Sam Loyd

by Bill Wall

Samuel (Sam) Loyd was born on January 31, 1841 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and raised in New York. He was the youngest of eight siblings and came from a wealthy family.

Sam studied engineering and intended to become a steam and mechanical engineer, but he soon made his living from chess problems and puzzles. He was also good as a magician and ventriloquist.

Sam Loyd began playing chess in 1855 and had his first chess problem published in the "New York Saturday Courier" on April 14, 1855.

In 1856 Sam Loyd won 1st prize in a problem contest by the "New York Clipper," published on October 11, 1856.

White: Pe5, Na6, Nd6, Bg3, Qd4, Ke1. Black: Pb5, Pb6, Pd7, Pe6, Pf7, Pg6, Na8, Ba2, Kc6.

White to move and mate in 4 moves.

1.Qg1! Bd5 (or any other move) 2.Bf2 f5 (or any other move) 3.Bxb6 and 4.Qc5 mate.

In 1856 he submitted this problem to Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper.

White: Bh5, Bg7, Rc2, Re4, Qe6, Kg1. Black: Nd4, Rb4, Rh7, Qa6, Kd3.

White to play and mate in 4 moves.

1.Rxd4+ Kxc2 (1...Rxd4 2.Qe2 mate) 2.Rd2+ Kxd2 (2...Kb1 or 2...Kc1 3.Qe1 mate) 3.Qe1+ Kxe1 (3...Kc2 4.Qd1 mate; 3...Kd3 4.Qe2 mate) 4.Bc3 mate.

In January, 1857 Sam Loyd submitted this problem to the New York Albion.

White: Pg3, Rf1, Rh1, Ke1. Black: Kg2

White to move and mate in 3 moves.

1.Rf4 Kxg3 2.O-O Kh3 3.R1f3 mate. 1.Rf4 Kxh1 2.Kf2 Kh2 3.Rh4 mate.

In 1857 he met Paul Morphy in New York during the 1st American Chess Congress. Both became contributors to "Chess Monthly."

In 1857 he was the problem editor of the chess magazine "Chess Monthly." Prior to being the problem editor, he won 1st prize in submitting the best problem to “Chess Monthly.”

White: Nf2, Rg8, Qc2, Kc7. Black: Pf4, Pg3, Kg2

White to move and mate in 3.

1.Ng4+ Kf1 2.Rd8 and 3.Rd1 mate

In 1858 he composed a mate problem for his friend Denis Julien. Sam Loyd liked to name his problems and called this one "Excelsior" (from one of Longfellow's poems) Loyd bet Julien a dinner that he could not pick a chessman which would not give mate in the main line. He later published the problem in the London Era in January, 1861. He also submitted the same problem to a Paris Tourney in 1867 and the Excelsior took 2nd prize.

White: Pb2, Pc2, Pg3, Na1, Nh3, Rb5, Re2, Kh5. Black: Pa3, Pe3, Pb6, Pb7, Pf7, Ph7, Na8, Rc8, Bd8, Kh1

White to move and mate in 5 with the least likely piece or pawn.

1.b4! (threatening 2.Rd5 or 2.Rf5 and 3.Rd1 mate or 3.Rf1 mate) Rc5+ 2.bxc5 (threatening 3.Rb1 mate) a2 3.c6 (threatening 4.Rf5 and 5.Rf1 mate) Bc7 (3...bxc6 4.Rf5 and 5.Rf1 mate) 4.cxb7 Bxg3 (or any other move) 5.bxa8=Q mate.

In 1859 he composed the "Organ Pipes" for the Boston Gazette.

White: Pb3, Pf4, Pg3, Ne3, Qh5, Kd2. Black: Pa6, Pb4, Pd3, Pe4, Pg4, Bc8, Bf8, Rd8, Re8, Kd4

White to move and mate in 2 moves.

1.Qa5 Bd7 or 1...Bd6 2.Qd5 mate. 1...Rd7 or 1...Re6 2.Nf5 mate. 1...Re7 or 1...Rd6 2.Qxb4 mate. 1...Bc5 2.Qa1 mate.

In 1859 Loyd submitted this problem to "Musical World."

White: Qa6, Ke6 Black: Pa7, Pc7, Ra8, Ke8

White to play and mate in 2 moves.

1.Qa1 and whatever Black plays, 2.Qh8 mate. However, some folks said that after 1...O-O-O there is no mate next move. But White's argument that Black cannot castle is that the original position shows that Black's previous move must have been the Rook or King, therefore, Black lost his right to castle. This was the first retrograde analysis problem in chess.

Sam Loyd has sometimes been given the credit for inventing the helpmate, but in fact, his contribution was for Black to have the first move. His first helpmate was published in the "Chess Monthly" in 1860, but it had a flaw (or cook as it is known).

White: Bf4, Rg8, Kd4. Black: Bg2, Bh2, Qh7, Kf5

Black to move and help get mated in 4 moves.

