Gorgeous Gorgiev

by Siegfried Hornecker
2/29/2020 – This Study of the Month column concentrates on the “Maestro of Practical Studies” (as he is called by Sergey N. Tkachenko), Tigran B. Gorgiev. SIEGFRIED HORNECKER takes you on a tour of the life of this microbiologist and composer, whose beautiful studies are described as "a perpetual adornment to the treasury of world composition.”

Endgames of the World Champions from Fischer to Carlsen Endgames of the World Champions from Fischer to Carlsen

Let endgame expert Dr Karsten Müller show and explain the finesses of the world champions. Although they had different styles each and every one of them played the endgame exceptionally well, so take the opportunity to enjoy and learn from some of the best endgames in the history of chess.


Study of the Month: February 2020

When we think about the Soviet Union, usually what comes to mind are Russia, Georgia, and many countries ending in “-stan”, but the USSR also included Ukraine. Leaving the current and past political events aside that would require entire books about them, we can concentrate on endgame study composers from this Eastern European country. In the past, I wrote briefly about the young master Sergiy Didukh who — at his own admission — rather writes about modern composers, while I prefer those of the past whose biographies rarely need amendments.

Combining Ukraine and the past, a few great masters come to mind, one of which I plan to write in June due to an anniversary coming up. Today we will concentrate on the “Maestro of Practical Studies”, as he is called by Sergey N. Tkachenko (whose article, in Russian, also is our primary source): Tigran B. Gorgiev (30 August 1910 - 13 December 1976).

As always, feel free to skip to the end and enjoy replaying the studies, if that's your preference.

Tkachenko book coverTkachenko’s article tells us that Gorgiev was born into a lawyer’s family in Kizlyar (today Dagestan, near the Russian-Chechen border). The history of Kizlyar, despite it being a small city with only nearly 50,000 inhabitants today, seems to be a rich one. Wikipedia notes the first references to the city in 1609, agreeing with Tkachenko on Russia building a fortress in the city in 1735. Wikipedia also tells us that the city, located in the very west of Russia, served as a trading post in the 18th and 19th century between Russia, the Middle East and Central Asia. The city produces wine as well as blade weapons (knives/sabers/daggers).

In the early 20th century, Gorgiev sr. (1861-1954) gave often to charity, and there even was a “House of the lawyer Gorgiev” ("дом адвоката Горгиева") in Kizlyar. From what I collect from the translation, the house was built by the order and plans of Gorgiev sr. and later donated to the city (the exact circumstances of the donation could not be found by Tkachenko, neither if it was prior to or after the October Revolution), which in turn saved him from repressions in the 1930s. (Maybe readers from Dagestan can send us modern photos of the building, if it still exists?)

221 Km northwest of Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan — population circa 49,000 (2010)

Tkachenko’s article later gives a plethora of information on Gorgiev sr., but also is telling us that the mother of Tigran B. Gorgiev died early, between 1914 and 1916 (there seems to be no information about her birth year).

Gorgiev sr. visited what seems to be a club for the city elite, the “Noble Assembly of Kizlyar”. No evidence of chess-related activities there was found from the pre-revolutionary era (i.e. before October 1917), although it is purported by historians. So it was Gorgiev jr.’s uncle who taught him chess when he was eight years old. Despite Tigran being defeated immediately by the uncle at first, he would soon make progress and become an equal with him. After he outplayed the uncle, the series of victories led to the uncle’s fear of being ridiculed at his bookbinder profession for losing to the child, stopping to play chess with Tigran. Gorgiev sr. stepped in to buy a book, and Tigran also accessed the “Niva” column by Eugene Znosko-Borovsky.

The 1925 Moscow Tournament led to a chess boom in Russia, and Gorgiev, now left without playing partners, studied the game extensively, and to his surprise he found interest in endgame studies. In 1927, the “Izvestia” published his first one, a stalemate sketch with many pawns restricting the pieces, especially the black queen. It didn’t take long for the composing style to get refined, and already in the next year, Gorgiev’s study that is replayable as no.2 below, the one to be compared to Rinck’s no.1 (as done by Sarychev in eg 49, see below), was published to become a tourney winner. His international debut was in 1929 in “La Paz”, a Spanish newspaper.

Tkachenko further writes that Gorgiev at first worked as a primary school teacher around Kizlyar until 1933 and then briefly in Kizlyar as inspector methodologist (whatever that is). From 1934, he became a student in Makchachkala at the Dagestan Medical Institute (later Dagestan State Medical Academy), graduating in 1939 and working on his PhD thesis afterwards (see also the information from “eg”, issue 48, where we learn that Gorgiev was a doctor of medical science who specialized in microbiology, living in Dniepropetrovsk — so was this a misunderstanding, and his Dniepropetrovsk times were later?). Gorgiev later wrote that — in addition to microbiology, as given in “eg” — he specialized in epidemiology and combating infectious diseases. (I would be curious about Gorgiev’s thoughts on modern such diseases such as “Corona-chan”, or “Covid-19” as it is called now.)

GorgievIn the first years, Gorgiev composed more than when he worked as a microbiologist, and during the war time, he “dried up” completely. The private life of Gorgiev was not without its troubles as well, prior to the war. A first marriage resulted in a son, but the family fell apart. The doctoral thesis led Gorgiev to Rostov-on-Don, where he married a young dermatologist. While their marriage lasted, the home in the city didn’t. German troops proved enough of a threat for Gorgiev to flee with his wife and soon-to-be-born daughter to Kazakhstan in autumn 1941. An open form of tuberculosis prevented Gorgiev’s draft for war, but not his work at the doctoral thesis. Following the war, Gorgiev moved to Makhachkala where he completed the PhD thesis (the doctoral thesis followed in 1967); his successes in 1946 included the first endgame study since years, and twins: Another son and daughter. However, the health issues forced another move to Ukraine in 1954, when the job opportunity allowed it: Dnipropetrovsk Institute of Gastroenterology was the place, with a position as head of the laboratory. Of course, even in that position he managed to climb up the career ladder to become deputy director of the scientific part of the institute, and for some time the acting director. During that period, after 1955, Gorgiev also composed much more than before, nearly on par with his early years.

