Christmas Puzzles 2014 – My Favourite Studies

by Frederic Friedel
12/29/2014 – Chess endgame studies used to be great fun, especially the creative and artistic variety that brought hours of solving pleasure. These days you simply enter the position in a computer and hit "Go". The solution usually appears in milliseconds, giving you milliseconds of enjoyment. Why don't you try to work with a chessboard and pieces. Here are two studies with solving instructions.

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ChessBase 2014 Christmas Puzzles

For the fifteenth anniversary of our apparently well-loved Christmas puzzles we have decided to go back in time and pick some of the best or most popular puzzles for you. Remember there are GM readers (and one of our regular authors) out there who were not born when we started the series. For older readers the cherries we will pick out of the original section will hopefully bring on nostalgic memories; and the younger ones will learn for the first time what we have been up to over the years.

(One top GM, who is approaching 2800, wrote us: "Terrible puzzles on the ChessBase page. Especially the first one. It keeps bothering my brain during my holidays. It took me couple days to figure out it's must be Black who is mating, but I am still struggling to see how.")

And of course we will start the new year with our traditional Christmas puzzle contest. On the first of January 2015 you will get some problems to solve, with the chance of winning interesting prizes. In the meantime here are the final three sections for 2014. The page will be updated from December 29–31.


December 30

December 31

January 1

December 29, 2014: My favourite studies

I was introduced to chess studies by one person, a world champion, and one book. It was over thirty years ago, in 1981, when a young Finn named Mika Korhonen came to stay for a week in my home. Mika was part of the Finnish problem solving team that had won the world championship in the helpmate section. He had written one of the world's first problem solving programs, Mika's Mate, for the Apple II computer.

Mika was also an endgame specialist, and he brought with him a book that we read, virtually from cover to cover, while he was there. It was John Roycroft's The Chess Endgame Study. Originally the book had appeared around 1972 and had been called Test Tube Chess, but Mika had the latest edition with the new title.

There was another guest staying with us at the time. It was a young boy from England, fifteen years old, tall and lanky, with feminine features and a giant Elo. It was Nigel Short, still an IM and playing in a Hamburg Grandmaster Tournament. Every morning, still in his pyjamas, every evening and on his free days he joined in the fun and solved studies with us. Naturally he was much better at it, so Mika had to pull out helpmates and other weird stuff to put the lad in his place.

I still own Roycroft's book, which Mika left behind, unable to bear the traumatic parting scenes that would have inevitably followed. It is well-thumbed, with dog's ears and little slips of paper in it, and pencilled notes on the side of hundreds of positions. These include solving times for Nigel and other top GMs who visited me, as well as for early chess computers. Big heavy "X"s mark my favourite studies. My taste has not changed substantially over the years.

15-year-old Nigel Short and Mika Korhonen solving puzzles

M. Klyatskin, Schachmat 1924

White to play and win

Let us start solving this position. 1.Rxa8 is naturally the first move we check, but 1...Nxa8 2.Kxa7 Kxc6 3.Kxa8 Kb5 is an obvious draw. So we check 2.Kb7 Nc7 3.a6 Nxa6, which also only draws.

So let's try 1.axb6 Rxb8 2.bxa7, but again 2...Re8 (for instance) 3.Kb7 Re7+ is a draw (4.Kb8 Rxa7).

What else? 1.c7 looks promising, since Black can't take the rook. But after 1...Kxc7 2.Rxa8 Nxa8 we are once again left with a draw.

So how on earth is White to win? Well, you can enter the study in Fritz or Komodo and find out in a millisecond. Or you can enjoy the exquisite pleasure we experienced at the time, setting up the position on a chessboard and working it out all on our own. They were good days.

J. Gunst, Das illustrierte Blatt, 1922

White to play and win

Now this is a really simple position, isn't it? It is immediately clear that White must capture the black pawns without losing either of his pieces. But these are being acutely threatened by the black king.

We should be able to work out the solution by brute force. Let's start by eliminating the obviously bad tries: any king or knight moves drop the bishop and the game is immediately drawn. This is an enormous help, because we now know that the first move must be with the bishop.

So let's start with 1.Bxd7. Unfortunately 1...Kc7 results in one of the white pieces being captured and a draw. This means we are left with only two candidate moves. We try 1.Bb7, and are again confronted with 1...Kc7. Black again picks up one of the white pieces and draws. So obviously the correct move is 1.Ba6. But hang on, after 1...Kc7 where does the knight go? Once again it is captured and Black has secured the draw.

We have run out of moves, the problem doesn't appear to have a solution. Maybe there is an error in the diagram? This is a very unpleasant possibility that come up more often than you'd expect in chess magazines. One spends hours working on a study and in the next issue the editor writes "we apologize for an error in the diagram, there was a white pawn missing on b5" or something like that. But rest assured, the above diagram is correct, the position is wKd5, Nb8, Bc8, bKd8, Pa7, Pd7, six pieces on the board, three of each colour.

So how in the world does White win? Well, that is your task for today – or one of them. Out with the chessboard and six pieces, and a hot coffee, cold beer or nice glass of wine, whatever is your thing. Just leave the computer out of it.

– Part two of My Favourite Studies will follow tomorrow –

Please do not post any solutions in the discussion section below and spoil the fun for everyone else. Nobody will admire you for it, and some will be extremely annoyed. Just keep it all to yourself.




Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.
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Malthrope Malthrope 12/31/2014 02:55
+deadlyrooms ~ Quite true! ;) I spent a very quiet moment to reflect back when first reading that introduction to this phase of the ChessBase Christmas Puzzles. That I was indeed lucky that I didn't have to think about it back then. As during the time that I begin studying Chess and solving Chess problems (which all took place for me back in 1961-62). If I had to it all over again I'm glad the temptation of the computer is not a threat (I have free choice in any selection that I can make). As I much prefer still solving everything in my mind. Although I still use a standard Staunton Chess set and chessboard from time to time (or a decent pocket Chess set). My use of the Chess computer engines is generally reserved for searching only items of a specific interest. 'nuff said! Regards, - Mal
deadlyrooms deadlyrooms 12/30/2014 11:57
Great puzzles, but I don't like the intro. So patronising. Yes, computers exist now. That does not mean solvers have stopped enjoying studies or that they (that is, we) routinely cheat!
RJS RJS 12/30/2014 08:26
riccardo, did you read the bit that says "Please do not post any solutions in the discussion section below"?
Malthrope Malthrope 12/30/2014 05:33
Yes caliche2014 it's true that (what you said about my previous comment) on problem #1 (M. Klyatskin). I had to reread one line over again to be absolutely sure I read what thought I read! LoL I can't say anything more on this one as we wouldn't want to upset Frederic. ;) In problem #2 (J. Gunst) after a quick hiccup on my part I then see that precession is necessary. After quickly realizing that the solution immediately appears before my eyes. Think because I always knew where I'm going it was just finding the right path once again on how to get there that needed to be patched up! ROFL Anyhoo, that's how I was able to solve them so quickly. Those old memories buried deep within are still in there (my brain) with all those lovely mating patterns and positions, LoL FYI: Back in the day (circa 1970's) I was giving Simultaneous Blindfold Exhibitions on 5, 8 and 10 boards with great success. However, you are right about problem #2 that it's clearly the tougher one of the two in this group. ;)

I've familiar with several of A.J. Roycroft incredible books dealing with a variety of Endgames studies. He's clearly top-notch in this field and one of the very best Endgame authors out there. Speaking of the very best... I was truly honored to have met GM John Nunn (the good doctor Nunny!) at the Pan-Pacific International Chess Tournament held in San Francisco, CA back in 1995. He was and stilll is one of my favorite Chess hereos. Especially when it comes to the crazy wacky world of Chess problems (of all kinds possible) and especially (of course) Endgame studies! :XD Love his book, "Solving in Style" (1985 Batsford) then (2002), Gambit Publications. A beautiful assortment of various kinds of Chess problems, tasks and studies ~ a classic! :D
caliche2014 caliche2014 12/30/2014 02:03
Yeah Malthrope I definitely got your point :) and wow, that was quick, even if you saw them years ago! I had already seen and solved the first one, but not the second one, it took me a few minutes to find the one subtle move that is needed in order to win as White. As a result of this cool article, I decided to order a copy of Roycroft's book, I'm sure it is going to be a good addition to my chess studies book collection, many thanks Frederic Friedel!
Malthrope Malthrope 12/29/2014 11:09
PS: Hey caliche2014! ;) Yes, I think I spent all of 20 seconds on the first study by M. Klyatskin (Schachmat 1924). Only because I had to reread one of the clues to be sure I actually read what I read! LoL (I know that You understand that last comment!). And, the second one by Gunst (Das illustrierte Blatt, 1922) was automatic. Saw the solution in just a few seconds. In all fairness, I probably came across these studies once before some 50 years ago (the positions still look quite familiar to me). Best Regards, - Mal
Malthrope Malthrope 12/29/2014 10:58
Doesn't anyone read or follow simple instructions anymore? :P This is clearly stated at the end of the main article...

– Part two of My Favourite Studies will follow tomorrow –

Please do not post any solutions in the discussion section below and spoil the fun for everyone else. Nobody will admire you for it, and some will be extremely annoyed. Just keep it all to yourself.

So, be a good Chess problem solver and follow the instructions ~ shall we? :-)

Regards, - Malthrope (Berkeley, CA // USA)
caliche2014 caliche2014 12/29/2014 06:17
Thanks for the studies! Really nice and simple solutions (simple if you're a bit used to solving studies that is!). What I like most of this type of studies is that they're not the highly technical and many times dry studies that for example some GMs prefer, these on the contrary are a lot of fun. Anyways, just my personal opinion as the meaning of what is fun obviously varies from person to person, for a mathematician solving an equation is fun of course!
Rootes 42 Rootes 42 12/29/2014 05:04
I don't think "solving instructions" is the right description here. "Patter designed to distract would-be solvers by mentioning what is actually the correct move, but dismissing it with some reason why it 'obviously' can't work" would be closer to the mark.
riccardo riccardo 12/29/2014 03:20
2nd one, W checkmates B in the white corner or manages to free both his pieces, and win consequently.
Something like Bb7 (need to waste a tempo) Kc7 - Ba6 KxNb8 - Kd6 Ka8!(only move) - Kc7 d-pawn move - Bb7#
I B King doesn't take in b8 and chases the bishop, say, then after any W bishop move the W knight flies off to a6, protected.
You don't need a chess set for this one :-))
soikins soikins 12/29/2014 02:16
Nice puzzles, but these where quite easy.
datuali sinsuat datuali sinsuat 12/29/2014 02:10
Aha! i know it?
Banjan Banjan 12/29/2014 01:40
Cutie pies!
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