I have been going to chess clubs for nearly forty years and for most of that time I have been trying to interest my club mates in chess problems and endgame studies. Their usual response to this evangelism on my part has been muted. I encourage the peaceful appreciation of the more artistic possibilities of the chessboard and men, but they prefer the excitement and struggle of hand-to-hand combat with others.
In recent years though, probably thanks to chess players seeing chess compositions on the internet, players have been approaching me to see if I know of particular problems and studies that they have stumbled upon and found that they liked. A few weeks ago, on a non-match night, Andrew, one of our club’s stronger players, set up an endgame study to show me. I immediately recognised the position, though couldn’t remember the full details of the solution. I guessed the composer was Korolkov, and if not he then Kasparyan. We were soon joined by a couple of other players and the group, solving as a team, managed to unlock the secrets of the study shown here.
4th Prize, Shakhmaty v SSSR, 1945
White to play and win
White is two exchanges down, but the black king is constrained, so immediate action is what is called for. 1.Ne8 Threatens 2.Ng7+ Kg6 3.Bf5#, amongst other things. 1.Nf5? lets the black king escape – 1...Kg4 2.Ne3+ Kf3 3.Nxf1 Rf2 = 1...Kg6 Black’s fate catches up with him a move early if he tries 1...Rxf4 Thus – 2.Ng7+ Kg6 3.h5+ Rxh5 4.Bf5+ Rxf5 5.g4 and mate next move. 2.h5+ White has to play his pawn sacrifices in the correct order. If the f-pawn goes first, Black escapes – 2.f5+? Rxf5 3.h5+ Kxh5 = 2...Rxh5 Black’s only other move leads to a swift mate. 2...Kxh5 3.Ng7+ Kg6 4.Bf5# 3.f5+ Rxf5 4.g4!! The black king and both black rooks have been lured into position for this quiet move, which is the heart of the study. It threatens mate in one on f5 (in two ways) and mate in two by both 5.Ng7 and 5.Be6. 4...Re5 5.Bf5+ As 5.Ng7? allows the black f-pawn to give the black king some breathing space – 5...f5 6.Bxf5+ Rxf5 7.gxf5+ Kf6 8.Nxh5+ Kxf5= – the wandering black rook has to be forced back into its place for the final tableau. 5...Rxf5 6.Ng7 and mate next move. Players seem to like sacrifices and this study has three of them, but it was 4.g4 that really entranced them. Why not take it down to your club and see if you get the same reaction?
When I got home that night I looked the study up in The Complete Studies of Genrikh Kasparyan, by John Roycroft, (published by Russell Enterprises in 1997 and warmly recommended) and discovered why I had thought the composer could be Korolkov. That book includes a version of this study that Korolkov published in 1950.
I took the Kasparyan book with me the next time I visited the chess club and spent a couple of happy hours showing some of the great man’s studies to Andrew, who seemed to much enjoy them.
Having mentioned Korolkov, it seems appropriate to leave you with a study by that great composer for you to solve.
7th HM., Shakhmatny Listok, 1929
White to play and win
1.c7 Rc8 1...Bb6 2.dxe7 Bxc7 3.Ne6 Rg8 4.e8Q+ Rxe8 5.Nxc7+ Kb6 6.Nxe8 1-0 2.d7 Rxc7 2...Rg8 3.c8Q Rxg5 4.Be2+ Ka4 5.Qc6+ Ka3 6.Qf3+ Be3 7.Qxe3+ Ka2 8.Bc4+ Ka1 9.Qd4# 3.d8Q Bb6+! 3...Bd6+ 4.Kd1 Rc5 5.Ne4 Rd5+ 6.Kc2 Rd4 7.Kc3 Rc4+ 8.Kd3 Rxe4 9.Be8+ Kb4 10.Kxe4 1-0 4.Kd3! 4.Kb3? a4+! 5.Kb2 Rc2+ 6.Kxc2 = 4...Rc3+ 5.Kxc3 Bxd8 6.Ne6 Bb6 7.Be8#
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