Study of the month - Genrikh Kasparyan's pupils

by Siegfried Hornecker
6/3/2023 – Genrikh Kasparyan is widely regarded as one of the most prolific endgame study composers and shared his knowledge with a younger generation. So his son Sergey also composed endgame studies - 56 are in the database, including versions and corrections. But also other friends from Genrikh's endgame studies teaching circle created interesting ones themselves or together. | Photo: Midjourney AI

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Genrikh Kasparyan's pupils: Sergey Kasparyan, Sergey Varov, Hamlet Amiryan, Alexander Manvelyan

Sergey Kasparyan (19 September 1952 - 13 October 2022) was married to Marietta D., who provided information about his life for Andrey Selivanov's news website, and the information was also reproduced on the Dutch organization ARVES's website (in English language). So this as well as the other information on the ARVES website, is used as our source for the following statements.

Sergey Kasparyan, son of Genrikh Kasparyan, was born in 1952 in Armenia's capital Yerevan but moved to Georgia's capital Tbilisi in 1957 where he resided until 1963 or 1964, also learning chess at the age of 10 years old. The family returned to Yerevan where Genrikh Kasparyan led a chess group in which Sergey also participated. Following the footsteps of his father, a ten times champion of Armenia, Sergey had major victories in practical play. In 1967 he not only won the championship of the Yerevan schoolchildren, but also (likely in 1968) the silver medal of the Armenian youth championship with 6 out of 8 points. Sergey Varov, another pupil of Genrikh Kasparyan and future endgame studies composer, won with 8 out of 8 points.

In 1974, the now over 20 years old Sergey Kasparyan graduated from the Moscow Institute of Chemical Physics (in Chernogolovka) where he specialized in combustion and chemical kinetics. He had started his studies in the Faculty of Chemical Technology of the Yerevan Polytechnic Institute, which he had entered in 1969, leading to work in Yerevan in various related fields for the next 20 years (such as in 1981 "defending" his thesis on chemical physics). Yours Truly is led to believe that Sergey Kasparyan's knowledge would have helped with for example fuel engines.

Sergey Kasparyan became a graduate student and in 1981 a candidate for physical and mathematical sciences.

Meanwhile in chess, in 1980 or 1981 Sergey Kasparyan fulfilled a candidate norm for Master of Sports. I don't know what that means, possibly he became a candidate for that title by his rating performance (in the Armenian Elo equivalent) in tourneys. In 1984 he started to participate in the classes his father game about chess composition in the Central Chess Club in Yerevan.

It seems, at least from what we collect from Varov's short biography on ARVES, that his own son was the last known member of that study group, the others were Sergey Varov (12 September 1951 - 5 July 2005), Hamlet Amiryan (11 November 1934 - 1 October 2013, sometimes written Gamlet Amiryan) and Alexander Manvelyan] (4 June 1946 - 21 June 2015). A photograph shows Amiryan, Manvelyan and Sergey Kasparyan together with Ashot Egiarzyan and Albert Grigoryan. It is from an article written by Karen Sumbatyan with information from Hamlet's daughter Anush Amiryan, so likely it is Anush Amiryan or Karen Sumbatyan who had provided that photograph also.

Yours Truly was born in 1986, the same year as Sergey Kasparyan's first endgame studies were published. A very rare checkmate is seen in the endgame study of the two Sergeys that learnt from Genrikh Kasparyan. The original version will be presented here, while the final version from 2001 is replayable below. After three moves there the original position from the following diagram is reached.

Sergey Varov & Sergey Kasparyan, Revista de Romanah de Sah August 1986, 2nd prize.

White to move and win.

