I have been writing this column for over three years now and I am amazed to discover that in all that time I seem to have failed to mention a man many experts consider to be the founder of the modern endgame study. He is Alexey Troitzky and he lived from 1866 to 1942. He learnt chess at school in Riga and later, when a student at St. Petersburg, he joined that city’s chess club, where he came to know Chigorin and Schiffers. In 1895, while in St. Petersburg, he started composing endgame studies.
In 1897, following a move to Smolensk to become an Assistant Forrester, he abandoned chess, only to take it up again following the perusal of a chess library brought to Smolensk by a chance visitor. He was inspired by the works of other composers.
Despite all his compositions, Troitzky is probably most famous for his groundbreaking, masterly analysis of the ending two knights versus a pawn, which appeared in English in 1937. In his introduction to that publication, R. C. Griffith wrote, “… a masterly exposition of the endings with two Knights, at the end of the book, leaves nothing more to be written.” This statement was shown to be correct some 58 years later, when John Nunn, in his 1995 book Secrets of Minor-Piece Endings, prepared with the help of computer-generated endgame table bases, did not provide a section on this ending, explaining that the work of Troitzky (and others) was “astonishingly accurate”!
Following the complexities of recent issues, the study I have chosen as an example of Troitzky’s work is relatively straightforward.
Deutsche Schachzeitung, 1911 (version)
White to play and win
1.Qd3+ Kf4 2.Qf3+ Ke5 3.Qxf7 After two introductory checks, a quiet move with two strong threats - 4.Qc7+ and 4.Nf3+. The black queen is not directly attacked, but she is dominated. 3...Qh8 Other defences are quickly refuted - 3...Qh6 4.Nd3+ Ke4 5.Nf2+ Ke3 (5...Ke5 6.Ng4+ 1-0) 6.Ng4+ 1-0; 3...Qh3 4.Nf3+ Ke4 5.Nxg5+ 1-0; 3...Ke4 4.Qd5+ Ke3 5.Qxd4+ Ke2 6.Qb2+ 1-0; 3...Qh1 4.Nd3+ Ke4 5.Nf2+ 1-0 Now the checks resume. 4.Qd5+ Kf4 5.Qf3+ Ke5 6.Nd3+ Ke6 7.Qd5+ Ke7 8.Qd6+ Kf7 9.Ne5+ Kg8 9...Kg7 10.Qg6+ Kf8 11.Qf7#; 9...Ke8 10.Qe6+ and mate next move. 10.Qe6+ and White mates quickly. 1–0
In our study for solving, which comes from the recent tourney in StrateGems, White has just king and queen against the entire Black army and his best move is not ‘Resigns‘. White can draw this ‘one-sided‘ encounter. Find out how.
2nd Comm., StrateGems, 2008
White to play and draw
1.Qb5+ Ka3 2.Qa6+! Kb2 2...Kb4 3.Qb6+ Ka4 4.Qa6+ Kb3 5.Qb5+ repeats, as does 2...Kb3 3.Qb5+ = 3.Qb7+ Ka1 3...Ka3 4.Qa6+ 4.Qxg7+ Rd4! 4...Kb1? 5.Qb7+ Ka1 6.Kc1 c3 7.Qb3 Rb8 8.Qxc3+ Rb2 9.Qxb2#; 4...c3+? 5.Qxc3+ Kb1 6.Qb3+ Ka1 7.Kc1 Rb8 8.Qc3+ Rb2 9.Qxb2# 5.Qxd4+!! Kb1! 5...cxd4 6.Kc1 is a draw, just about the same as at the end of the main line, and 5...c3+? loses - 6.Qxc3+ Kb1 7.Qb3+ Ka1 8.Kc1 and 9.Qb2# 6.Qa1+!! Kxa1 7.Kc1 is a draw, as, although Black has four moves available, they all stalemate White!
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