Study of the month: A knight, a knight - my kingdom for a knight!

3/2/2017 – Last year Indian GM Abhijeet Gupta showed us a study where a knight defeats an entire kingdom. Knights can be very powerful in the correct situation, but they are just as amazing when it comes to domination of pieces, building fortresses, forking king and queen, even helping in and delivering the smothered mate. Siegfried Hornecker demonstrates this and some remarkable ideas in chess studies.

A knight, a knight - my kingdom for a knight!

By Siegfried Hornecker

Before we start, I would like to reply to a comment that was made in the discussion about the previous column, where it was said that the Ortueta-Sanz game and the study are both shown on Tim Krabbé’s website. There are two points I want to make here: the first is that this is, of course, correct, but I believed the study needs greater exposure. The context with the two games was chosen because those are outstanding examples for the power of a few pawns working together. I will, however, try to avoid studies in the future that have already been shown there (but I have selected for the next month a study that was reprinted in an equally famous Russian book),

The second point is that Tim Krabbé has great taste, not only by selecting this as one of his favorite studies. I can wholeheartedly recommend his work on "Chess Curiosities" (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1985).

There was also a discussion on the difficulty of the studies in the first column. Unfortunately I can only try my best to explain what happens in the play. With this being said, let us begin. This time I would like to provide some background information on the topic of composition tourneys for studies, but those for other genres work similarly.

Original studies are usually sent to two kinds of tourneys (unless they appear in another source, such as a website or book): informal tourneys are those run by magazines, where occasionally studies appear, usually together with a solving contest that also runs over the entire time. At the end of the time period (usually a year or two) the best studies are then crowned in a small award by a judge, or – as was also done sometimes – even by solvers. The solvers, on the other hand, usually receive book prizes for each half year or year of solving, if they are the best solvers of that time period in the magazine.

So the studies are published and later judged, where the magazine sponsors the prizes and an editor does the work for the columns and solvers. Formal tourneys are announced separately, the studies can be sent to a director (usually not identical with the judge) and are judged later, where the studies not appearing in the award are not published. Those tourneys are run by study enthusiasts who might even be prominent figures in chess otherwise. As a famous example, ten years ago, the – sadly now late – Mark Dvoretsky held a contest for “Studies for practical players”, which he included in his book of the same name.

While in informal tournaments usually all studies are welcome, formal tournaments might make special limitations (such as themes or the number of entries, or in case of the Dvoretzky tourney that they appeal to OTB players), those were also made for the study shown today and the bonus study.

Speaking of players that like studies, last year the Indian GM Abhijeet Gupta presented a study where a knight defeats an entire kingdom. Just like pawns, or like any other piece for that reason, knights can be very powerful in the correct situation, defeating even an entire army single-handedly. But knights are just as amazing when it comes to a lot of different patterns – domination of pieces, building fortresses, forking king and queen, even helping in and delivering the smothered mate.

The duty of judges in tourneys – be they formal or informal – is heavy, and they have to follow their conscience. A judge must check for anticipations, that means if the same idea has been shown before; check for incorrectnesses, i.e. if there are multiple solutions; or if Black has a better defense where he wins; or if the study wants White to win, but draws; and finally weigh in all factors to find a fair judgment to award the studies with prizes, honorable mentions and commendations. I have judged six tourneys myself, and have made two big mistakes in them – an indication on how difficult it is to find a fair judgment. Today I want to show one of them, a study that, based on what seemed a too difficult sideline to me, I awarded only an honorable mention while it would have clearly deserved a prize.

You probably know that you can move pieces on our replay boards to analyse, and even start an engine to help you. You can maximize the replayer, auto-play, flip the board and even change the piece style in the bar below the board. At the bottom of the notation window on the right there are buttons for editing (delete, promote, cut lines, unannotate, undo, redo) save, play out the position against Fritz and even embed our JavaScript replayer on your web site or blog. Hovering the mouse over any button will show you its function.

Dennis Eschbach is a German studies composer about whom I have no further information. In the Harold van der Heijden database, only five studies of him exist so far, but they are all of good quality.

