Study of the Month: Dancing bishops

by Siegfried Hornecker
6/5/2017 – That's the subject of this month's pick by our study expert Siegfried Hornecker. He introduces us to three prolific Soviet composers, each of whom had created around 110 studies. While researching the background for his article Siegfried hit upon a coincidence involving the number 110. It involves the Canadian Master Zoltán Sárosy, and we have included a lovely interview with him at the end of the article. Can you guess what the coincidence was?

Dancing bishops

By Siegfried Hornecker

A free association on dancing would reach through all spectrums of life, from religious experiences (trance inducing dances) over all styles of music (including as song themes in The Dancer, Lord of the Dance, Music Box Dancer) to the boundaries that spring life (dancing a waltz with your beloved) and death (Danse Macabre). Dancing might be as old as humanity, and a small dance of pieces happens even on the chessboard every once in a while.

Today, we will look at three such dances performed by bishops, ranging from the old masters to a modern own production. The second example should be seen more as a schema of rather humorous quality. The first composition is to be seen as the main study this month, the others as a small dessert.

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.

[Event "Sachove Umenie"] [Site "?"] [Date "1947.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Liburkin, Mark"] [Black "White to play and draw"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [Annotator "Hornecker,Siegfried"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/2B1p3/7P/p4k2/1b6/7b/4PK2/8 w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "19"] [EventDate "1947.??.??"] {The h-pawn must guarantee a draw, enabling White to exchange it for both black pawns. The draw itself is not too spectacular, but the moves leading to it form a nice dance.} 1. h7 ({If White wants to win the bishop, the wish is granted:} 1. Kg3 $2 Bc3 $1 ({For some reason, hhdbv gives} 1... Bf1 $2 2. Kf2 $2 ({but} 2. h7 $11 {would lead to the main variation!}) 2... Bxe2 3. Kxe2 Kg6 $11 {as the continuation in this sideline.}) 2. Kxh3 a4 $19 {and the a-pawn is unstoppable.}) 1... Bc3 {and since Bc3 is overworked, White can eliminate the first pawn.} 2. Bxa5 Be5 {Black wants to prevent Kg3, but the bishop still is overworked, so the dance can begin.} 3. Bc7 Bd4+ 4. Kg3 Bf1 {Is everything fine? No, the bishop still is overworked and the dance continues.} 5. Bb6 Be5+ 6. Kf2 Bh3 7. Bc7 Bf6 {Black's best other defense fails because the bishop still is overworked, unable to protect e7:} ({For the sake of this article, the thematic variation is} 7... Bd4+ 8. Kg3 Bf1 9. Bb6 Be5+ 10. Kf2 Bh3 11. Bc7 {with an endless dance.}) 8. Kg3 Bg4 (8... Bf1 9. Kf2 Bh3 10. Kg3 $11) 9. e4+ ( {Here is a small dual, as the check is not necessary yet:} 9. Bd8 Be5+ { . Maybe Liburkin thought that Black wins here, but the pieces are too tangled.} 10. Kh4 e6 11. e4+ {winning the bishop, because Be5 still is overworked:} Kxe4 (11... Kf4 $4 12. Bc7 $18) 12. Kxg4 $11) 9... Kg5 10. Bd8 {and Pe7 is lost. Draw.} 1/2-1/2

Mark Liburkin (1910-1953) was a Soviet economist, decorated with a medal for Socialist work, as well as a honorary citizenship (where?). He created over 110 studies, rich in clarity, idea and economics. [Source: German Wikipedia, based on Kofman’s Russian “Selected Studies of Liburkin and Kaminer”]

