There are various meanings and significances for the number 999. For one thing, it's the emergency phone number in Great Britain and some other places. Another UK related but much less important usage was as the name of a London punk-rock band quite some while ago.
Perhaps of greater interest is that 999 is a so-called Kaprekar number. An adapted version of the Wikipedia definition of a Kaprekar number is as follows: "A natural number in a given number base is a Kaprekar number if the representation of its square in that base can be split into two parts that add up to the original number." So, quite trivially 999 squared in base 10 is 998001, which can be split into 998 and 001, which add up to 999. Simple!
We'll omit the more fanciful descriptions of 999 as an "angel number" and instead tell you why we've chosen this title for today's column, which features a very special problem by grandmaster composer Brian Hinkle. It has nine pieces per side, or 9x9, and of those pieces, 9 are kings, hence, 9x9x9 or 999.
Here's the position.
Brian would prefer no spoilers, so we won't say anything further, not even whether it's easy, medium, or hard (although, since it's from Brian, "easy" would surprise us). See how you do with it. Take 999 seconds, 999 minutes, or however long you wish. Try 999 different approaches. But certainly you only need to click your mouse once--- not 999 times--- on Read More to see the solution.
6-2---A 19x28 31-26---B 23-19 26-22 32-27 22-17 27-24 17-13 24-20 5-1 30-26 1-5 21-17 5-1 26-22 1-5 28-32 5-1 32-27 1-5 27-23 5-1 11-16---C 2x4 20-24 1-6---D 16-20 6-2 19-16 2-7 24-19 4-8 19-24---E 8-11, a fortress draw.
A---Getting this bind on Black's pieces is the only way to draw.
B---White must scurry to square 13 in order to block the Black kings from getting into the double corner.
C---Black could offer a draw but decides to play it a man-down.
D---This line plays for a shot.
E---Black must avoid the very natural 20-24? 15-11 22-6 14-10 6x15 7-2 16x7 2x20 White Wins.
Brian goes on to pose the very provocative question, "Did your checker software find this draw?" and asks that you send your comments to email@example.com.
Thank you, Brian, for another of your excellent problems.