1...Bf3 2.Kc4 Ke4 3.Rd8 Qf5 4.Rd4 mate. Another solution was supposed to be 1...Bh3 2.Rg7 Kf6 3.Kd5 Bf5 4.Bc5+, but this failed getting checkmated since Black has 4...Bxe5 and now, no mate. So Loyd revised his helpmate problem by getting rid of the black bishops.

White: Bf4, Rg8, Kd4. Black: Qh7, Kf5

Black to move and help get mated in 3 moves.

1...Kf6 2.Ra8 Kg7 3.Bb8 Kh8 4.Be5 mate.

In 1861 Loyd submitted this study-like problem to the London Era.

White: Qa3, Kh1. Black: Pe2, Kf1

White to move and mate in 5 moves.

1.Qf8+ Ke1 2.Qd6 Kf1 (or 2...Kf2) 3.Qf4+ Ke1 4.Qd4 Kf1 5.Qg1 mate

In the 1860s Sam was a plumbing contractor, owner of a chain of music stores, and a newspaper columnist. He was the inventor of Parcheesi.

In 1866 Loyd constructed a game in which Black get mated by discovered check on move 4. He submitted the puzzle to Le Sphinx.

1.f3 e5 2.Kf2 h5 3.Kg3 h4+ 4.Kg4 d5 mate

In Feb, 1867 Loyd submitted this problem to "La Strategie."

White: Pg5, Nb7, Ba3, Rf8, Rh5, Qd4, Ke3 Black: Pd6, Pf7, Ke6

White to move and mate in two moves.

1.Qg4+ f5 2.gxf6 (en passant) mate.

In 1867 Loyd travelled to Europe and played in a chess tournament in Paris, but did poorly. The event was won by Ignatz von Kolisch (1837-1889).  He went on to Germany and met other chess problem composers.

In 1868 Loyd created a chess problem showing that a lone bishop could draw against 8 pawns. It was published in "American Chess Nuts."

White: Bh3, Kc3 Black: Pa5, a7, c7, d6, e5, f4, g3, h2, Ka4

White to play and draw.

1.Bd7+ Ka3 2.Bc6 Ka2 (2...a6 3.Bh1) 3.Kc2 a6 4.Bh1 draw.

In October, 1869 he submitted this problem to "Leipziger Illustrierte Zeitung" while staying in Dresden.

White: Pf7, Nf8, Qc4, Kh1 Black: Pg4, Pg7, Ph7, Ba1, Kh8

White to move and mate in 3 moves.

1.Qf1 Bb2 2.Qb1 (threatening 3.Qxh7 mate) g6 3.Qxb2 mate. 1.Qf1 Bc3 (or 1...Bd4) 2.Qd3 (threatening 3.Qxh7 mate) g6 3.Qxd4 mate

In 1870 Loyd turned to mathematical recreations and less to chess.

In 1876 Loyd created this problem, the Holyoke Transcript.

White: Pa7, Pb7, Ng2, Bg3, Re1, Kh4. Black: Ba8, Bg1, Kh1

White to move and mate in 3 moves.

1.bxa8=N Kxg2 2.Nb6 Bxb6 (or any other move) 3.a8=B (or Queen) mate.

In 1878 he published a book of chess problems, called "Chess Strategy." He dedicated the book to Eugene Cook, a well known American chess problemist. The book contains about 500 of his chess problems.

Sam Loyd said he invented the 15 Puzzle in 1878. The craze swept the world like the Rubik's Cube 100 years later and was considered the greatest puzzle craze of the 19th century (most popular between 1880 to 1881). His "14-15" Puzzle or "15 Block Puzzle," is equivalent of today's sliding square puzzle with 15 squares and one vacant spot, placed in a 4x4 grid. At startup, the squares sequentially contained the number 1 through 13, followed by 15 and 14. Loyd offered $1,000 of his own money for anyone who could "slide" the squares around to arrive at the sequence 1 through 15. The puzzle was impossible to solve. Because the problem is impossible to solve, the U.S. Patent Office refused to patent Loyd's puzzle.

The actual inventor was Noyes Chapman, the Postmaster of Canastota, New York. He applied for a patent on the 15 Puzzle in March, 1880. Sam Loyd's first article about the puzzle was not published until January, 1896.

In November, 1886 Loyd was the vice-president of the American Chess Editors' Association. World Champion William Steinitz accused Loyd of misappropriating $20 of the organization's $25 total funds. Steinitz resigned from the Association and referred to Loyd as the "four-fifths treasurer of the association." Steinitz accused Loyd of using $20 to pay for the cabling of chess moves from the 1886 London chess congress. Loyd was wired the reports for free by Samuel Lipshutz, one of the participants in the London tournament. The $20 was never satisfactorily accounted for. Steinitz called Loyd "the insolent New York $20 sandwich rodent." The New York Chess Club exonerated Loyd, but the American Chess Editors' Association soon folded.

In 1889 he published this problem in the New York Sunday Harold and called it "the American Indian."

White: Kf1, Qa4, Rb2, Ba3, Bd3, Ng2, Nh3, Pe2, Pf3, Pg3, Ph4 Black: Kc1, Qh6, Rd8, Rh8, Bb7, Bg7, Pa7, Pb6, Pc7, Pf7, Ph7

White to move and mate in 2 moves.

