Chess, November 2012

Aleksandr Herbstman & Leonid Topko

The latest issue of that excellent magazine devoted to endgame studies, EG (published by ARVES contains a fascinating article by Alain Pallier about study composer Aleksandr Osipovich Herbstman (1900-1982). It seems that study composing was not Herbstman’s only talent. He was interested in literature, especially poetry, and psychoanalysis. In his early years, before publishing his first book about studies, he published two collections of poems and, in 1925, Psychoanalysis of chess (an attempt at interpretation). At the end of his article, Pallier presents three studies by Herbstman, including this old friend.

Aleksandr O. Herbstman

1st Prize=, Magyar Sakkvilag, 1927 (version 1928)


White to play and draw

1.Bg8+! A necessary prologue. Its necessity is explained by trying 1.dxc7? when this happens – 1...Bd4+ 2.Kh2 hxg3+ 3.Kh3 N1f2+ 4.Kh4 Bf6+ 5.Kxg3 (5.Kh5? Nf4+ 6.Kh6 Ng4#) 5...Ne4+ 6.Kh2 Be5+ 0-1 1...Kc5! After 1...Kd4? White can promote quickly and win with 2.d7 2.dxc7 Now Black has a series of checks and the white king must find a hiding place. 2...Bd4+ 3.Kh2 3.Kf1? Ne3+ 4.Kg1 Rxg2+ 5.Kh1 Nf2#; 3.Kh1? N1f2+ 4.Kh2 hxg3+ 5.Kxg3 Be5+ 0-1 3...hxg3+ 4.Kh3! N1f2+ 5.Kh4 Bf6+ 6.Kh5 Nf4+ 7.Kh6 Ng4+ 8.Kh7 An escape square provided by White first move! 8...Rxb7 9.Nf7 Rxc7 A stalemate arranged by White’s first move. The white bishop is incarcerated and the white knight is pinned.

So, 1.Bg8+ provides for both the hemming in of the white bishop in the final stalemate and an escape square for the white king to avoid mate. I find the depth of this move, justified 7 and 8 moves later, very pleasing, despite the fact that White’s subsequent moves are just about forced.

Our study for solving won an honorary mention in a recent informal tourney in a Russian chess composition magazine. White is rook for queen down, with just a pawn to show for it. How can he escape with a draw? Do have a go at solving it!

Leonid Topko

HM., Uralski Problemist, 2010


White to play and draw

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