Study of the Month - Reflections on Ionchev's pattern

by Siegfried Hornecker
4/14/2023 – Tim Krabbé's 1985 book "Chess Curiosities" showed a study by the Bulgarian chess composer I. Ionchev, flawed but nevertheless interesting. Yours truly tried to follow in his footsteps. Nadareishvili explored the same concept, and it might be unfair to associate the name with Ionchev as he was neither the first, the last, nor the most important one to show it - only the most famous. | Photo: Pixabay

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Reflections on Ionchev's pattern

Tim Krabbé's book "Chess Curiosities," 1985, showed a study by the Bulgarian chess composer I. Ionchev, flawed but nevertheless interesting. Yours Truly tried to follow in his footsteps. Nadareishvili explored the same concept, and it might be unfair to associate the name with Ionchev as he was neither the first, the last, nor the most important one to show it - only the most famous.

Unfortunately neither of my sources was able to provide biographical information on Mr. Ionchev. I believe it might be the Bulgarian player Iordan Ionchev who many years ago had a chess team named in memory of him. Any readers with more knowledge on this composer are welcome to relay it.

For the original study by Ionchev and Yours Truly's interpretation (with Arpád Rusz, 2011) see our September 2018 article about Ladislav Prokeš. The ending of the Ionchev study is reproduced in the following diagram.


Black to move can only draw (I. Ionchev; Roycroft JT 1978)

The configuration of the two pawns on the seventh rank, attacking two pieces outwards, is what I call "the Ionchev", it is one that has interesting properties depending on which pieces are attacked. Queens or rooks can protect each other and the other squares on the eighth rank, as such they would not be defeated by the pawns. Other configurations differ, and in some cases an underpromotion has to come into play. I found eleven endgame studies that (nearly) exhaustively cover the spectrum of this theme as well as also are interesting. Those will be presented in the article.


Branko Kuzmanovic, Politika 1957.

White to move and win

The Yugoslavian Branko Kuzmanovic (18 November 1939 - 28 December 1970) showed the first correct rendition of the theme's predecessor here. After 1.Kd4 Bh7 2.e6 Nd8 3.Rg8+! B:g8 4.e7+ one of the pawns will promote and White wins. The king on f8 could be in many other positions and we would have already the idea as used later.


Gia Nadareishvili, Vecherny Leningrad 1965, 1st/2nd prize.

White to move and draw.

Gia Nadareishvili (22 September 1921 - 3 October 1991) was the founder of the Georgian school of endgame studies, He was also the chief neuropathologist of Tbilisi (source: Article by Iuri Akobia in MatPlus Review 11, Autumn 2009). In 1960 he received the title of International Judge, in 1969 International Master and in 1980 Grandmaster, each for chess composition. In his study White spectacularly draws with 1.Bc6+ K:c6 2.Rg8! Qh1 3.Rg1! Qh8 4.Rg8 Q:g8 5.f7 Q:f7 6.e:d8N+ Kc5 7.N:f7, and now Black must play precise to draw: 7.-K:c4 8.Ne5+ Kd5!


Azat Sadykov, Uralski Rabochi 1968, 2nd prize.

White to move and draw.

The Russian Azat Sadykov (1935 - 2005) showed two endgame studies with the idea, where the second seems like a more refined version of the first. In this first one, the draw is achieved with 1.Ng5! Q:g5 2.Rh8+ Ng8 3.R:g8+ Q:g8 4.b7+ Ke7 5.Bd8+ Q:d8 6.c7 and the very forced play is over. Draw.


Azat Sadykov, 64, 22 May 1970, 2nd honorable mention (correction).

White to move and draw.

This is the correction by Peter Krug from Estudios Artisticos de Ajedrez 2017. 1.Rc8+ B:c8 2.d7+ Kg7 3.Bf8+ Q:f8 4.e7 seems to be the same solution as before, but Black has the idea 4.-Q:f3+! 5.K:f3 Ne5+ 6.Ke4 N:d7. The smart defense set up 7.e8Q? Nf6+, so only 7.e8N+! draws. The merit in this study lies in the knight promotion which also would work if it wasn't a check.


Jaroslav Polášek, Československý šach February 1985,

Black to move, White wins

Jaroslav Polášek (born 30 March 1957) is a Czech (former Czechoslovakian) chess composer who regularly contributes to the magazine EG with his article series on correcting endgame studies. In 2012, he received the title of International Judge for Chess Composition. His hobbies include wandering in nature. The study here shows the successful battle against the Ionchev configuration by queen and bishop attacking the opposing king: 1.-d2 2.Qf1+ Kg8! 3.Bb2 Rc1! 4.B:c1 e2 - an important point is that 5.Qf8+? K:f8 6.B:d2 only leads to a draw due to the pawn configuration on the queenside - 5.Qf4! d1Q 6.Qc4+ Kg7 7.Bb2+ Kf8 8.Ba3+ Kg7 9.Qc7+ Kg6 10.Qb6+ Kf7 11.Q:b7+ Ke6 12.Qe7+ Kd5 13.Qc5+ Ke4 14.Qf5+ Ke3 15.Bc1+! as the possible skewer protects the bishop. Otherwise checkmate is imminent. 15.-Kd4 16.Bb2+ Kc4 17.Qb5 mate, or for example 16.-Ke3 17.Qf3+ Kd2 18.Qc3 mate.


Oleg Pervakov, Moscow Championship 1986, 1st prize.