1.Bf8!, threatening 2.Qa1 mate. If 1...Bxb2 2.Bxh6 mate. If 1...Kxb2 2.Qa3 mate. If 1...Nc2 2.Qxc2 mate.

In 1889 Sam Loyd invented the Chancellor chess piece for chess problems. A chancellor is a piece that has the combined moves of a rook and a knight.

In 1893 Loyd started sending his puzzles to England. He corresponded with Europe's best puzzler, Henry Dudeney. Dudeney sent a large number of puzzles to Loyd and became very upset when Sam Loyd began to publish them under Loyd's name.

In 1903 Loyd wrote "The Eighth Book of Tan, Part I." This was a spoof of using tangrams to explain the beginning of existence.

In 1903 Loyd created the Steinitz Gambit problem. He submitted it to the Canadian magazine "Checkmate" and won 1st prize in the problem tournament, promoted by Alain C. White. He called the game Steinitz Gambit because the first move, 1.Ke2 is the same as the 5th move of the Steinitz Gambit in the Vienna Opening ( 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 exf4 4.d4 Qh4+ 5.Ke2).

Here is the "Steinitz Gambit." White: Pb4, Pd2, Nb6, Ne4, Bb5, Bg7, Ra5, Rf6, Kf1. Black: Pa6, Pb7, Pc3, Pe6, Pf2, Ph4, Na2, Nh1, Bg8, Bg3, Re8, Rh2, Ke5.

White to move and mate in 3.

1.Ke2 f1=Q+ 2.Ke3 now any move Black makes, it is mate next move. For example, 2...Qxb5 3.Rf4 mate. 2...Qxf6 3.Ba4 mate. 2...Qe2+ 3.Bxe2 mate. 2...Qf2+ 3.Rxf2 mate.

In 1906 Loyd composed a chess problem for Emanuel Lasker and published in Lasker's Chess Magazine.

White: Bf5, Ra1, Qf2, Kf7 Black: Pg2, Nb8, Kb4

White to move and mate in 3.

1.Ra5 (threatening 2.Qd2+ Kc4 3.Be6 mate) Kxa5 2.Qc5+ Ka4 (2...Ka6 3.Bc8 mate) 3.Bc2 mate

Loyd produced over 10,000 puzzles in his lifetime. He has been referred as America's Greatest Puzzler.

Loyd died in New York City (some references say Elizabeth, New Jersey) on April 10, 1911.

In 1913 Alain White published "Sam Loyd and his Chess Problems" which was a combination of Loyd's earlier book with 200 additional problems.

Sam Loyd's son, Sam Loyd, Jr, continued in his father's footsteps and composed puzzles. Sam Loyd Jr wrote The Cyclopedia of 5000 Puzzles, a huge collection of Loyd's puzzles, published in 1914.

In 1987 Sam Loyd was inducted into the Chess Hall of Fame, the first problemist to be inducted.

Here is a miniature (less than 7 pieces). White: Pa7, Pb7, Pf6, Kf5. Black: Kf7

White to move and mate in 3. 1.a8=B! Ke8 2.Ke6 and 3.b8=Q mate. If 1...Kg8 2.Kg6 and 3.b8=Q mate. 1...Kf8 2.b8=Q+ Kf7 3.Bd5 mate

Sam Loyd created the shortest game ending in stalemate.

1.e3 a5 2.Qh5 Ra6 3.Qxa5 h5 4.Qxc7 Rah6 5.h4 f6 6.Qxd7+ Kf7 7.Qxb7 Qd3 8.Qxb8 Qh7 9.Qxc8 Kg6 10.Qe6 stalemate.

Sam Loyd created a game where every piece comes off the board except the Kings, and did it in 17 moves.

1.c4 d5 2.cxd5 Qxd5 3.Qc2 Qxg2 4.Qxc7 Qxg1 5.Qxb7 Qxh2 6.Qxb8 Qe5 7.Qxc8+ Rxc8 8.Rxh7 Qxb2 9.Rxh8 Qxa2 10.Rxg8 Qxd2+ 11.Kxd2 Rxc1 12.Rxg7 Rxb1 13.Rxf7 Rxf1 14.Rxf8+ Kxf8 15.Rxa7 Rxf2 16.Rxe7 Rxe2+ 17.Kxe2 Kxe7


Dickens & Ebert, 100 Classics of the Chessboard

Gardner, Mathematical Puzzles of Sam Loyd

Gardner, More Mathematical Puzzles of Sam Loyd

Gardner, The Scientific American Book of Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions

Harley, Mate in Two Moves

Hooper & Whyld, Oxford Companion to Chess

Howard, Classic Chess Problems

Howard, Enjoyment of Chess Problems

Loyd Jr, Cyclopedia of Puzzles

Pickard, The Puzzle King: Sam Loyd's Chess Problems & Selected Mathematical Puzzles

Slocum and Sonneveld, The 15 Puzzle

White, A., Sam Loyd and his Chess Problems