Building a Study

6/3/2021 – Chess studies have brought pleasure to enthusiasts over the centuries. They show the depth of the game more dramatically than regular over-the-board encounters. They can be mind-bogglingly clever. But how do authors go about composing studies? Amatzia Avni is a Fide Master in both OTB play and composition. He describes the process of spotting an idea and refining it, step by step, together with a colleague, until you have a competition-worthy study.

ChessBase 16 - Mega package Edition 2021 ChessBase 16 - Mega package Edition 2021

Your key to fresh ideas, precise analyses and targeted training!
Everyone uses ChessBase, from the World Champion to the amateur next door. It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


The technical aspect is no less important than spotting an idea

Amatzia Avni explains

A lot of players, amateurs and advanced alike, are puzzled by how a chess study (étude) is created; the path from a fraction of an idea to a complete work seems mysterious to them. In the past, I wrote about how a composer develops his ideas (‘How Chess Ideas Evolve’ in the April 2019 CHESS), but apart from one’s main ideas, the technical phase – assembling everything together – is essential.

Frequently the creative process of building a study is chaotic and messy. But sometimes, as in the following case, one can clearly identify structured phases. The major part of this piece was written the day after the study was finished, when memories were still fresh.

1. Inspiration

I was aware of a 1986 study by Krikheli, which I presented in one of my books.


1.Rd3. Threatening 2.Rh3#, as well as the black queen. 1...Qa7+ 2.Bd4 Qd7. The only move. 3.Bg7+ Qxg7 4.Rh3# [You know that you can move the pieces on all diagrams?]

One day I saw a study combining mate and stalemate, using the mechanism below.


1.Bg8+! Kh8! It’s stalemate after White’s next move, but if 1...Kxg8? 2.Rxc8+ or 1...Qxg8? 2.Rh3#. 2.Rxc8.

2. An Idea

I wondered how this could be expressed in a way that delivering the check is performed by a white queen, instead of a bishop, thus enhancing the aesthetical effect.

3. The Basic Scheme


1.Qg8+! (1.Qxb8? or 1.Rxb8? is stalemate. 1...Qxg8 (Or 1...Kxg8 2. Rxb8++–) 2.Rh2#

4. Implementation Problems

In addition to 1.Qg8+, White may simply move his queen to protect his rook, winning on material. There are three such moves: 1.Qd4, 1.Qd2 and 1,Qb6, ruining the scheme, as a study must have a unique solution.

I noticed that by placing White’s king on d4, two of these problems are evaded.


Now only the possibility of 1.Qb6 should be taken care of.

5. Old Problems Solved, But New Problems Arise


A common occurrence in chess, as in life, is that fixing one problem creates a new one. Adding a pair of pawns on the a-file solves the problem of the second solution 1.Qb6, but now a new obstacle appears. White can also win by 1.Qh8+!, as after the liquidation which follows 1...Qxh8 2.Rh2+ Kg8 3.Rxh8+ Kxh8, White heads towards the black a-pawn with 4.Kd5, and wins.

6. A Solution is Found, But Not a Satisfactory One


1.d7 Kh7! 2.d8Q. Instead 2.Rxa7 Qc6 3.d8Q Qc5+! is only a draw, and 2.Bc7 Qc6 3.d8Q Qc3+ 4.Kd5 Qxa1 5.Qe7 Qd1+ 6.Kc6 Qxb3 7.Be5 Qg8 8.Kxb5 b3 sets up a fortress.

2...axb6! 3 Qg8+!! 3.Qxa8 is stalemate and 3.Qh8+ leads to a drawn pawn ending: 3...Qxh8 4.Rh1+ Kg8 5.Rxh8+ Kxh8 6.Kd5 Kg8 7.Kc6 Kf7 8.Kxb6 Ke6 9.Kxb5 Kf5 10.Kxb4 Kxg5. However, paying a price of four pawns on the b-file is sub-optimal, to put it mildly.

