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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Bandesz Bandesz 1/2/2015 05:09

I started uploading the solutions of these lovely puzzles on my youtube channel. If you are stuck on a problem (or want to see the channel), check it out:

PS: I may not be able to solve all of them but I will try my mighty best!:)
Malthrope Malthrope 12/31/2014 03:51
+bro // PS: Many thanks for all the additional info you supplied on the great Chess Endgame Studies composer Leonid Kubbel. It's very much appreciated! :D - Regards, - Alan Benson (aka: Malthrope)
Malthrope Malthrope 12/31/2014 03:41
+bro ~ Reading once again the rules set forth by ChessBase here. As they don't want us to post contact info, links to other websites, telephone numbers and self-promoting third party business interest, etc. I'm thinking possibly if I were a Film Noir detective (I always wanted to be one!) and started searching someones handle posted here, a city, a game called Chess and threw an interest such as Google+ into the mix that I might find these clues quite interesting. LoL I'm not that hard to find! ;) My Best Always, - Malthrope (Berkeley, CA // USA)
bro bro 12/31/2014 02:39
Malthrope - You mentioned early about Valentin Marin. Could you recommend any his 3-movers compositions for testing? I don't heard about this composer before. Thanks for your warm words about Leonid Kubbel's compositions. The figure in 2784 of compositions I taken from chessbook "Leonid Kubbel" by Vladimirov and Fokin, 1984. I picked up this book among almost waste-papers of closed local library many times ago.
Malthrope Malthrope 12/31/2014 12:12
+bro ~ All very true all that you wrote about. Such horrific times back then (1940's and WWII). For me personally, Leonid Ivanovich Kubbel was an immense giant in the field of Chess Endgame Studies. At one time back in the day I had several Chess books just devoted to his beautiful compositions. Wow! So, its 2784 compositions in total (as you pointed out). That's simply amazing. :XD Many thanks for your kind words too. ;) Best Regards, - Malthrope (Berkeley, CA // USA)
bro bro 12/31/2014 08:55
Malthrope - Thank you for info. That men presented for generations with reach heritage. I remark the Leonid Kubbel because he lived in Saint-Petersburg (Leningrad) and passed away here in the very terrible days of 1942. His heritage consists of 2784 exactly compositions all ganres and styles. I'l be glad to see an article about his chess creation on the playchess news.
Malthrope Malthrope 12/31/2014 03:57
PS: Oh, how can I forget? LoL Also, A.J. Fink (Arnold Jay) yet another well known problem composer and a favorite of IM Imre König (A.J. Fink was born in San Francisco in 1890 and passed away in 1956). He (A.J.) was an actual member of the MICC back in the old days. I'm solved them all at least I do remember that! Probably failed is solving a few choice Endgame studies but I always got the solutions for the Mates in 2 and 3! ;)
Chump Chump 12/31/2014 03:32
I'm familiar with the Sarychevs' delightful study from the book "Karpov's Endgame Arsenal" by Karpov and Gik (probably really by the excellently-named Gik with minimal input from Anatoly Evgenievich :) ). It's very cool.
Malthrope Malthrope 12/31/2014 02:26
+bro ~ Indeed! :) Leonid Ivanovich Kubbel was simply amazing with his compositions of Endgame studies. Some +1,500 studies or so that he published in his lifetime. :D In terms of straight "Mates in 3" Chess problems I was always quite impressed by the compositions of Valentin Marin y Llovet. He often just went by the name: V. Marin from Spain. Some really beautiful 3-movers to solve. Of course, there are so many great masters in the compositions of Endgame studies and Chess problems. We are so very lucky to have such a vast richness! :XD I fondly remember being fed a steady diet of "Mates in 3" composed by the American problem composer William Shinkman (1847-1933) among others. The late IM Imre König (Koenig) a dear old friend of mine made quite sure that I had another new Shinkman "Mate in 3" problem to solve as a teenager (when I first started going to the club back in 1963). This took place every time I visited the famous Mechanics' Institute Chess Club (or 'Chess Room' as it is now referred to) in San Francisco (which is still located at 57 Post Street, 4th floor, having been rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake). Lots of memories to cherish! :)
bro bro 12/30/2014 10:55
The first study of Leonid Kubbel is the best. One move at the beginning is difficult to finding, and other one at the end is delightfull. Leonid Kubbel is the Grate Soviet composer - the King of three-movers. I think his three-movers were most difficult in chess puzzels history.
prat10 prat10 12/30/2014 11:33
woooow...simply awesome,mate & mate.the 3rd one is so cool. i just solved it.feeling just awesome.
prat10 prat10 12/30/2014 10:49
Thanks fr the puzzles.
i have seen first 2 puzzles before..
First one posted by Dario Talenti on some facebook grp.
while the second one was given to us by some fellow chess player while attending an U-1600 event in odisha,India [i am just admiring at the motif used here :)]

3rd one is new to am on it