Study of the month - Ding's WCC game 6 checkmate pattern in endgame studies

by Siegfried Hornecker
5/11/2023 – In the World Chess Championship, which still was running while this article was written but will be over when you read it, Ding Liren won the sixth game by threatening a checkmate with rook and knight. Let us see how that kind of checkmate was used in endgame studies. | Photo: Midjourney AI

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Ding's WCC game 6 checkmate pattern in endgame studies

To keep the cases most relevant, I'll cut this down to only the endgame studies where the checkmate idea happens with the blocker on the second square of the long diagonal. This still produced more endgame studies than usual, so your author apologizes to readers who are used to 5 to 10 endgame studies per article. You can, of course, always split up your reading and replaying session into multiple parts.

On 16 April 2023 in Kazakhstan's capital Astana, the following final position was reached.

Ding Liren - Ian Nepomniachtchi, WCC 2023, game 6.

Black to move (after 44.Qf7, 1-0)

The gladiator under the FIDE flag resigned here, as checkmate is unavoidable. White threatens 45.Q:g8+ K:g8 46.Ra8+ and mate next move, no remedy is 44.-B:g6 45.h:g6+ Kh8 46.Q:g8+ K:g8 47.Ra8 mate. In this article we will concentrate on the constellation of the knight and rook checkmate.

Unknown source, 1296.

White to move and win

The first case mentioned in the database by Harold van der Heijden is from 1296. White checkmates here with 1.Re8+ Kh7 2.Nf8+ Kg8 3.Ng7+ Kh7 4.Rh8 mate.

Philipp Stamma, Essai sur le jeu des Echecs 1737.

White to move and win

Black threatens checkmate, so White must checkmate first: 1.B:c7+ R:c7 2.Q:a7+!! K:a7 3.Ra1+ Kb8 4.Ra8+ K:a8 5.Nb6+ with two variations: 5.-Kb8 6.Rd8+ Rc8 7.R:c8+ Ka7 8.Ra8 mate or 5.-Ka7 6.Ra2+ Kb8 7.Ra8 mate

Carlo Cozio, Il Giuoco degli Scacchi 1766.

White to move and win.

The early modern authors seem to have liked this checkmate, as also Carlo Cozio showed it:
1.Q:b8+ K:b8 2.Be5+ Ka7 3.Nc8+ Ka8 4.Nb6+ Ka7 5.Bb8+ K:b8 6.Rh8+ Ka7 7.Ra8 mate or 6.-Kc7 7.Rc8 mate
Here we have essentially the ending that would have happened in the World Chess Championship game. This is however not an issue - a practical player rarely finds a new kind of combination or checkmate, and when he does the symbiosis will work the other way round: Endgame study composers like to enhance on endings of practical games.

Sándor Gruber, Magyar Sakkvilag December 1931.

White to move and win

So let us now reiterate and see if you learned what the basics of the checkmate ideas are. White certainly can't win by material, unless he somehow wins the rook, but checkmate would be another option to strive for. Can readers figure out the solution here?

Ernest Pogosyants, Shakhmaty v SSSR May 1980.

White to move and win

Ernest Pogosyants, Shakhmaty v SSSR October 1981.

White to move and win

Ernest Pogosyants, Zarja 1988.

White to move and win

Rather trivial to solve are the endgame studies of Ernest Pogosyants that show the idea. So those are also left as an exercise to readers, or otherwise to be replayed at the end of the article.

Iuri Akobia & Vazha Neidze, Magyar Sakkelet September 1988 (correction).

White to move and win

Mario Garcia corrected a study by the both Georgian authors. This one combines the checkmate ideas found in such positions. This one seems to be solved with 1.Ng6+ R:g6 2.Rb8, but 2.-Kh7! threatens a check on h6, so 3.Qe4 Qe6 4.Q:e6 R:e6 isn't winning.
Of note is that 1.-B:e7 2.Qh6+ Qh7 3.Rb8+ Rg8 4.Ng6 mate or here 2.-Rh7 3.Ng6+ Q:g6+ 4.K:g6 R:h6+ 5.K:h6 and so on is theoretically won.
1.-Qh7+ 2.Qh6 Q:h6+ 3.K:h6 Rh7+ 4.Kg6 Rg7+ 5.Kf5 B:e7
Avoids prosaically losing after 5.-Rf7+ 6.Ke6 R:e7+ 7.Kf6 Re8 8.R:a3 with an easy theoretical win. Now several checkmate variations follow that however all are obvious.
6.Ng6+ Kg8 7.Rb8+ Bd8 8.R:d8+ Kf7 9.Rf8 mate, 8.-Kh7 9.Rh8 mate, or 7.-Kh7 8.Rh8 mate, 7.-Kf7 8.Ne5 mate, or 6.-Kh7 7.Rh3+ Kg8 8.Rh8+ Kf7 9.Ne5 mate, or here 7.-Bh4 8.R:h4+ Kg8 9.Rh8+ Kf7 10.Rf8 mate

Marco Campioli, Seven Chess Notes 2008, 2nd commendation.