3...Qxg8 4 Rh1#

7. Getting Stuck

Before investing more effort, I asked my friend, the renowned composer Gady Costeff, to search for anticipation (previous works which express similar ideas) by CQL (a modern searching tool). He pointed out several studies, but they were just related, not identical.

Developing the scheme further didn’t bring any relief. I regularly work with other composers, so I asked the strong Ukrainian composer, Vladislav Tarasiuk, to have a look at my scheme.

8. Breakthrough

It is common in composers’ practice, to go back and forth; if development is not reached, we examine again our basic assumptions and the starting scheme. Vladislav abandoned my draft and found an improved, economical matrix, which avoids the ugly b-pawns.


1.Qg8+! is the only winning move here, as the alternatives 1.Qd4? Qd8+!! and 1.Qd1? Qg2+ only draw, while 1.Qa5? will be countered by either of these defences.

9. A Fresh Attempt

Tarasiuk went on to suggest a good draft, with clever sacrificial counterplay by Black.


1.a8=Q+ Rxa8 2.Rxa8+ Kh7 3.d8=Q Qb4+ (3...Qxd8 4.Rxd8 Bxa1 5.Kxe2 wins) 4.Kxe2 f3+! (If 4...Qc4+ 5.Kd1! Qb3+ 6.Ke1! Qb4+ 7.Kf1! Qc4+ 8.Kg1! and wins.) 5.Kxf3 Qb7+ 6.Kg3! (and not 6.Ke2? Qe4+) 6...Be5+ 7.f4 Bxf4+!


8.Kh4! (8.Kxf4? Qe4+ 9.Kxe4 is stalemate.) 8...Bxg5+! (angling for 9.Qxg5? Qh1+! 10.Rxh1 stalemate). Instead 8...Bg3+ 9.Kh3! wins) 9.Kxg5  Qxa8! 10.Qg8+!! Qxg8 11.Rh1#

10. The Final Touch

Naturally, the first two moves add nothing. Hence, the study will start with 1 d8Q. I wondered if it was possible to introduce play before this obvious key. Eventually I reached the following, which became the final product.


We have witnessed a demonstration that good ideas alone are insufficient to make a strong study. In what is called ‘the art of creation’, a lot of work is required, with false trials leading eventually to happy discoveries.

Amatzia Avni (pronounced A-MATS-ya, Israel, born 1954) is a psychologist by profession, he is a Fide Master in both play and composition. Avni participated in the finals of Israeli championship on five occasions; in three of these, he finished among the top ten. He quitted playing in tournaments long ago, and has been concentrating on writing chess books and articles (which were translated to several languages) and composing studies.

Amatzia dedicates this article to his three grandchildren – Eden, Amit and Darya.

Vladislav Tarasiuk, 53, who shares a birthday with Yuri Gagarin and even Bobby Fischer, is a medical immunologist living in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine. He was drawn to chess at a very young age, learning the game together with a bed-ridden classmate. He soon began to take an interest in solving – and then composing – problems. He has been married for 22 years to Alla, who he says "she still endures my hobby — chess composition." The couple have two children, Anton and Eugenia. 

The above article was reproduced from Chess Magazine June 2021, with kind permission. The solutions to the puzzles are given at the bottom of this page. Don't peek if you can resist.

CHESS Magazine was established in 1935 by B.H. Wood who ran it for over fifty years. It is published each month by the London Chess Centre and is edited by IM Richard Palliser and Matt Read. The Executive Editor is Malcolm Pein, who organises the London Chess Classic. CHESS is mailed to subscribers in over 50 countries. You can subscribe from Europe and Asia at a specially discounted rate for first timers, or subscribe from North America.

Discussion and Feedback Join the public discussion or submit your feedback to the editors


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register

adbennet adbennet 6/3/2021 06:32
@ChessBase - Some bug in the chart below the replayer. At 11.Rh1# it switches from white mates to black mates?

@Mr. Avni - Highly interesting process. I buy all your chess books.