Entertaining studies – solutions

by Frederic Friedel
9/5/2022 – Last Friday we showed you some unusual and interesting studies. You may have found them somewhat difficult to solve, on our replay diagrams, where in some cases an engine would defend against your attempts to win. Today we bring you the solutions, with full explanations, provided in video streams that anyone can follow.

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Here is the first study was by the Russian composer Leonid Iwanowitsch Kubbel, 1891–1942. He composed more than 1500 endgame studies and problems, and won many prizes for beauty and originality. Kubbel, who was a chemical engineer, is generally considered one of the greatest endgame composers of all time. This is the problem we presented it:


The first task for you was to think about the legality of the above position. It is White to play, and you should try to divine what could have been the last black move? And the white move before that. Not completely trivial, but found by a number of readers: white must have had a knight on f7, with the black king on g8. White played 1.Nh7 discovered check, and black took with his king, to reach the above position – which was therefore perfectly legal. 

The solution to the study begins with the only move that does not immediately result in stalemate: 1.Bg8! Black captures the bishop, and now you have to work out how the knight, pawn and distant king can overwhelm Black's attempts to either force a stalemate draw or capture the pawn. How this is done is nicely explained in the following vidfeo:

This video was made by Frank Scarpa and appeared on his Youtube channel Chess for Charity. Frank's declared goal is to spread the amazing game of chess while helping those in need. Half of all income earned on YouTube goes directly to charity. In April of 2022, he was able to raise $90 for UNICEF to help children in need around the world. In May of 2022, he gave $217 to Heart to Heart International. "My intention," he writes, "is for the channel is to continue spreading the beautiful game of chess while helping others. I would say I have a long term goal of 100k subscribers on YouTube, which would allow me to help out different charities, and it would allow me to invest more time into the project."

For his channel, Frank wants to keep showing cool puzzles, interesting games, or anything else chess related that he thinks people of all levels would enjoy. "I want to make chess accessible to various age groups and show the artistic side of the game. My channel is a creative expression of my passion, so I am glad to see that people have been enjoying it. I want people to realize that simply subscribing to the channel, which is free, or just watching the videos has the power to help people all around the world – one of the amazing things about Internet technology!"

The second study, which came from a user named "Axerity" on Discord, and it was published there this year, is quite baffling.


Here we switched the engine off, so our readers could try to find the correct path to victory all on their own, moving the pieces for White and for Black. Initial thoughts: White can stop the black h-pawn from promoting, but if he plays 1.Ke4, Black simply attacks the sixth rank pawn. For instance, he plays 1...dxc6 and now has two separate passed pawns that are heading for promotion.

So clearly the first move will be a pawn capture, but which is the only one of the four possible captures that wins. This is what our readers were asked to work out. Turns out White must play 1.dxc7+! This is the only move can secure the win. Why all other moves are drawn is nicely explained in this video:

Our final study was very clever, but also very amusing. It was composed by Alexei Alexejewitsch Troizki (1866–1942), who regarded as the founder of the modern art of composing chess studies, published 750 studies and 50 puzzles, the latter including retrograde analysis and amusing solutions. Troitsky was a forest engineer by profession. He died of starvation during World War II at the siege of Leningrad, where his notebooks, probably with many additions studies, were destroyed. This is the puzzle we presented:


White has a vicious attack with queen and two rooks against the enemy king. But one rook is pinned, and the black b-pawn is threatening to promote with checkmate. Fortunately, White has a clear drawing strategy: 1.Rh6+ Qxh6 2.Qa8+ Kh7 3.Qb7+ Qa8+. Black is helpless to prevent the repeated checks by the white queen. So the draw is certain.

"But can White get more?" we asked. Yes, he can! The supreme beauty of this problem is that White can actually capture all of Black's pieces (except for the knight in a6) by checking – 36 times in a row! But it must be done artfully. Can you do it on the diagram above? We have switched the engine on, and it will immediately refute any carelessness on your part. Once again here is the full explanation, beautifully explained, on Chess for Charity:

For all our readers who want to replay the solutions themselves, and analyse the studies with a chess engine, here's a replay app for you to do so:


As our more experienced readers will know, you can click the right-most fan icon below the board to start an engine. On the right margin of the engine window there are icons you can click to display more (or less) lines, view the threats in a position, get hints, or display a visual evaluation.

We would appreciate your thoughts on the studies and on this form of presentation.

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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Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 9/11/2022 05:36
Quarter Patzer, see my first comment below.

Endgame study or problem positions are expected to be legal, as they are not just there to give pleasure to the solver, but also to show the abilities of the persons who made them. They can earn money prizes and titles ('Grandmaster of chess composition') with it. An illegal position decreases the value of a composition considerably (although if necessary to show a very specific idea, otherwise impossible, it is tolerated). A proof of a logical game leading to the position would go a bit too far. Any game will do.
It just struck me as a bit funny that Frank Scarpa came up with Nh8+ to prove legality, a rather complex idea compared to the simple g6+.
Quarter Patzer Quarter Patzer 9/10/2022 01:30
I have read this article just recently, hopefully it's not too late to add a commentary.
Regarding the Kubbel study and it's legality of the starting position, it has been said that almost certainly it has derived from a previous setup (let us call it PS1) defined by: White - Ka1, Ba2, Nb1, Nf7, g6; Black - Kg8, g7. White to move supposedly went 0. Nh8 + (discov.) Kxh8, arriving at the Kubbel starting position. I know that the justification of a certain move or string of moves does not have to be the most logical in order to be accepted, it only has to be legal from the point of view of the game rules.
But still, why White in the position PS1 would move 0. Nh8 +, giving up a Knight and the being forced to give up the Bishop as well? There is no urgency for a sacrifice and the three pieces will win in the long run easier that with only one Knight and the pawn on g6.
In my opinion, the initial position can be reached from a different setup, PS2: White - Ka1, Ba2, Kb1, g5; Black - Kh7, g6. White to move could go 0. g6 + Kh8 and here is the Kubbel initial position. Black plays for a stalemate rather than 0... Kxg6, when the ending is clearly lost (i.e. Ka3-c2-e1-g2 and Bd5 stop the pawn then the King helps the capture of the Black pawn, after which contributes to checkmate the Black King).
Just as an alternative to the stated Knight sacrifice Nf7-h8...
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 9/6/2022 01:30
I searched Van der Heijden's database on position, also with mirrored positions and changed colors, but it's not there (although I don't have the most recent version).
Frederic Frederic 9/6/2022 01:36
It's 01:30 am, and my brain is shutting down. But it would seem that you are right, Frits Fritschy. Does anyone have the original Kubbel position? I could not find it...
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 9/6/2022 12:36
I would say g5-g6+ Kh7-h8 is a slightly easier way to prove the legality of the first position...