[Event "1st honorable mention, Schach#16375"] [Site "?"] [Date "2006.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Eschbach, Dennis"] [Black "Black to play, White wins"] [Result "1-0"] [Annotator "Hornecker, Siegfried"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "1K2B3/4p3/4kb1N/P1P2N2/3P4/4p3/3p4/8 b - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "18"] [EventDate "2006.??.??"] {Black to move, White wins - White has already prepared a combination to capture a newborn queen on d1, so Black has to play a nice bishop sacrifice to destroy that combination.} 1... Be5+ $1 ({Unsuccessful is} 1... d1=Q 2. Bf7+ Kd7 3. c6+ $1 Kxc6 4. Be8+ Kd5 5. Nxe3+ Kxd4 6. Nxd1 $18 {and White wins easily. Notice how all pieces worked nicely together here.}) 2. dxe5 d1=Q { Black has promoted to a new queen, and the fight is only about to begin. White has two passed pawns that can become dangerous, Black has one threatening to promote soon. As there are no alternatives in sight, White should at first try to capture that pawn, even if it might cost a knight. In studies, often a forced way is correct, so this is at least a line to try out.} 3. Nxe3 Qd8+ ({ Indeed, after} 3... Qb3+ 4. Kc7 Qxe3 ({The complicated sideline would be} 4... Qb4 $1 {but eventually three pieces and the c-pawn win against the queen, for example} 5. Bf7+ Kxe5 6. Nhg4+ Ke4 7. Bd5+ Kf4 8. c6 Qxa5+ 9. Kd7 Qb4 10. c7 Qd6+ 11. Kc8 e6 12. Bb7 Kg5 13. Bh1 Qd4 14. Kb7 Qb4+ 15. Kc6 Qa4+ 16. Kd6 Qf4+ 17. Kd7 Qf7+ 18. Kc6 Qe8+ 19. Kd6 Qf8+ 20. Kxe6 Qc8+ 21. Kd6 Qf8+ 22. Kc6 Qe8+ 23. Kb6 Qd7 24. Bc6 Qd4+ 25. Kb7 Qb4+ 26. Ka6 Qa3+ 27. Kb5 Qb3+ 28. Kc5 Qa3+ 29. Kd5 Qa5+ 30. Kd6 Qa3+ 31. Kd7 Qd3+ 32. Nd5 Qf5+ 33. Kd6 Qxg4 34. Bd7 Qg3+ 35. Kc6 $18) 5. Bf7+ Kxe5 6. Ng4+ {the queen falls.}) 4. Kb7 Qxa5 $1 {White now should try to take advantage of the position of the queen to put the Black king into a cage.} ({Every Black defense has to be considered. Taking the pawn is better here than taking the bishop, as then the free pawns decide quickly.} 4... Qxe8 5. c6 Kxe5 6. Nc4+ $1 Kd4 7. Nb6 $18 {and Black is lost.}) 5. Bf7+ Kd7 (5... Kxe5 6. Nc4+ {shows that the queen on a5 stands unsafe.}) 6. Nd5 $1 { A great silent move, inviting Black to take the other free pawn.} ({Tempting is } 6. e6+ $2 Kd8 {but there is no real continuation since the queen now stands too strong.}) 6... Qxc5 {# It might be difficult now to find a continuation for White. The natural check on e6 lets Black flee, but there is a brillant sacrifice.} ({There is nothing better, as the tricky} 6... Kd8 {falls to the equally tricky} 7. Bg6 $1 Qb5+ (7... Qxc5 8. Nf7+ Kd7 (8... Ke8 9. Nc7+ Kf8 10. Ne6+ $18) 9. Nb6+ Ke6 10. Nd8+ Kxe5 11. Nd7+ $18) 8. Nb6 Qxc5 9. Nf7+ Ke8 10. Ng5+ Kf8 {and White has two ways to fork king and queen, winning in both.}) 7. Be8+ $3 Kxe8 {Now the cavalry leads to the final act.} ({Every sacrifice - unless forced - can be met by not accepting it. The two lines here lose either king or queen, however.} 7... Kd8 8. Bc6 Qf2 9. e6 $18) (7... Ke6 8. Nf4+ Kxe5 9. Nd3+ $18) 8. Nc7+ Kd7 {. Forced, as otherwise the fork on e6 wins. Now White does not need the fork square anymore.} 9. e6+ Kd6 10. Nf7# {[#]At the end of the battle, an ideal mate, that is a mate where each square around the king is covered only once and all pieces are involved in the final position, is reached.} 1-0