[Event "EG, issue 5"] [Site "?"] [Date "1971.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Afanasiev/Dvizov, G/E."] [Black "White to play and draw"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [Annotator "Hornecker,Siegfried"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "b1B5/P3p3/1p2P1p1/1p2p1P1/1p3bPp/1p1K3P/1P6/4k3 w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "13"] [EventDate "1971.??.??"] {The study is rather to be seen as a schema, as there is no deep play. White already stands in stalemate and only has to get rid of his two pieces while keeping the stalemate intact. It will turn out the stalemate net perfectly fits around the entire board.} 1. Bb7 Bxb7 2. a8=Q e4+ ({First stalemate:} 2... Bxa8) 3. Kd4 Be3+ {and the dance begins.} ({Second stalemate:} 3... Bxa8) ({ The dance can also commence counterclockwise:} 3... Be5+ 4. Ke3 Bd4+ 5. Kf4 Be3+ 6. Ke5 Bf4+ 7. Kd4) 4. Ke5 Bd4+ ({Third stalemate:} 4... Bxa8) 5. Kf4 Be5+ ({Fourth stalemate:} 5... Bxa8) 6. Ke3 Bf4+ ({Fifth and final stalemate:} 6... Bxa8) 7. Kd4 {and as studies know no threefold repetition rule, they still dance today... ad infinitum...} 1/2-1/2

Georgy Afanasiev (1910-1971) was a Belarussian Soviet construction engineer who served in the Army “from the outset of the war” (probably World War II is meant, i.e. around 1940) until 1957. Of his around 110 studies, more than 60 were created together with Evgeny Dvizov. [Source: Obituary in EG 26]

Evgeny Dvizov (1937-2012) was a Soviet/Belarussian teacher and chess coach. He became one of the main sources about studies composition in Belarus. Coincidentially, he also composed around 110 studies. [Source: ARVES website]

For the full solution to our third study please check the article on the Informator 50 Jubilee Tourney presentation.


In case you haven't seen it, a short explanation is in order. White has to defend against the mate threats at first, so he plays for stalemate, sacrificing his rook and bishop. Black tries to avoid checks by the queen so he sacrifices his own rook on d7 and afterwards refuses to capture the bishop as far as possible, but eventually reaches the h-file. After the check on g4, his queen can take and Black seems to remain a rook up as White has no good checks. But then the surprise 7.Qe3!! creates a situation where Black can’t escape, in contrast to the “Bristol” theme 7.Qc5+? Qg5 8.Qf2 Rg4!! - no matter what, White reaches a stalemate or an otherwise drawn endgame.

Martin Minski (*1969) is teacher in a school. He composed a few studies early but experienced a second spring in the mid-2000s, after which he became one of the best German composers. Yours truly would describe Martin as a true inamorato of chess studies, passionate and enthusiastic as only an artist can be. He has more than 210 studies in the latest database of Harold van der Heijden (October 2015), but composed many more in the meantime, making the real number probably between 230 and 240.

Incidentally, Martin Minski’s birthday is 23rd of August, the same day as the legend Zoltán Sárosy, pictured at the top of this article. Sarosy is a Canadian chess master who was born in Budapest and immigrated to Toronto in the early 1950s. Minski is 48, Sárosy somewhat older: last August he became a supercentenarian, when he reached the age of 110 years. He is the oldest living man and fourth oldest living person in Canada.

Last year, we ran an article on him to celebrate his incredible longevity.

You might enjoy this video interview with him. When asked what he atributed his longevity to Sárosy replies: "I don't know. If I would know I wouldn't tell you – I would get myself a patent for it."


In reaction to our Informator 50 Jubilee Tourney article we got a message from world famous composer (and assiduous ChessBase contributor) Pal Benko, who sent us "an old and not too original endgame." We give it to you to solve (White to play and win!), with the help of a chess engine on our JavaScript replay board. The solution will be added here in a week or so.

Pal Benko (also known as Pál Benkö, *1928 in France) is a Hungarian-American former world-class player who was qualified for the Interzonal in 1970 but gave this place to hie countryman Bobby Fischer, leading to the now legendary 1972 World Championship in Reykjavik. Benko holds the title of Grandmaster since 1956, but also besides many successes in practical play, such as winning or tying for first place in the U.S. Open eight times and winning the Canadian championship in 1964, made a name as an expert and coinnosseur of endgame studies, where he composed (versions and twins included) at least 140 published works. Many of them are new interpretations of old themes, breathing new life into classics.

[Event "EG"] [Site "?"] [Date "1991.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Benko, Pal"] [Black "White to play and win"] [Result "*"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/8/2K5/p2p1pP1/k7/p2B4/8/8 w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "0"] *

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.

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 presents an interesting endgame study with detailed explanation each month.
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benedictralph benedictralph 6/5/2017 08:29
What an incredible man... being able to walk and talk at 105 years old.