Chess columns in the newspapers, headed by Gorgiev, led to new composers such as the Semenenkos and Griva. When he moved to Odessa in the early 1960s, Gorgiev also worked on the newspaper columns there. His hometown Kizlyar opened a chess club in the 1970s (the first one in Dagestan), and learning of this, Gorgiev also took a column in the Kizlyarskava Pravda. Unfortunately that club, named after Gorgiev when he died in 1976, closed in 2001. When Tkachenko wrote his article in 2010, locals tried to revive that club and make Gorgiev an honorary citizen of Kizlyar.

In the short obituary in “eg”, issue 48, apart from Gorgiev’s profession, we can read that of his around 400 endgame studies, many were selected for FIDE Albums, totaling 66.67 points (as of the 2016 Handbook for Chess Composition, just the points of two studies — if composed alone, otherwise points are divided by the number of authors — shy of the 70 points required for the Grandmaster title.

This means, while it is in theory still possible for Gorgiev to receive said title, it would require at least four cooperative studies by composers who are still active and attribute Gorgiev as co-author (for example because one of his studies was taken and improved), so this is extremely unlikely. The only such example known to me was Matti Myllyniemi (at the time of his death less than one point shy of the title) who received it posthumously when Milan Velimirović improved one of his old problems and it was selected for the Album as co-production.

Gorgiev met Roycroft in Tbilisi 1975, likely at the World Congress for Chess Composition. The following study, which I leave for readers to solve, opened Roycroft’s eyes to study composition around 1942. Roycroft mentions that he forgot telling Gorgiev about the impact the study had.


The next issue, 49, had as the title story the obituary written by Alexander Sarychev (translated by Paul Valois). It quotes the Russian book “Selected Studies” by Gorgiev, where he writes: “A light and natural construction (making the position more gamelike), a bright and original idea developing in the process of an active and imaginative struggle between W and Bl — these are the basic guidelines for my composition.” (T.B. Gorgiev: Izbrannye etyudy. Fizkultura i Sport, Moscow 1959)

Sarychev writes that Gorgiev’s friendship with V. Platov and Grigoriev shaped Gorgiev’s ideas of composition, but (in Sarychev’s opinion) soon developed an own style, laid out in the quote above. Sarychev compared Rinck’s and Gorgiev’s minor piece play, noting that Gorgiev shone with spectacular play while Rinck laid out his studies in a nearly mechanical fashion. While Gorgiev also created other studies, Sarychev felt that those with minor piece play were his best.

In the later years, Gorgiev increasingly took up romantic ideas, where however often the form was sacrificed for the complex ideas. Sarychev ends his article where he presented seven Gorgiev studies (the third is reproduced below with the famous Rinck idea preceding it) with the praising words: “Gorgiev’s art has become a classic of study composition. His beautiful studies are a perpetual adornment to the treasury of world composition.”

Readers might know that many “eg” issues are available for free at the ARVES website as PDF files. They are invited to read the above mentioned article by Sarychev if they are interested in more Sarychev studies (one erratum on eg issue 49: Gorgiev’s 1936 pawn study in the text misses bPg6, correct is: wKh1 Pg2 bKh7 Pg6 Ph5).

Sergey Tkachenko’s extensive article brings us many points about Gorgiev. He is quoting the “Zadachy i etyudy” (“Problems and Studies”) issue 8/1930, Gorgiev held that the classical school of study composition (a “school”, i.e. direction of composition, of which I have no more information about, but I assume it is about endgame-like compositions) limited composers. The rooks or queens fighting each other or knight vs. bishop endgames are part of that school, the article lays out. Gorgiev contrasts this with the (then) slowly emerging romantic school, in which the brilliant ideas and combinations by piece play are visible. For this the positions don’t have to look natural, they are sometimes artificial. Since I don’t know if they’d appeal to readers, I tried to include only one such grotesque example (replayable study no.3), but Gorgiev’s work consists to a greater part of such ideas.

Gorgiev criticized Rinck’s “mechanicism and formalism”, and at least one case is known where Rinck found Gorgiev’s attacks offending. But there don’t seem to be articles where Rinck replies to Gorgiev.

At the end of the article, just like Tkachenko also ends his article (albeit he goes into great detail, and also shows a few studies afterwards), it must be noted that despite Gorgiev’s great achievements in the field of chess composition, there might be one that is even greater. His pre-war PhD thesis was about fish oil, and the future discoveries that were enabled by that thesis led to a practical application. Certainly, when the Soviet Union stripped Gorgiev of the connection to what he believed should have been associated with his name, there is no other way in the world than education to right this wrong. So just for educational purposes, let me tell you that Gorgiev’s foundation and the later research led to “Gorgiev's bactericidal liquid”, a substance won from fish oil, from cod liver, designed to help the body without harming it. But you are excused for not knowing “Gorgiev’s bacterial liquid”, as the Soviet Union had its scientists invent the same liquid and brand it under the name under which it still is sold today. According to a German medical website, it is applied on open wounds, helping them to heal (just as many fats do, paraffene gaze is often used similarly). So when you go to your doctor, tell him that a substance he likely knows was actually created by Dagestan’s greatest chess composer, “Gorgiev’s bactericidal liquid”, which he will better know by the name it was rebranded to by the Soviet Union: “Ektericid”.

Anyway, that’s the way I read it.


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World Federation for Chess Composition

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


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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