At first the threat of the pawn exchange (1.-b5 2.axb5 Kb6 and 3.-Kxb5) must be dealt with. 1.Kc6 Nc2 puts White at the crossroads of two strategems by the defender: Exchanging the knights would lead to a drawn endgame, but also exchanging the pawns instead would do so. As such the bishop on a1 might be tempted to go to c3, but 2.Bc3? Ka6 prepares 3.N~ Nb4+ 4.Bxb4 axb4 with 5.-Ka5 and 6.-Kxa4. There is in fact no time for the bishop on a1 to move away. White must give up the material advantage to reach a winning position despite being a pawn down. 2.Ne2! prepares for 2.-Ka6 3.Nc3! so Black has nothing better than 2.-Nxa1 3.Nd4 Ka6 and now the checkmate net is complete: 4.Nb5! Nb3 5.Kc7 Nc5 6.Kb8 Nxa4 7.Nc7 mate

Let us quickly talk about Kasparyan's co-author here. Sergey Varov (12 September 1951 - 5 July 2005) has - versions and corrections included - 27 entries in the database of Harold van der Heijden, ranging from 1979 to 2006. It is in a way wholesome that the last entry is posthumously the special honorable mention in the 2006 memorial tourney for Genrikh Kasparyan (replayable below). Varov collaborated with Sergey Kasparyan on eight endgame studies (the number is according to Sergey Kasparyan, mentioned in the Varov obituary in Shakhmatnaya kompozitsiya 67 / short obituary in EG 164, January/March 2006).

Varov was born in the Ukrainian city Uzhgorod, but the family moved to Yerevan where he graduated in 1968. He read about mathematics (number theory), history and chess. As elaborated above already, Varov defeated Sergey Kasparyan to become Armenian youth champion in 1968 with a perfect 8 out of 8 (Kasparyan: 6 out of 8, 2nd place). In the Armenian youth team Varov showed bad results due to having to study for exams. He graduated from high school, but afterwards served two years in the Soviet Army.

For a while Varov lived in Leningrad (today again St. Petersburg), but returned to Yerevan where he worked at the Central House of Chess in Armenia for two decades. "Shahmatain Hayastan" was his magazine of choice for the first chess problem (1974) and endgame study (1978). Supposedly he already had composed in Leningrad. In 1984 he met Sergey Kasparyan in Genrikh Kasparyan's classroom for the endgame study composers, and they collaborated on endgame studies. In 1991, the world saw the fall of the Soviet Union, an event that was foreshadowed by the political movements of the 1980s that also led to the so-called German Democratic Republic, a Soviet puppet state on East German territory, being dissolved after the fall of the Berlin Wall and its territory becoming part of Germany again. While in Germany an extensive social network took care of the East German people. the Soviet people seemed to not have such measures by the government, as we read before that Mikhail Zinar lived in relative poverty, and here we read that Sergey Varov's living conditions also worsened, dminishing his composing endeavours.

A small curiosity follows:

Alexey Gasparyan & Sergey Kasparyan, 4th UAPA Internet Tourney, 16 March 2017.

One of the main variations of the solution ends in a nice checkmate: 1.c7 Qxh1 2.cxb8Q Nc6+ 3.Kc5 Nxb8 4.bxa7+, and:

4.-Kxa6 5.a8Q+! Qxa8 6.Nb4+ Kb7 7.Nd6+ Ka7 8.Bb6 mate (or 6.-Ka7 7.Bb6+ Kb7 8.Nd6 mate)

or 4.-Ka4 5.axb8N! Qb1 6.Nd6 Qxb8 7.Bb6 Qh8 8.Nd4 wins.

After 4.-Kxa6 neither 5.axb8Q? Qd5+ 6.Kxd5 stalemate nor 5.axb8R Qc1 win. But this is not the small curiosity. The composer names are very similar. So of course they are... unrelated. Alexey Gasparyan (born 15 November 1958) was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, but only met with Genrikh Kasparyan after 1988 after moving to Armenia. Two of his endgame studies are collaborations with Sergey Kasparyan. There also was one each with Genrikh Kasparyan and Hamlet Amiryan, and several with Alexander Manvelyan. So let us have a look at these other two members of the studying group. Including corrections and versions, there are 86 entries in the 2020 database of Harold van der Heijden with Gasparyan's name, and as he is still actively composing so this number grows.

