John Nunn 50th birthday endgame study tourney

2/14/2006 – In April last year grandmaster John Nunn turned 50. To celebrate the occasion he staged a blitz tournament and a study composing tourney. The latter attracted an amazing 85 entries from all over the world. Today John shows us three top compositions and challenges you to find their solutions.

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50th birthday endgame study tourney

By John Nunn

Readers my recall that as part of my 50th birthday celebrations, I arranged a blitz tournament in which many leading British players took part. But that was only one of two events to celebrate my half-century. The other event was a study composing tourney, which attracted an amazing total of 85 studies from composers all over the world.

John Nunn's birthday blitz tournament on April 23, 2005

I have now tested and judged all the studies and can report on the final result. At the end of part two of this article I will give a link so that you can download all the studies in the award, but I would like to single out a few studies as being of particular interest to over-the-board players. I will stop at the key moment in each case, so as to give you the chance to find the composer’s idea (solutions and links will be given at the end of the week).

Yuri Bazlov (Russia)
5th Prize, Nunn-50JT, 2005

White to play and draw

This position is a truly astounding discovery. The basic idea is that if White can exchange knights, force Black’s pawn to advance to g3 and then get his king to f1, then the result will be a positional draw. Achieving this seems like a tall order, especially as Black’s bishop occupies a dominating position which makes it hard for White to activate his pieces.

The first move is...

1 Nh8!

...which tries to clear g6 in order to play White’s king to that square. The alternative is 1 Kg7? Nd6 2 Ne5 g3, but Black can secure his pawn on g3 and gradually improve the position of his pieces while avoiding the exchange of knights. Although the win is not easy, it can be accomplished in the end; for example, 3 Kg6 Bd8! (stopping the white king reaching e6, after which it is very hard for Black to displace the centralised white pieces) 4 Kh5 Ne4 5 Kg4 Bc7 6 Kf3 Nd2+ 7 Ke3 (7 Ke2 Nb3 8 Ng6 Kc6 9 Kf3 Nd4+ 10 Kg4 Kd5 11 Nf4+ Ke4 wins) 7...Nf1+ 8 Ke2 Nh2 (this prevents the white king approaching the g3-pawn and gives Black time to bring his own king up) 9 Nd3 Kc6 10 Ke3 Kd5 11 Nb4+ Ke5 12 Nc6+ Kf5 13 Nd4+ Kg4 14 Nc2 Bb6+ 15 Ke2 Kf4, followed by ...Ng4, with a technical win.


The only winning chance is to prevent White’s king moving immediately to g6. After 1...Nxh8 2 Kxh8 Kc6 3 Kg7 Kd5 4 Kg6 Be3 (Black cannot move his bishop to f4 or h4 without losing his pawn, so he loses another tempo later when White attacks the g3-pawn with his king) 5 Kf5 g3 6 Kg4 Bf2 7 Kf3 Kd4 8 Ke2! the king reaches f1, with a standard positional draw.

Now it’s over to you. How should White continue?

Here’s another surprising position.

Jarl H Ulrichsen (Norway)
8th Prize, Nunn-50JT, 2005

White to play and draw

I admit that I was unable to solve this study. When I saw the solution, I didn’t believe that the study could be correct. After considerable manual analysis I concluded that it is sound (thanks to Marc Bourzutschky, this was later confirmed by using a database). It’s a remarkable position and a genuine contribution to endgame theory. The first two moves contain no surprises:

1 Kc7! Ka7 2 Kc6 Ka6

But now it’s over to you to find White’s third and fourth moves, which contain the basic idea of the study.

It’s time to see the first-prize winning study.

Oleg Pervakov & Karen Sumbatyan (Russia)
1st Prize, Nunn-50JT, 2005

White to play and draw

To start you off, I’ll give the first two moves.

1 e7 Rf1+!

1...Re5 (1...Re4 is similar) 2 Rh8+ Kd7 3 e8Q+ Rxe8 4 Rhxe8 b1Q 5 Rxb1 Kxe8 6 Rb2 followed by Kg2 is a draw. Black cannot improve his position and exchanging rooks leads to a drawn pawn ending.

2 Rxf1 Ra1

Now there are two plausible ideas. The first is to at once play the rook to the f-file by 3 Rhf6, and the second is to start checking by 3 Rh8+. Only one is correct, but which one? Over to you.

As mentioned in the introduction the solutions to these three studies will be given at the end of this week. You will also be provided with links for all 30 studies, with full analysis, in PDF or PGN. In the meantime have fun solving the three I have selected above.

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