The following study, while not being an official “study of the month” (I decided – spoiler – to show something with each piece, in ascending order, for two months each), is a great recent pawn endgame which I believe readers will enjoy, so it can be seen as a small bonus. The full preliminary award, which only contains one other study, is available at the forum

[Event "1st prize, 2nd tt of"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.02.18"] [Round "?"] [White "Arestov, Pavel"] [Black "White to play and win"] [Result "1-0"] [Annotator "Hornecker,Siegfried"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/8/7p/5k1p/8/6P1/2P5/7K w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "27"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] {White wins - The tourney asked for artistic kings and pawns studies that are not centered on promotion, and the author, Pavel Arestov from Russia, managed to find a very nice and potentially theoretically important position with only six pieces - or five after the h5-pawn's sacrifice - that demonstrates mutual zugzwangs., i.e. positions where the side to move is at a disadvantage. Such zugzwang positions are marked with "zz" in studies, so I also apply this convention here.} 1. Kh2 $3 ({In a game, one would probably play} 1. Kg2 $2 { and reach a draw after 1.-} h4 $1 2. gxh4 Kg4 $3 3. c4 h5 $1 {zz} ({but} 3... Kf4 {zz also draws.}) 4. Kf2 (4. c5 Kf5 $11) 4... Kf4 5. Ke2 Ke4 6. Kd2 Kd4 $11 ) 1... h4 $1 ({The straightforward play is a dead loss:} 1... Ke4 2. Kh3 Kd4 3. Kh4 Kc3 4. Kxh5 Kxc2 5. Kxh6 $18) 2. gxh4 Kg4 3. c4 $1 ({Over all the artistry the basic endgame principles are not to be forgotten: After} 3. Kg2 $2 Kxh4 $11 {the Black king safely is in the "pawn square" of the c-pawn that, as the pawn is still on the second rank, extends from c3-c8-h8-h3-c3, so he can reach the pawn if it advances.}) 3... Kf4 ({After} 3... Kxh4 4. c5 {the pawn runs away, as the "pawn square" now only extends to the f-file.}) 4. Kg2 $1 {zz - Chess is a crazy world, as we will see, where even in such a simple pawn endgame it can be an advantage to NOT have the move. In the try, the attempt 1.Kg2, we reached this position with White to move if Black plays 3.-Kf4. Here it is Black to move, but with the tempo more surprisingly he can't draw...} ({ However, White shouldn't be too generous with the tempi, as after} 4. Kh3 $2 h5 $1 5. Kg2 (5. c5 Ke5 6. Kg3 Kd5 7. Kf4 Kxc5 8. Kg5 Kd6 $1 9. Kxh5 Ke7 10. Kg6 Kf8 {is just enough to draw.}) 5... Kg4 $3 {zz Black holds the opposition and draws easily.}) 4... Ke4 ({White gains the opposition and wins after} 4... h5 5. Kf2 $1 Ke4 6. Kg3 {zz} Kd4 7. Kf4 Kxc4 8. Kg5 Kd5 9. Kxh5 Ke6 10. Kg6 Ke7 11. Kg7 $18) {#} 5. Kh3 $3 ({Understanding the like after 4.-h5, it is easy to see that} 5. Kg3 $2 h5 $1 $11 {zz loses an important tempo for White.}) ({ The same tempo is lost if White stays on the second rank with} 5. Kf2 $2 Kd4 6. Kf3 Kxc4 7. Kg4 Kd5 8. Kh5 Ke6 9. Kxh6 Kf7 $11) 5... h5 ({Or} 5... Kd4 6. Kg4 Kxc4 7. Kh5 Kd5 8. Kxh6 Ke6 9. Kg7 $18 (9. Kg6 $5 Ke7 10. Kg7 $1 $18)) 6. Kg3 { zz} Ke5 $1 ({We saw the line} 6... Kd4 {already:} 7. Kf4 Kxc4 8. Kg5 Kd5 9. Kxh5 Ke6 10. Kg6 Ke7 11. Kg7 $18) 7. Kf3 $1 ({Black's tricky move tried to suggest to White there are two ways to win now, and advancing the pawn is faster. However, Black will reach f8 in time then:} 7. c5 $2 Kd5 8. Kf4 Kxc5 9. Kg5 Kd6 10. Kxh5 Ke7 11. Kg6 Kf8 $11 {with a draw.}) 7... Kd4 ({Or, even worse, it might suggest that Black gains the opposition after} 7... Kf5 $1 {So is it a draw after all?} 8. Ke3 Ke5 9. Kd3 $1 {No, White controls d5 and Black's king must allow White to pass.} Kd6 10. Ke4 Kc5 11. Kf5 Kxc4 12. Kg5 Kd5 13. Kxh5 Ke6 14. Kg6 $18) {The author gave the more straightforward variation as main variation. The play now ends as we saw before:} 8. Kf4 Kxc4 9. Kg5 Kd5 10. Kxh5 Ke6 11. Kg6 $1 Ke7 12. Kg7 $1 Ke6 13. h5 Kf5 14. h6 $18 {and the pawn passes through. White has won.} 1-0

