Chess, February 2011

Richard Réti and a draughts champion

In this column over the last few years I have presented studies composed by several of the leading players of the last hundred years and more. One person I have so far not mentioned is player and composer Richard Réti (1889-1929), who composed some of the most famous endgame studies in existence. His most famous (Kagans neueste Schachnachrichten, 1922, 7K/8/k1P5/7p/32, White to play and draw, 1.Kg7 h4 2.Kf6 Kb6 3.Ke5 Kxc6 4.Kf4 =), an ‘impossible’ draw, is probably too well-known to be given a diagram here, but can be found in most textbooks on pawn endings. The classic collection of Réti’s games, Réti’s Best Games of Chess (1954) by Harry Golombek, presents fifteen studies by Réti.

The study by Réti I have chosen to present here is short and sweet. Hans Bouwmeester, introducing it in Modern End-Game Studies for the Chess-Player (1959), used these words, “Many authorities believe this to be the best study Réti ever created. The final manoeuvre is indeed of rare beauty and it is very much open to doubt whether any one move on the chess-board has given so much pleasure as the penultimate one in this fine end-game study.” This opinion is rather over-the-top in my view, but there is no doubt in my mind that this study is indeed one of the classics that define the genre.

Richard Réti

Kölnische Volkszeitung, 1928


White to play and win

Clearly White must check, but he must choose the right check. 1.Bc6+? leads to a straightforward repetition or stalemate - 1...Kd6 2.Rd4+ Ke5 3.Re4+ Kd6 4.Rxe3 e1Q 5.Rxe1= 1.Bf5+ Kd8 (or 1...Kd6) Both 1...Ke7 2.Re4+ Kd8 and 1...Ke8 2.Re4+ Kd8 transpose to the position (with the same side to play) after Black's third move in the main line. 2.Rd4+ Ke7 (or 2...Ke8) 3.Re4+ Kd8! 3...Kf6 4.Rxe3 1-0 With the text move, the Black king sets a stalemate trap (4.Rxe3? e1Q 5.Rxe1 =). Now what does White do? 4.Bd7! Releases the potential stalemate. If Black takes the bishop, then White just mops up the black pawns. Meanwhile, that bishop has plans. 4...e1Q 5.Bb5! wins, as White threatens mate on e8 and Black can only avoid this by giving up his queen - 5...Qa5+ 6.Kxa5

While preparing this column I had a good look through the Bouwmeester book for the first time in many years. I was delighted to rediscover these words in the introduction by Max Euwe, “I envy those who have time to enjoy this book in all tranquillity and with all their powers. They will value chess more highly than the player who has ended up in a tournament with a score of 9 out of 9.”

The composer of our study for solving this month was - as reported by Michael McDowell in The Problemist Supplement earlier this year - “... a noted draughts player, holding the title of Soviet champion from 1938 to 1944, when he was killed in action while serving in the Red Army.” White’s situation looks dire, with all his pieces and pawns en prise, but there is a draw to be had. Why not have a go and try to find it?

V A Sokov

3rd HM., 64, 1937


White to play and draw

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