Alexander Manvelyan (4 June 1946 - 21 June 2015) was born in Kirovabad (today Ganja) in Azerbaijan. He learnt chess in school. After graduating, he moved to Yerevan, where he worked as a trolleybus driver. In the Armenian capital he also started his chess composition. There are 78 endgame studies of him (corrections and versions included) in the database of Harold van der Heijden. In 2008 Manvelyan received the title of FIDE Master for Chess Composition. Unfortunately, five years later his health declined and doctors were unable to help him, which ultimately led to his death in 2015. Unfortunately I lack further biographical details about him, but a beautiful endgame study with Gasparyan is replayable below.

The last composer for this month is Hamlet Amiryan (11 November 1934 - 1 October 2013). In EG 195 (January 2014) and 196 (April 2014) articles were published by Yochanan Afek about Amiryan's systematic manoeuvers in endgame studies and by Karen Sumbatyan about Amiryan's biography, respectively. Those are the source for the following observations. On the ARVES website we only read that he refused to use a computer and created over 500 endgame studies. Afek says "more than 300 endgame studies" instead, and Sumbatyan believes it is over 400, which obviously can all be true at the same time.

If you want to meet Napoleon or Medea, you can visit an Armenian village and likely find them there, as part of Armenian culture is to show European roots by choosing European names for children. As such, the name Hamlet stems from the Danish prince of the same name, as depicted in the play by William Shakespeare. Hamlet, as we read in Wikipedia, was itself based on the legend of the Scandinavian prince Amleth, which might have been based on an Old Icelandic poem from the 10th century that has become, in modern terms, lost media. The poem supposedly is about a prince named Amlóði. In Shakespeare's time the tale still was widely recognized as part of folklore, adding another layer to his version, similar to as if a play was written about Leonardo da Vinci today but in a century people would stop talking about him and the name would fall from usage and in a few centuries some writer on the inter(stellar)net would write an article about an artist named Leo...

As Afek remarks, Amiryan's endgame studies mostly were published in Soviet periodicals. Yours Truly wants to add that this isn't unusual for Soviet composers due to the cultural world war during the Cold War. We remind readers that one issue of EG was confiscated by authorities in the USSR as they wanted to suppress information by the emigrant Alexander Herbstman.

Afek remarks that many Amiryan compositions were demolished by computers, but his contributions nevertheless greatly advanced the art of endgame studies.

Hamlet Amiryan, Molodoj Leninets 1985, special commendation.

White to move and draw

1.Re5+ Kd4 2.Qf5 g6 3.Re4+ Kd3 4.Qf4 g5 5.Re3+ Kd2 6.Qf3 g4 7.Re2+ Kd1 8.Re1+ Kd2 9.Re2+ draws

Afek's article gives several more examples, interested readers can find the issue with it in the EG Archive which now has the issues up to October 2018.

Amiryan was born in Yerevan into a family of Armenian intellectuals. As such he, son of a lawyer as father and language teacher as mother, studied polytechnics and became a planning engineer who worked in various institutes. We often talk abotu chess composers who gain a title of Master of Sports. Amiryan is an exception here, as he gained the second rank of that title indeed, but due to being a strong table tennis player. We are reminded of German composing grandmaster Franz Pachl who is a great minigolf player.

Amiryan's entire life was dedicated to being a loving family man. His two daughters and two grandsons can attest to this, and in fact daughter Anush did when contributing to Sumbatyan's article by telling that her father's foundational lesson was honesty. Playing various games with his daughters, Hamlet Amiryan never insisted that they studied one of them, including chess, On their own accord, both girls chose the medical profession and worked in Moscow. Yours Truly wants to remind readers here that the Russian civilians are not to blame for the Russo-Ukrainian war or its ongoing 2022 escalation.

In his final years, Amiryan published a selection of his endgame studies. Sumbatyan further explains that Amiryan not only was a pupil but also a great fan of Genrikh Kasparyan, collecting all the books of his teacher.

Our story began in Yerevan, it ends on the airport in Sochi. The Black Sea coast, Russia, is home to this thriving city, on which the loving and creative heart of a 79 year old man stopped working on 1 October 2013.

And so we want to end with the same words as Karen Sumbatyan. We ask the same question about Kasparyan (father and son), Varov, Amiryan, Manvelyan, and possibly others: Who will replace them in Armenia?

(Or can they even be replaced?)

Archived sources: and


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.