Check Czech chess II: Prokeš from Prague

by Siegfried Hornecker
9/29/2018 – Our study expert SIEGFRIED HORNECKER continues his look at the legacy of Czech master František Josef Prokop (pictured). Part 1 presented story and studies from the first half of the 20th century for you to enjoy at your leisure. This month he explains the "Prokeš manoeuvre", and presents a whopping eight annotated studies for your edification.

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Study of the Month: September 2018

Every grandmaster should know the classical manoeuvre of removing a piece from a threatening pawn capture (usually with promotion) by means of giving check, usually sacrificing the piece. The idea, a classic today, was shown first by Ladislav Prokeš, "Czechoslovakia’s most renowned study composer" (according to John Roycroft in EG 5, July 1966), and is added to the five selected studies for this month. Everyone should know about it, and it is prominently featured in many books and articles, often in comparison with situations from games by the masters — and also study composers — Aloni or Timman.

Prokes

Prokes in 1925 | Photo: with kind permission of Edward Winter /  ChessHistory.com

In 1992, while reminiscing about the then recently deceased Mikhail Tal, Tim Krabbé and Jan Timman started working on showing the manoeuvre twice in a study. Inspired by their works, many years ago I tried my hand on the “triple Prokeš”, showing three rook sacrifices (meaning I used a promoted rook in the initial position), but I never managed to create a correct setting.

“The Ionchev”, as I call it after an Ionchev study, but actually shown by Nadareishvili earlier, is similar but it is based on two pawns reaching the seventh rank and only one of them being able to be captured. For a study with this idea, Arpád Rusz and I won the informal tourney of Magyar Sakkvilág 2011 (also added as a bonus). Imagine a queen and a bishop on the eighth rank with two empty squares between them. On the seventh rank, White pawns want to enter those empty squares but also threaten to capture the queen or bishop respectively. If the queen could be sacrificed here with check, a Prokeš manoeuvre comes to fruition (the bishop would capture a pawn afterwards, guarding the promotion square). Ionchev’s critical position with Black to move (White has a draw) is shown in the diagram below.

 
 

As we learn from Hans-Hilmar Staudte and Milu Milescu in "Das 1x1 des Endspiels", themanoeuvrer was named by Czech master Jindřich Fritz.

Further recommended reading on the maneuver.

In a lecture reprinted in EG 7 (PDF), which is highly suggested to read as complimentary to this article as it contains 26 studies that are game-like from Prokeš but with unusual solutions, meaning the reader (even of a higher play level) might retain the ideas presented therein to use in his own games, John Roycroft writes that Prokeš has composed over 1000 endgame studies (other sources today give over 1100 or even over 1200 studies). He calls Prokeš “the player’s composer”. Readers also will enjoy special issue 47 (PDF) of the British Endgame Study News with several more studies to solve.

John Beasley comes to the conclusion that the studies by Prokeš often have been shown in a more artistic way, but they are intended for solving rather than just for art, and there they hit the right spot. Beasley sent us a translation of the article in the Czech encyclopedia Malá encyklopedie šachu, which tells us that Prokeš (8.vi.1884-9.i.1966) was the master of the Bohemian* Chess Association ÚJČŠ in 1909, in addition having played in eight of its tournaments (not to be confused with the championships) where his best results were third place in Prague 1909 and the shared first place with Treybal and Hromadka in Brno (Brünn) 1921. When the Chess Olympiads were held later, Prokeš participated in the three earliest official ones: 1927 in London (5th place, 16 countries on the 5th board), 1928 in The Hague (7th, 17 c., 2nd board) and 1930 in Hamburg (5th, 18 c., 4th board). When the Chess Olympiad was held in Prague 1931, he was not in the team anymore, but Czechoslovakia took third place. It is likely that Prokeš as a Prague native has visited the event, but I have no proof of it. His invitations to the national team reflected his strength proven at the Prague 1928 Evona tourney (shared 1st place with J. Rejfíř who won the tie-break). Karel Treybal, one of the players beat by Prokeš in the tournament, was subject of a 1946 monograph by Prokeš.