White to move and draw.

Nagesh Havanur wrote about The Magician from Moscow and the Depth and Beatuy in Pervakov's Endgame Studies to which I refer our readers to find out more about Oleg Pervakov (born 8 April 1960), who since 2005 is Grandmaster for Chess Composition, renown for his endgame studies and as a promoter of this art as organizer and book author.

Not the Mighty Quinn but the mighty queen is tamed with 1.Re5 Qa1 2.Rb7+ Kf8 3.Rb8+ Kf7 4.Rb7+ Kf6 5.d7 Qa8+ 6.Re8 B:e8 7.Rb8 Q:b8 8.c7 but the study doesn't end here yet. Black has two dangerous passed pawns which must also be stopped: 8.-Q:c7 9.d:e8N+ Ke6 10.N:c7 b4 11.Na6! b3 12.Nc5 b2 13.Nd3+ Kf5 14.N:b2 draws


Sergey Nikolaevich Tkachenko, Bent JT 1989, 5th honorable mention.

White to move and win.

Charles Michael Bent was well-known for his short but pointed ideas, similar to Ernest Pogosyants but in an own distinct style. In this jubilee tourney the Odessan composer Sergey Nikolaevich Tkachenko (born 26 January 1963), who as of 2023 wrote numerous books and articles on endgame studies, puts a new anti-stalemate twist on the Ionchev pattern: 1.Nd7! B:d7 2.f7 Rh8! 3.g7 Be8! Remarkably, while usually the attacker has the incentive for the pattern, here the defender uses it. The rook threatens to give a check on the h-file, with B:f7 following, so it is not possible for White to just wait or to unstalemate the opposing king. Action must be taken by the pawns. 4.f8Q R:f8 5.g:f8N! Bd7! 6.Kb6! Bf5 7.a5 wins, for example 7.-Bf8 8.Nh7 Be6 9.Nf6 Bf7 10.a6! Bd5 11.Ne8 Bf7 12.Bc7 mate. The knight promotion after a knight was captured earlier is called a "phoenix", so here we'd have a delayed phoenix if problem terms are strictly applied.


Jan Timman, Vrij Nederland 1992 (correction).

White to move and win.

The author himself corrected the study in the Estudios Artisticos de Ajedrez in 2017. Of course the Dutch master Jan Timman (born 14 December 1951) belonged to the world-class elite of practical players at a time, but also is highly regarded as a composer of endgame studies. He specializes, likely influenced by Tim Krabbé, in curiosities. Here the theme of this month is used for the now familiar knight fork, but the play afterwards is also interesting. 1.Be6 K:e6 2.Rd8 B:d8 3.Ra8 Q:a8 4.b7 Q:b7 5.c:d8N+ Kd5 6.N:b7 Kc4 7.Kf5 K:c3 8.Ke4 Kb2 9.Kd3 K:a2 10.Kc2 Ka1 11.Nc5 Ka2 12.Nd3 Ka1 13.Nc1 a2 14.Nb3 mate. Perfect symbiosis of two well-known ideas.


Ignace Vandecasteele, Springaren September 2006.

White to move and win

The study composer Ignace Vandecasteele from Flanders (26 October 1926 - 31 May 2018) has the White king in check in the initial position but the play that follows is highly interesting. The only way to keep up the Ionchev pattern would be to take on c6, but 1.K:c6? Ne5+ is a good defense. The actual solution is 1.K:c5 Be7+ 2.K:c6 Ne5+ 3.Kd5 N:c7+ 4.K:e5 Ne8 5.Bf7+ Kh6 6.B:e8 Bh4 7.Kf4 Bd8 8.b8B! wins


Jan Timman, Tata Steel 75 AT 2013, special honorable mention.

White to move and win.

Jan Timman's other study this month uses also the Ionchev pattern as a defensive mechanism. After 1.Bf7+ Kh8 2.Rb8 R:b8 3.c7 Rf8 4.Ra8 R:a8 5.b7 Black seems completely lost but comes up with an ingenous defense. 5.-R:e4+ 6.Kf3 Re3+ 7.K:e3 Nd5+ 8.B:d5 Bd8! If you remember Tkachenko's study above, no waiting move worked as the rook always could leave a8 with check. But what if it can't? 9.Bb3! Rb8! with the renewed stalemate defense. Now of course 10.c:b8B? Bc7 11.Ba7 Bb6+ 12.B:b6 stalemates also. However, 10.c:b8N wins.


Martin Minski, Olympic tourney (Sochi) 2014, special honorable mention.

White to move and win.

Martin Minski (born 23 August 1969) is one of the German Grandmasters for Chess Composition. He obtained the title in 2020. In the study here, the Ionchev pattern is used to create a logical "Roman" manoeuver. The solution is 1.Rb8! R:b8 2.c7 Be1+ 3.Kf4 Bd2+ 4.Ke5 Bc3+ 5.d4 B:d4+ 6.Kf4 Be3+ 7.Kg3 Bf2+ 8.Kh2 Bg1+ 9.Kh1 B:d7 10.c:b8Q+ wins

As always, the studies can be replayed below. So what are the reflections on the theme? It seems to me like some ideas were already explored, but a lot of potential still is there for new avenues, new combinations with other ideas, or even completely original ones. Endgame study composers will likely continue to every now and then create works with the pattern.

Will we see new studies with the idea? Absolutely! Will they be good? Some will be! But only time can tell.



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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