A somewhat enigmatic report in the Daily Telegraph says that this problem has been devised by Roger Penrose, who says that chess programs can’t solve it but humans can get a draw or even a win.
I’m not a chess buff, but it looks trivial. Although Black has an immensely powerful collection of pieces, they are all completed bottled up and immobile, apart from three bishops. Since these are all on white squares, the White king is completely safe from them if he stays on black squares. Since the white pawns fencing in Black’s pieces are all on black squares, the bishops can’t do anything about them either. It looks like a drawn position already, in fact.
I suppose Penrose believes that chess computers can’t deal with this because it’s a very weird situation which will not be in any of their reference material. If they resort to combinatorial analysis the huge number of moves available to the bishops is supposed to render the problem intractable, while the computer cannot see the obvious consequences of the position the way a human can.
I don’t know whether it’s true that all chess programs are essentially that stupid, but it is meant to buttress Penrose’s case that computers lack some quality of insight or understanding that is an essential property of human consciousness.
This is all apparently connected with the launch of a new Penrose Institute, whose website is here, but appears to be incomplete. No doubt we’ll hear more soon.