White to move and win

This study is a nice example on how the checkmate can be built.
1.Rf7+ Ne7+ 2.R:e7+ Kb8 3.Nc3 R:b7 4.Re8+ Kc7 5.Nd5+ Kd7 6.Re7+ Kc8 7.Nb6+ Kb8 8.Re8+ Ka7 9.Ra8 mate, or 8.-Kc7 9.Rc8 mate
Of course 3.Ne3 would fail to 3.-R:b7 4.Re8+ Ka7!

The ending of a game of Samuel Loyd inspired Peter Krug to his next study.
Samuel Loyd - Charles Caldwell Moore, 1853

This game ended with a chess problem idea, a "Novotny theme". Curious: The game was played in the year prior to Novotny's famous problem. Was the Czechoslovakian master inspired by Loyd's move?
1.e4 e5 2.f4 e:f4 3.d4 d5 4.Bd3 Nf6 5.B:f4 c5 6.Bg5 d:e4 7.B:e4 c:d4 8.B:f6 Q:f6 9.Nf3 Bc5 10.O-O O-O 11.Nbd2 d3+ 12.Kh1 d:c2 13.B:h7+ K:h7 14.Q:c2+ Qg6 15.Q:c5 Na6 16.Qb5 Nc7 17.Qc4 Qb6 18.Nh4 a5 19.Ndf3 Ra6 20.Ne5 f6 21.Rf3 Q:b2 22.Re1 f5 23.Rh3 f4 24.Qe6 1-0

Position before 24.Qe6

Peter Siegfried Krug, StrateGems October to December 2017, 1st to 3rd prize.

White to move and win

Peter Krug is known for highly complex endgame studies, and this one is no exception, looking as if it actually could have happened in a crazy grandmaster game. I recommend to replay the study with its side variation that you are interested in below, here only the main variation shall be given: 1.Rh3! Bd7! 2.Bh7+! K:h7 3.Qe4+ Kg8 4.Qd5+ Kh7! (not 4.-Be6 5.Nhg6 with mate on h8.) 5.Qe6!! Rb1+ 6.Kh2 Rh1+ 7.K:h1 Qb1+ 8.Kh2 Qg1+! 9.K:g1 Bc5+ 10.d4! B:e6 11.f5! B:d4+ 12.Kh1 B:e5 13.Ng6+ Kg8 14.Rh8+ Kf7 15.R:f8 mate

Martin Minski & Helmut Waelzel, Caputto-95 JT 2018, 1st honorable mention.

White to move and draw

Finally we have an endgame study where the checkmate has to be prevented, stemming from a tourney dedicated to an interesting Argentinean chess composer. See below.
After the introduction 1.Bd6! Nc2+! 2.Kc1! Na1! 3.Rb2 Nb3+ 4.Kb1 Black wants to deliver a killing blow with 4.-Qd3+!! 5.Q:d3 Rg1+ and the thematic checkmates are to follow. Or are they? 6.Ka2 Ra1 mate and 6.Kc2 Rc1 mate look forced, but of course there is 6.Qf1! Not 6.Qd1? R:d1+ and 7.-R:d6. Now the rest is an endgame study. 6.-R:f1+ 7.Kc2 Rc1+ 8.Kd3 Rd1+ 9.Kc3/Kc4 R:d6 10.Kb4 Ra6 11.Ra2 Rb6+ with the idea 12.K:a4 Nc5+ 13.Ka3 Rb3 mate. However, 12.Kc4 Ra6 13.Kb4 Rb6+ 14.Kc4 Na5+ 15.Kc5 Nb3+ 16.Kc4 draws as the pawn is too weak to win.

 Zoilo Rudecindo Caputto (14 November 1923 - 15 December 2021) graduated as professor at the Academia de Bellas Artes (Academy of Fine Arts). Likely the 1936 founded Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires is meant by the Argentinean chess composition society. He worked with Miguel Najdorf supposedly helping to write the two-volume work on the 1953 Zürich Candidates Tournament, 15 Aspirantes al título mundial. Caputto also wrote for the Argentinean periodical Ajedrez de Estilo and the Italian Scacco. His most famous work for endgame study enthusiasts is El Arte del Estudio de Ajedrez, a book series in five volumes about the art of endgame studies. Until the highest age he kept on writing and composing, such as in 2014 Ajedrez con Jaque and in 2017 Ajedrez Para Todos. Both are aimed at introducing endgame studies to younger players, according to my source.
The chess club Mikel Gurea also published a short article on Caputto's Magnum Opus this month. Miguel García-Cortés writes there that he considers the five volume work El Arte del Estudio de Ajedrez a "holy grail" of chess composition books, the first volume spanning from the early mansubat until the late 20th century, detailing its history and outside influences such as the powerful Medici family, and the second volume detailing Argentinean composers. Those were however the only two volumes the author of the short article was able to procure in his language, Spanish.