The theme of the tourney was proposed by your author: pawn endgames, where the focus is not on promotions. It is incredible how this study shows something new, even with only six pieces. But then, as a proverb from India says, chess is a sea in which a fly can swim and an elephant drown.

In the end, I want to give a study for the readers to solve. It is possible to see the entire combination from the first diagram for a good player, and in fact, after maybe 20 minutes, I did so myself when it originally appeared. My friend Martin Minski awarded it with the highest distinction, the first prize. Do you agree with me that it is nice to solve? If not, you can simply have the solution shown – after a week or two.

[Event "Schach 2014-2015, 1st prize"] [Site "?"] [Date "2015.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Fomichev, Evgeny"] [Black "White to play and win"] [Result "1-0"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "5N2/p5n1/1P1B1r2/k2P4/P7/8/8/K6b w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "0"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] {White is a rook down for two pawns, but has a pawn that is on the sixth rank. How can he make use of this to win the game?} 1-0

Again, we would like to remind readers of the Reddit IAMA with Siegfried on 12 March 2017, 19:00h Berlin time (1:00 PM EST) where you can ask anything about chess composition.

About the author

Siegfried Hornecker (*1986) is a German chess composer and member of the World Federation for Chess Composition, subcommitee for endgame studies. His autobiographical book "Weltenfern" (in English only) can be found on the ARVES website. He will present an interesting endgame study with detailed explanation each month.

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benedictralph benedictralph 3/2/2017 08:57
There really should be chess problems that are more palatable to the average player. When I look at all this analysis, I get bored really fast. I'm sure there are some people with the time and energy to devote to their appreciation, however. But not that many, for sure.
Martos Martos 3/2/2017 10:27
I particularly enjoyed the studies. Especially the K & P endgame for its theoretical value. Thank you. One note, Bitdefender alerts me about malware on the ARVES website. Should I consider this as a false positive?
MichaelCiamarra MichaelCiamarra 3/3/2017 08:26
Thank you for the excellent post and high quality studies and annotations. The King and pawn endgame study by Arestov is a very practical exercise in precise calculation of variations and the concept of mutual zugzwang. To quote GM Hans Ree, "The composers of chess problems and endgame studies could be called the conscience of the world of chess." Keep up the great job and I enjoy your column!
satman satman 3/4/2017 01:28
"Nobody knew that chess could be so complicated"
benedictralph benedictralph 3/5/2017 05:40
"Nobody expects that it needs to be to enjoy it".