You Study Openings? No no no noo, here’s Your Study!
Endgame studies are similar to chess problems. However, while problems often present very artificial looking positions, studies appear that they could occur in a game.
“An endgame study, or just study, is a composed chess position — that is, one that has been made up rather than one from an actual game — presented as a sort of puzzle, in which the aim of the solver is to find a way for one side (usually White) to win or draw”, Wikipedia.
Composed studies exist in Shatranj (an early form of chess) manuscripts from the 9th century, and the earliest chess works by Lucena and Damiano (late 15th and early 16th century) also include studies.
As an example, here’s a beautiful study composed by Gia Nadareishvili (1921-1991), a chess composer from Georgia (not where I live, but ex-Soviet one), author of many books on chess studies. The study shown below is published in “Study through the eyes of Grandmasters”, Moscow, Fiskultura i Sport, 1972. There are 312 studies altogether commented by 9 former World Champions and 34 other Grandmasters!
A real gem. But look, it’s not about openings. May that be at all possible? Openings are cool. Who needs other books when there’s openings?
Let’s give a look at the position below. It looks White is doomed. The mere sight of the two Pawns strikes fear that freezes the blood in your veins. As always, let’s try to figure out the opponent’s next move (remember that main strategic principle prescribing that we always fight against the rival’s intentions?). Well, it seems like b-pawn is going to advance. How to stop this guy? As Nimzovich would put it, “The passed Pawn is a criminal”, who should be given all attention. Well, there are three pieces to take on the job? Let’s see.
The following commentary is by no one else but the Soviet chess patriarch, three-time World Chess Champion, Mikhail Moiseyevich Botvinnik (1911-1995).
Here’s a starting position very characteristic of Nadareishvili. On the surface – a prosaic endgame from an actual game. Looks like a technically simple endgame that Black should win as White has to give up both pieces for the two far advanced Pawns.
These lines first come to mind:
1.Kc2? Rc5+ 2.Kb3 Rc3+ 3.Kxb4 Kb2 4.Ra8 Rb3+ 5.Kc4 Ra3
1.Rb8? Kb2 2.Rxb4+ Ka3 and they confirm the first impression.
So, the King, or the Rook cannot do the job. Okay, let’s try bringing the Bishop into the game:
Now Black doesn’t get anything out of 1…Kb2 2.Rf2+ Kb1 3.Bd3+, or 1…Kb1 2.Rb8 Ra4 3.Bxa2+ Kxa2 4.Kc2. The only way left is to attack the Bishop.
1. …Ra5-c5 2.Bc4-g8!!
This long move, in the tradition of Ex-champion M. Euwe saves white. The Bishop’s position on g8 will prove safe and that determines the outcome of the battle.
2.Bxa2? Kxa2 leads to a theoretically lost Rook endgame, while after 2.Rf4? Rxc4 3.Rxc4 b3 black Pawns are unstoppable.
2. …Ka1-b1 3.Rf8-b8!
Not 3.Rf4? because of 3…b3! nor 3.Bh7+? Kb2 4.Rf2+ Ka3
Of course, not 3…a1Q Rxb4+ and Queen is lost.
4. Kd1-d2 Rc1-c2+
5. Kd2-d1 a2-a1Q
6. Rb8xb4+ Rc2-b2
This is where lies the great idea of the author. In spite of the great material advantage on an almost empty board, the radius of black long-range pieces is restricted due to the unfavorable position of the King. How to defend from 8.Rc1# threat now? A simple analysis shows that after 7…Rd2+ 8.Kxd2 Qa5+ 9.Ke2! it is not possible to win the g8 Bishop, and a draw is inevitable. It only remains:
But not 8.Rxc2? Qd4+ 9.Rd2 Qg1+ 10.Ke2 Qxg8
8. … Rc2-b2
9. Rb4-c4 and a positional draw.
One question remains: why had the Bishop go to g8, and not e6? Had that been possible, there would be a dual solution (as with problems, for a study to be regarded as a good one, it must have only one solution, @ChessContact). It turns out that the position of the e6 Bishop is without hope as the following line of play shows:
2.Be6? Kb1 3.Rb8 Rc1+ 4.Kd2 Rc2+ 5.Kd1 a1Q 6.Rxb4+ Rb2 7.Rc4 Rb6! and after 8.Rc1+ Kb2 9.Rxa1 Rd6+ 10.Ke2 Rxe6+ and black consequently wins both white pieces.
With the limited material on the board, the author created a study that brings chess lovers an endless pleasure.
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An endless pleasure indeed!