Depth and Beauty in Pervakov’s Endgame Studies

by Nagesh Havanur
5/6/2019 – Last time our columnist wrote on the life and career of Oleg Pervakov. This week he offers a glimpse of the eminent composer’s work from a recently published collection of endgame studies. He also sets a challenge for readers to solve three of them. Your move! | Photo: ChessPro.ru

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How to lose a book

A friend of mine and I were having a cup of tea.

“A new restaurant has opened on our street. The other day my wife and I visited the place. Elegant place and nice décor. One couldn’t take one’s eyes off the wall. Such fine paintings! But it took so long to place an order and the main course didn’t arrive at all….”

book cover

I burst out laughing. “I know what you are hinting at!”

“Do you? You write a long piece on Pervakov and there is not one study by him.  So where are they?”

“Patience is everything. Have you seen this book?"

Now that was a mistake. My friend is a Pervakov fan. The moment he saw the book, he seized it with both hands and leapt from his seat. I was stunned.

“What are you doing?”

“I have been waiting for a book like this. Thank you any way!”

In two bounds he was at the door.

“Hello! You can’t do that. It’s my book.”

I protested.

My friend was grinning. In a moment he was gone.

So you see, I no longer have the book. I shall be relying on my notes to tell readers what it’s about.  This work is a collection of 100 Pervakov studies composed during the period, 1983-2018. A few are joint compositions with fellow-authors like Karen Sumbatyan, Mikhail Gromov and Martin Minski.

A bit of nitpicking

PervakovBefore I offer a glimpse of these studies let me mention a few issues, minor as they may be. The introduction claims, Pervakov has composed nearly 500 studies. Not really. It is a little more than 350. While the first 86 studies are placed in strict chronological order, the remaining 14 (composed during 2016-2018) are all mixed and follow no particular order. The title is also a bit of misnomer and it carries an uncanny echo of the Soviet era. This book is anything but that.

Similarly, the subtitle alluding to the author has an element of hyperbole. Tkachenko was a member of the Ukranian Team that won the World Chess Composition Tournament in 1997. He wasn’t in the race for the individual world championship, though. In fairness to him it may be mentioned that he has the rare distinction of being both a fine composer and a chess historian.

His analysis of studies in this book is precise and presentation lucid. He has found many astonishing and beautiful lines that otherwise would not be known.

Photo: Chess-News.ru

Are you all ready?

So enough of nitpicking. Let us look at these studies. Time and again Pervakov works wonders over the board.  He can offer you a position with very little material and weave magic on those squares. Take a look at the following diagram. The lone White king can hardly stop Black pawns from queening. What would you advise him to do?

 

You'll find the solutions to the problems at the end of this article

How was it? If you solved it at first go, congrats. If not, you are in good company. A friend of mine pushed the pawn on d4, and to his shock Black’s f-pawn raced to queen. Cursing himself, he first played 1.♔xf4 and then found there was no way of stopping the b-pawn. These pawns are naughty chaps!

The second study looks simple. Here White needs to promote his h-pawn to queen. However, two Black pawns are in the way and their king is preparing to reach h8 himself. Will the White king and bishop still make it? Your move.

 

Did you do that? I showed it to another friend of mine. “It’s all very deep and subtle, but hard for my grey cells,” he mumbled. Then he asked, “Why don’t you give me a fun position?”

So I picked up this one from the book and his eyes lit up. “Ha! I know what to do. I just play 1.b7-b8=Q and it’s over. Both the Black king and the rook are in danger. Either he loses the rook or he is mated. That’s it.”

As you will see, it all happens, but differently!

 

Did you like that? Not the Black monarch, though. He thought he was winning!

By the way, did any one get all the three right?  Please come forward. You deserve an applause. Now three tests are too many for one evening. Shall we take a break? Let us sit back and relax….

OK, are you all ready? Here we go again. The next two are a bit “crazy”. So you don’t have to exert yourself if you don’t wish to. You can give each a reasonable try and see how it goes.

The first one is a real slugfest.  White is on the way to have a second queen. However, his immediate concern is 1…♛xa5 mate. For the same reason he has no time for 1.♕xc1.

What should he do?

 

How was that? The waltz with the queens and rooks makes a stunning impression.

We have come to the end of our journey. In this last position both sides are fighting on the edge of precipice. White has played ambitiously and the monarch has reached as far as h6. However, his knight is pinned and the queen is under attack. So he needs to gain initiative.

Now who should be solving this? Only those who have still retained their sanity after checking out the last one! The solution is a bit long. Go as far as you can. Stop when you hit a road block. Let the composer show you the way.

 

I did show this position to a club player, and he nearly fell off the chair when he saw the first move. But you, dear reader are smart and with a bit of imagination, can find it. It’s the follow-up that has more surprises in store.

I spent days poring over the studies in this book. It’s hard for me to categorize Pervakov’s style. If you look at the purity of conception, economy of material and precise execution in the first two studies shown here, you feel, his work is right in the line of Grigoriev and Kasparian. But then he can also transport you to the realm of fantasy like Korolkov and Mitrofanov as we have seen in the last two studies here. So take your pick and happy hunting!

P.S.: This versatile composer continues to reach great heights. Recently he won the Raaphy Persitz Memorial Tourney (2019) with a star-studded field (Yuri Bazlov, Martin Minski, Yochanen Afek and Jan Timman et.al competing):

Notes

1) There are 280 studies of Oleg Pervakov in Harold Heijden’s Database

HHdbV for the period, 1983-2015.

This book has 20 studies from recent years, 2016-2018.

2) More information on the book may be found at New in Chess.

Solutions

The five positions above with their solutions in the order presented... 

 

Click or tap a game in the list to switch



Prof. Nagesh Havanur (otherwise known as "chessbibliophile") is a senior academic and research scholar. He taught English in Mumbai for three decades and has now settled in Bangalore, India. His interests include chess history, biography and opening theory. He has been writing on the Royal Game for nearly three decades. His articles and reviews have appeared on several web sites and magazines.

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