So far, so good. So have we seen everything? No, far from it. There are also the endgame studies where the checkmate happens mirrored. I found three of them that deserve inclusion. These aren't given in chronological order here.

Hugh Alexander Kennedy, The Chess Player's Chronicle, 4 September 1847.

White to move and win

1.Qa8+ leads to the now familiar ending. Supposedly this came from (or was modeled after?) an actual game.

Ernest Pogosyants, Kalininskaja Pravda, 23 December 1980.

White to move and win

Readers likewise will have no issues finding the variations after 1.Nc7+ Ka7/Kb8.

Sergey Zakharov and Leopold Mitrofanov, Shakhmaty v SSSR March 1979.

White to move and win

This study requires a deeper explanation. After 1.Nd3 obviously the skewer 1.-K:h4? 2.Rh1+ would be lethal. Black can try a trick with 1.-Rg8! when 2.Nf4+? K:h4 3.Rh1+ Kg~ 4.Rg1+ Kh4! 5.R:g8 is a stalemate. 2.Ne5! Rg7+ 3.Ke6! K:h4 now loses the pawn, but you will want to remember Pogosyants' study above. This easily leads you to the solution 4.Rh1+ Kg5 5.Rg1+ Kh6 6.Nf7+ Kh7 7.Rh1+ Kg6 8.Rh6 mate or 7.-Kg8 8.Rh8 mate. Quod erat demonstrandum!

Finally, there are several endgame studies with ideas that are similar to Ding's mate, but show other checkmate ideas. Three of those are included below as well, one of them stemmed from a game that three German authors saw, including Yours Truly, and improved upon. The eternal symbiosis...

Rainer Staudte, Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung, 12 February 2016.

White to move and win

The NOZ column was run by Wolfgang Pieper, one of the most well-versed German chess historians who acted primarily behind the scenes. I feel like it would be a breach of his trust to give details, but he told me many a good story and limerick (such as "Unter diesem schicken Dach spiel ich mit dem Dicken Schach", which can't be directly translated into English while keeping its sense) during our over a decade long friendship. Rainer Staudte had introduced me to Wolfgang Pieper many years ago. As for Rainer's endgame study, the forced but pointed solution is 1.Nd6+ Kh7 2.Nf7 g5 3.Rh8+ Kg6 4.Ne5+ Kf5 5.Rf8 mate or 4.-Kf6 5.Rf8+ Ke7 6.Ng6 mate

Siegfried Hornecker, Martin Minski & Hauke Reddmann. Moscow Tourney 2019, 1st prize.

White to move and win.

The main variation here is 1.Nf4 Ra8 2.Ne6+! Kb8 3.Rh5!! R:a6 4.Rh8+ Ka7 5.Nc7! and there is a single square where the attacked rook is not lost. 5.-Rc6 6.Ra8+ Kb6 7.Nd5 mate. The king is lost instead.

In the final composition for this month's column, we have a caleidoscope of checkmates.

David Gurgenidze & Vazha Neidze, Nadareishvili JT 1991, 1st to 3rd prize.

White to move and win

1.R:a2 Rc6+ 2.Kd4 R:c7 3.a:b7+ K:b7 4.Nc5 Kc6/Kb6 5.Ra6 mate, 4.-Kc8 5.Ra8 mate; or alternatively 2.-Rd6+ 3.Kc5 R:d7 4.N:b5+ with 4.-Kb8 5.a7+ Ka8 6.Kb6 d2 7.R:d2 R:d2 8.Nc7 mate and with an exchange down, White still somehow won, or 4.-Ka8 5.a:b7+ K:b7 6.Ra7+ Kc8 7.Nd6+ Kd8 8.Ra8+ Ke7 9.Re8 mate, 8.-Kc7 9.Rc8 mate. Ding's mate but further in the middle of the board.

While Yours Truly concludes this article, the World Chess Championship is still ongoing. Whatever the outcome will be, it will have a special place in chess history, not only because of Magnus refusing to play for his title. The games themselves are also very interesting, with a battle as fierce as the Kasparov vs. Karpov matches.

Who will win? Ding? Nepomniachtchi? At least one winner is known to Yours Truly: Our dear readers. You won our small excursion into an otherwise rare checkmate idea.


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.