Solving studies is fun!

by Yochanan Afek
2/15/2018 – Solving endgame studies is a highly recommended method of making you a much more creative player by improving your endgame understanding, sharpening your tactical sense and calculative skills, equipping you with a whole arsenal of conventional as well as out of the box weapons. Yet first and foremost it is a great fun provided you face human and friendly challenges and keep your silicon monsters switched off for a change. | Pictured: The winner, GM Twan Burg (left) & IM P.Peelen | Photo: Harry Gielen

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ARVES solving in Wijk aan Zee

For the last nine years a fine tradition was created in the Dutch village of Wijk aan Zee on the last Saturday of Tata Steel tournament. A solving contest for endgame studies, organized by ARVES, the International association that promotes this fine art worldwide, was hosted this year by Zeecroft hotel. 

Chess enthusiasts can thus combine an enjoyable solving session with a visit to the penultimate round of the Tata Steel Masters. If you like mate problems you may stay through Sunday too and take part in the Dutch branch of the International Solving Competition (ISC) held simultaneously in various places on the globe at the very same time with the very same problems (and a couple of studies too). The participants of the event this year could later in the afternoon attend the dramatic conclusion of the famous super tournament, the live commentary as well as the tie break match between Carlsen and Giri.

Among the past and present participants in ARVES solving contest former world champions such as Englishman John Nunn, Polish Piotr Murdzia and Russian Georgy Evseev are included, alongside the world study composing champion Russian Oleg Pervakov and the best regional solvers, Dutchman Dolf Wissmann and Belgian Eddy van Beers. A couple of Dutch novices at the time, such as David Klein and Twan Burg (now well known grandmasters) even happened to surprise in their debut appearance and win the contest.

In all, 18 solvers, regulars and newcomers alike, were faced this year with nine original studies sent in by world class composers and selected by the experienced arbiter of all past editions, Belgian Luc Palmans, to be solved in three hours.

Study expert Harold vd Heijden & Arbiter Luc Palmans

Study expert Harold vd Heijden & Arbiter Luc Palmans | Photo: Harry Gielen

Each complete solution received five points however since one of the studies was demolished by the participants the maximum that could be scored was reduced to 40 points. Prizes were subscriptions to EG, the only magazine exclusively dedicated to the art of the endgame. 

The main contributor of originals was, as usual, the famous Dutch grandmaster Jan Timman, who has become in recent years also the world's most prolific study composer. The solvers tried hard to crack as many entries as possible however it must be said that no one has been able so far to solve them all. The tournament was opened in a moment of silence in memory of the patriarch of the Dutch study, Wouter Mees, who had passed away two days prior to the solving, at the age of 96.

The favourite Dutch GM Twan Burg, winner of the first edition in 2009 as well as the last two editions lived up to the expectations and scoring 28 points (out of 40) added a fourth title to his impressive record. The Cinderella story of the event however was provided this time by the less known Dutch over-the-board player Florian Jacobs.

Florian Jacobs

Florian Jacobs, Elo rated 2228 | Photo: Harry Gielen

Playing one of the top ten player amateur groups in Wijk aan Zee, he was paired against your author in the eighth round on that solving Saturday. As I acted as the solving organizer and director I asked him kindly to play our game in advance and in return invited him to take part in the study solving. He hesitated since he had never before participated in such an event but agreed to give it a debut try.

Nargiz UmudovaTo the surprise of all, mainly to his own, he finished second with 25½ points ahead of the best Belgian solver Eddy van Beers (solving GM and over the board IM), who ended up third with 23 points. Fourth was 2015 winner FM Wouter van Rijn with 20 points, ahead of IM Piet Peelen 19½ and solving GM Dolf Wissmann on 19. WGM Nargiz Umudova (pictured at left) from Azerbaijan, the contest winner's wife, came fourth in her debut last year, and this time shared eighth place on 17.

Maarten Hoeneveld

The youngest  participant, Maarten Hoeneveld (14) (pictured at right), also had to play his eighth round game in the amateur group in De Moriaan, however, as a true study enthusiast, he first attended almost half time of the solving, scored 8 respectable points and only then went on to play and draw his over the board game.

For your enjoyment here are six of the contest's nine challenges. Five of them will be published in 2018 as originals in the British bi-monthly for chess composition: The Problemist. Give them a decent try before looking for the solutions!

Solutions below 


Your prize is a rewarding free training session!


Correction: A wrong diagram was initially published for the "Jan Timman (Valentijnstudy)" problem.


Yochanan was born (1952) and grew up in Tel-Aviv, and now lives in Amsterdam. He has been involved in nearly every aspect of chess, both as a professional and a volunteer, for the last 50 years, and remains an active player, composer, writer, organizer, trainer and commentator. He is an International Master and International Arbiter for chess as well as International Grandmaster for chess composition, and the author of Extreme Chess Tactics (Gambit 2017) and Practical Chess Beauty (Quality Chess 2018).


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