* “Bohemian” and “Czech” both utilise the same word in the Czech language, as we explained last month.

For his studies, Prokeš received 38.3 points in FIDE albums, the series of chess composition anthology books which is used to determine titles for composers. In 2016, he posthumously (upon request by his country, i.e. the Czech problem chess federation) received the associated title of International Master for Chess Composition together with three other Czech composers: Josef Moravec, who likely will be covered in this column in the future, and František Richter were also known for endgame studies. Ladislav Knotek, about whom I only found a Latvian Wikipedia entry where I took the following information, composed over 400 problems, mostly checkmates in three moves).

The Československý šach study column, currently run by Michal Hlinka, was edited by Ladislav Prokeš in the years of 1909-1920 and also 1935-1950. The Czech collections of “chess studies” (“Sachové studie” with 150 miniatures, i.e. studies with seven or fewer pieces, 1941) and “Book of chess studies” (“Kniha šachových studií” with 623 studies, 1951) were authored by Prokeš, a third collection of this author’s studies was created by Vladimir Kos, called “Ladislav Prokeš Studie 1951–1966”. It is attributed wrongly in Wikipedia as of writing this article, the review in EG 125 and the Max Euwe Center list the correct author. Likely everyone copied the mistake from the German article. I trust readers to verify and correct it, referencing either EG or the Max Euwe Center (but not this article, as the two “nearer” secondary sources are available — I don’t have the book personally, but John Beasley also confirmed it is from Kos in his mail).

Unfortunately, I can’t write more about this composer, as I am limited to the information in the Czech "encyklopedie", so I hope the given links with studies for players can make up for this. You can of course also find five selected studies (together with bonus studies) below for your enjoyment.

 

Reader feedback

Martin Minski comments on some additional thematic studies

I would like to add there are some recent studies with Prokes theme by Jan Timman (see, for example, his book "The Art of the Endgame") and by Geir Sune Tallaksen Østmoe:


You probably know that you can move pieces on our replay boards to analyse and even start an engine to help you. You can maximize the replayer, auto-play, flip the board and even change the piece style in the bar below the board.

At the bottom of the notation window on the right there are buttons for editing (delete, promote, cut lines, unannotate, undo, redo) save, play out the position against Fritz and even embed the ChessBase game viewer on your website or blog. Hovering the mouse over any button will show you its function.

World Federation for Chess Composition

World Federation for Chess Composition (www.wfcc.ch)

Links




Siegfried (*1986) is a German chess composer and member of the World Federation for Chess Composition, subcommitee for endgame studies. His autobiographical book "Weltenfern" (in English only) can be found on the ARVES website. He presents an interesting endgame study with detailed explanation each month.
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Lovuschka Lovuschka 9/30/2018 10:35
It was corrected now. Thank you, johorsky!
The original version of 1 April 1928 which was incorrect had 3.Ka1, this corrected version of 15 April 1928 should have 3.Kb2 in the solution. (It had still 3.Ka1 in hhdbv.)
johorsky johorsky 9/29/2018 04:25
Not 3.Ka1 because of Qf1+, but rather 3.Kb2
Lovuschka Lovuschka 9/29/2018 02:37
Many thanks, Martin!
Martin Minski Martin Minski 9/29/2018 12:14
Thanks Siegfried!
Like usual a great article!

I would like to add there are some recent studies with Prokes theme by Jan Timman (see, for example, his book "The Art of the Endgame")
and by Geir Sune Tallaksen Østmoe:

1st prize:
http://arves.org/arves/index.php/en/awards/awards-replayable/1224-jan-timman-65-jt-section1

8th prize:
http://arves.org/arves/index.php/en/awards/awards-replayable/1343-yerevan-2800-2018

1st prize, section B1:
http://arves.org/arves/index.php/en/awards/awards-replayable/1344-uapa-6th-2018
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