A joke chess problem is a puzzle in chess that incorporates humor as either a primary or secondary aspect. While most chess problems, like other forms of creative expression, are valued for their serious artistic themes, joke chess problems provide entertainment through unexpected twists. Sometimes, the composer employs clever tricks to thwart solvers who rely on conventional analysis. In other instances, the humor arises from an unconventional final position. Unlike typical chess puzzles, joke problems may feature solutions that defy the internal logic or rules of the game.
For instance, check out the following example of a self-solving problem, composed by Wilhelm Ropke in 1942. White is supposed to move and deliver a checkmate in six moves. However, the set-up of the position allows only one sequence of moves to play, according to the chess rules, so White is actually forced to mate the opponent. From the Black’s perspective, it could be even called a self-mate:
Certain chess problems stand out for their remarkably unconventional arrangements of chess pieces. For instance, direct mates and, more notably, helpmates have been created with the pieces forming peculiar shapes such as letters, numbers, or even resembling a cross or a tree. These unique patterns add an extra layer of intrigue and creativity to the problems, captivating chess enthusiasts with their imaginative and visually striking compositions. Take a look at the next study, called a back home task and created by Mark Kirtley in 1986 – White must force Black to deliver a checkmate in eight moves, while all the white pieces (except for pawns, of course) must return to their initial positions:
The final joke problem was devised in 1887 by William A. Shinkman, an esteemed American composer renowned for his expertise in creating chess problems that involve multiple pawns occupying a single file. In this particular instance, the diagram showcases a whimsical arrangement of six pawns stacked on the a-file, illustrating Shinkman’s penchant for pushing the boundaries of pawn formations in his humorous compositions: