Blog Post #10: Peaceful Fishermen

Dear Readers,

Welcome back after a summer break of nearly three weeks! Start with the word NICE and repeat just one of its letters. Now rearrange what you have to make a proper five-letter English word…

That wee warm-up puzzle was my way of saying “thank you” again to my youngest NIECE for kindly allowing me to use a lovely prayer that she created at school.

We were blessed with gorgeous weather on a recent family holiday. Seeing birds dancing in the sunny sky, or hovering happily above fishermen whose boats glided peacefully across shimmering lochs, reminded me of a Bible passage for all times: “Come, follow Me, Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of men.” A related quote which I also find to be very encouraging and helpful is: “Be at peace with your own soul; then Heaven and Earth will be at peace with you”–St. Isaac.



Our good-fun word challenge is to start with FISH and, by changing only one letter at a time, get to MALT in 4 steps. At each stage, we must always still have a proper English word.


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As it’s been 2 weeks and 5 days–or nearly 3 weeks–since the previous blog post was published, let’s now have a quick, wee, mental Math puzzle to check how we’re thinking…! As fast as you can, calculate 2x2x2x3x5x5x5 in your head!


My lovely Aunt Sheila will be turning 80 in just a few days’ time on August 8th, and she very kindly gave me permission to publish a couple of my favourite photos of her with my mum. Both of the photos were taken long before I was even born!

My Aunt Sheila is pictured in the centre.


A standard chess board is an 8×8 square with 64 alternating black and white unit squares; 32 of each. However, on the pictured giant 15×15 board, the numbers of black and white unit squares are not equal. How many black unit squares and how many white unit squares are there on the 15×15 board?


Professor Max Euwe (1901-1981, mathematician, chess administrator & author) was the reigning World Chess Champion when my Aunt Sheila was born in August 1937. He personally presented me with my trophy when I won the World Under-17 Chess Championship in the Dutch town of Sas van Gent in January 1979. Let’s enjoy the neat finish to a game played between Professor Euwe and Bobby Fischer in New York, 1957.

Just before this, Euwe (playing White) had a bishop on c2, and Fischer’s black knight was on b4. Euwe played 1 a3!, and Fischer’s reply 1…Nxc2 brought us to the position pictured above. How did Professor Euwe then force a quick win?


This is for my youngest brother-in-law, who specially mentioned that he doesn’t believe in ghosts! Why do ghosts love elevators…? It’s because they lift spirits!



One solution is FISH→FIST→FAST→MAST→MALT, but you may well have thought of other ways.


One very quick way of figuring out 2x2x2x3x5x5x5 is to reorder it as (2×5)x(2×5)x(2×5)x3, which equals 10x10x10x3, and that gives 3000.

I will need much longer to complete a big and beautiful 3000-piece jigsaw (!!!) that was recently given to me as a gift by Elaine, a kind Scottish friend.


There is precisely one extra unit black square compared to the unit white squares: 113 black; 112 white; total 225=15×15.


The move Ncxd5! played by Euwe was immediately decisive because after …Rxd5 there followed Nxd5, intending to answer …Bxd5 by Qh8#, checkmate!

SUPER-SIZZLING SUMMER BRAINTEASER! (published within Blog Post #7)

The unique solution is that Jenny thought of 35, and Paul thought of 49. Note that 0+1+2+3+…+32+33+34=595=36+37+38+…+47+48+49.

To finish this article, you can enjoy a short video by clicking on the following hyperlinked photo.

Click on the photo to see a very short and good video.

“Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset”–St. Francis de Sales.



Author: Paul A. Motwani

My name is Paul Motwani, but my colleagues, my students and their parents mostly call me "Mr. Mo"! My middle initial, A, stands for Anthony, because I was born on the official feast day of St. Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of miracles and of lost souls. I love teaching Mathematics and Chess, and giving fun-packed talks and shows in schools and clubs. The popular ingredients of Math, Chess, Mystery and Magic are my "Fantastic Four", and I give prizes too! I am an International Chess Grandmaster, and (loooooong ago!) I was the World Under-17 Champion. I am the author of five published chess books and hundreds of newspaper articles. I live with my wonderful wife and son in Belgium. I also love music, movies and puzzles. I blog at My e-mail address is You can find me on Facebook, too.

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