to the Meaning of Life by A.J. Jacobs has a free, downloadable introduction. That’s where the clues are for the $10,000 contest.

Forgoing the free download, I bought the book. I knew I would love it because I am a long-time fan of A.J.’s books. His self-improvement efforts are entertaining and inspirational. A.J.’s 2012 book Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection caused me to buy a treadmill, because I wanted to copy his exercise routine. As A.J. worked out at his treadmill desk, he counted both mileage and words typed. I did the same, proud of myself for simultaneously exercising and writing articles.

I believe that A.J. still writes while on his treadmill. I sold my treadmill and dismantled my treadmill desk. Nowadays, I recline on a couch while typing on my laptop. To be precise, I type with my right hand. I use my left hand to pet my rabbit Einstein, who spends much of his day next to my couch. My fitness level is probably lower than A.J.’s, but I love my writing time.

Walter  Penn Shipley

I was thrilled when A.J. interviewed me, over a year ago, for The Puzzler: One Man’s Quest to Solve the Most Baffling Puzzles Ever, From Crosswords to Jigsaws to the Meaning of Life. One of the puzzles I suggested, the eight queens puzzle, made it into his “Chess Puzzles (Chess Problems)” chapter. It’s the easiest chess puzzle in that chapter. With help from International Master Cyrus Lakdawala and former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov, A.J. included other chess puzzles that are incredibly hard. If you fail to solve the puzzles, you will still enjoy the laugh-out-loud anecdotes. Thank you, A.J. Jacobs.

The next author I want to thank is John S. Hilbert. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, has published five books by Hilbert. McFarland strongly recommends that its authors create their own general indexes, because authors know their subjects best. But I was sure that Hilbert knew enough about chess and history to index my forthcoming book, United States Women’s Chess Champions, 1937–2020. And he had prior experience, with his own chess history books, creating indexes to McFarland’s specifications. From page proofs, Hilbert created my book’s index and proofread every game. Thank you, John.

U.S. Women's Chess Champions

After I proofread the crosstables for the 60 U.S. Women’s Chess Championships covered in my book, I will email the corrected page proofs to McFarland by May 26. Following more work by a McFarland editor, United States Women’s Chess Champions, 1937–2020 will be available by late summer. But you can pre-order it now!

John S. Hilbert is also a chess player. His favorite game is his win, over Peter Lukacs, in the 1980 USCF Golden Knights correspondence tournament.

Can you find the winning move for Hilbert, as White, in the diagrammed position?

White played 28.Rxf8+ 1–0 and Black resigned. If Black had played on, the game would continue 28.Rxf8+ Kxf8 29.Qg7+ Ke8 30.Nf6+ Kd8 (30…Rxf6 31.Qe7#) 31.Qc7#  

WIM Alexey Root, PhD

Alexey Root is a Woman International Master and the 1989 U.S. Women's chess champion. Her peak US Chess rating was 2260. She has a PhD in education from UCLA. You can find her books on chess on