Christmas Puzzles 2014 – My Favourite Studies (2)

by Frederic Friedel
12/30/2014 – As mentioned before, artistic endgame studies used to be great fun, providing human brains hours of solving pleasure. Until the day when this was replaced by the less challenging action of pressing Alt-F2 in a computer program. In part two of this article our senior editor Frederic Friedel helps the flesh-and-blood thought processes along with some useful solving hints.

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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.

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 31

January 1

December 30, 2014: My favourite studies (2)

Today I would like to show you three more positions I first saw in the Roycroft book described on the December 29 puzzle page. Some of you may have seen them before – after all they are world-famous examples! But for those of you who haven't this could be a very pleasant journey in the magic world of chess studies.

If you want to spoil everything for yourself you will enter these studies into the computer, fire up a chess engine and wait patiently for a couple of milliseconds to learn the solution. If on the other hand you want to really enjoy the studies you will get out your chessboard and pieces (they are somewhere in the closet in the dining room, I think), and will go through the possibilities we discus below. Finding the solutions all by yourself will give you immense pleasure. A nice glass of Beaujolais goes well with the process.

Leonid Kubbel, Shakhmatny Listok 16.9.1922

White to play and win

Okay, Black is going to queen the a-pawn – there seems to be no way to stop that. But let us check: after 1.Bf6 a2 2.c3 Black doesn't save us by taking the pawn but simply queens with check: 2...a1Q+. We can contemplate 2.c4+, but that doesn't solve anything: 2...Kxc4 3.d3+ Kxd3 and Black queens to win. The immediate 1.c4+ doesn't work either. Black simply captures the pawn with his king and we cannot stop the a-pawn from promoting.

So what else is there? How about something crazy like 1.Nc6, which threatens a fork on b4. Black plays 1...Kxc6 (fine, this kind of sacrifice is normal in studies) and we play 2.Bf6. But after 2...Kd5 we are again stuck: 3.c4+ Kxc4 4.d3+ Kxd3 does not prevent the safe promotion of the b-pawn, and 3.c3 a2 loses even quicker.

We have reached the point where we are looking for a way for White to save the game. But we are not playing for a draw, we are expected to win. Any bright ideas?


A.V. and K.V. Sarychev, Shakhmatny Listok 1928

White to play and draw

This is not an easy problem. In 1983 the readers of a German computer chess magazine reported that no computer at the time came anywhere close to solving it. I asked Ken Thompson to run it on his Belle machine and we were impressed that the reigning world computer chess champion produced the solution in two minutes and 20 seconds. Today a random chess engine (which we will not switch on!) takes 0.00 seconds.

The basic problem is that 1.c8Q doesn't work: 1...Bf5+ 2.Kc7 Bxc8 leaves White helpless, unable to capture the bishop, as that would allow the pawn to run. The black king approaches and supports the duo to win the game.

The only other reasonable alternative, 1.Kd6, also runs into problems after 1...Bf5 2.Kc5 Ke4 3.Kb6 Bc8. Black will now win, e.g. after 4.Kc5 (4.Ka7 b5) 4...Ke5 5.Kb5 Kd6 6.Kb6 Kd7 7.Kc5 Kxc7.

We leave it at that, it's up to you to find the only move that draws. Once again: pull out that old chess set and work it out all by yourself. Pat yourself firmly on the back if you succeed.


J. Moravec, La Strategie, 1913

White to play and win

Normally it is fairly easy for the weaker side to draw in a position like this, since White will have to sacrifice the rook to prevent a black pawn from queening. For instance you can try 1.Kxg7 h4 2.Ra3 Kg2 3.Kg6 h3 4.Ra2+ Kg1 5.Kg5 h2 6.Ra1+ Kg2 7.Ra2+ (7.Kg4 h1Q 8.Rxh1) 7...Kg1 draw.

We leave you to work out the solution yourself. It contains two extraordinary points which should bring two smiles of delight to your face.

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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