Study of the Month: Some classical dominations

by Siegfried Hornecker
8/31/2023 – We talked a few times about Genrikh Kasparyan already, this time we delve a bit into his book “Domination in 2545 Endgame Studies”. At the time, the book served as a great anthology and also a small theoretical introduction to the theme. | Photo: Midjourney AI

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


Some classical dominations

by Siegfried Hornecker

First published in Russian in 1974 as “Shakhmatnye etyudy dominatzija”, which would translate to “Domination chess studies”, and with the revised Russian text translated into English by A. Krwovtaz, the book was published in 1980 by Progress Publishers in Moscow.

Kasparyan writes that Henri Rinck introduced the term “domination”, but it should be viewed on a broader plane. Historically it was used to denote White controlling specific squares to attack and capture a Black piece, defeating Black by material.

Kasparyan believes that trapping a piece in various ways also should be regarded as domination, such as geometric patterns, pinning, zugzwang, and much more.

In his book, Kasparyan sorts dominations by the material used and then by the patterns used. The thoroughness of the research is shown by the inclusion of five endgame studies where two rooks and a minor piece win against two rooks and a minor pieces. Four of them are by Rinck, one by Prokes.

Henri Rinck, Tijschrift v. d. KNSB 1937, 1st commendation.

White to move and win.

1.Ra8+ Bb8 2.Ne6! leads to several main variations in which White will win. You can replay those at the end of the article. The most relevant here is 2.-R5d7 3.N:d8 R:d8 4.Kh7! Re8 5.Kg7 Rd8 6.Re7 with mutual zugzwang: 6.-Rd1 7.Re8+ wins

Here 4.Kg7? Re8 puts White in zugzwang: 5.Kh7 Rd8 6.Re7 Rf8 7.Ra2 Kd8 8.Rb7 Kc8, or 6.Rg7 Re8! each with a draw.

The wide definition used by Kasparyan for the term “domination” can be seen by study 2517 in the book, as just one example:

Leonid Kubbel, 150 Endspielstudien 1925.

White to move and win.

1.Qc2+ Kd8 2.Qh7! is a neat tactical trick, defending h1. This is far from a domination in the classical sense, but Black is completely lost now: 2.-Q:h7 3.R:a8+, 4.Ra7+, and 5.R:h7 wins

In his book, where despite the German name all solution commentary is only in Russian, for this study Kubbel also gives only the main variation, two short sidelines, and no further text. It is strange that the introduction was translated and printed in both languages, but the solutions weren’t.

Georg Bernhardt’s study with similar but slightly different material - queen and rook vs. queen and rook - that originally was published in the Basler Nachrichten looks like it could happen in practical play, and as such is left to interested readers to solve, or alternatively to look up at the end in the replayable entries. I would assume that players need to be relatively strong to find it in a game.

Georg Bernhardt, Ervin Voellmy MT 1952, 2nd prize.

White to move and win.

Unsurprisingly, a great part of the book is dedicated to trapping the queen, a powerful pieces with many available squares on an empty board. It seems unexpected that Her Majesty can be trapped on the chessboard, as Boris Gelfand also proved many years ago. After six draws, Boris Gelfand had won the previous game. He immediately lost his match advantage in round 8 with a dubious tactical idea.

Viswanathan Anand - Boris Gelfand, World Chess Championship 21 May 2012 (round 8)

1.c4 Nf6 2.d4 g6 3.f3 c5 4.d5 d6 5.e4 Bg7 6.Ne2 0-0 7.Nec3 Nh5 8.Bg5 Bf6 9.B:f6 e:f6 10.Qd2 f5 11.e:f5 B:f5 12.g4 Re8+ 13.Kd1! B:b1 14.R:b1 Qf6 15.g:h5 Q:f3+ 16.Kc2 Q:h1 17.Qf2 1-0

Gelfand’s entire kingside action seemed very dubious in this game. The queen can be freed, but after 17.-Nc6 18.d:c6 Q:c6 19.h6 Black has no realistic chances of saving the game and instead would painfully be destroyed.

Indeed, in practical play it is a rare but not unheard occurrence that a queen is trapped. Reuben Fine wrote books about openings, but this didn’t protect him from falling into an opening trap himself.

Reuben Fine - Mikhail Yudovich, USSR Championship, 14 March 1937

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 c5 5.Bg5 c:d4 6.Nxd4 e5 7.Ndb5

This move is made to lure Black into a trap: 7.-a6 fails to 8.N:d5 a:b5 9.N:f6+ g:f6 10.Q:d8+ K:d8 11.B:f6+ and 12.B:h8, with White winning. At least that is what Reuben Fine thought.

7.-a6! 8.N:d5? (see below) a:b5! 9.N:f6+ Q:f6!! 10.B:f6 Bb4+

It turns out that there is a hole in Fine’s calculations. After 11.Qd2 B:d2+ 12.K:d2 g:f6 13.a:b5 Be6 White was a piece down. Instead of resigning, he dragged the game on for another 30 moves, but Yudovich won easily.

On 8.N:d5: Fine had to play 8.Qa4 Bd7 9.c:d5 Qb6 10.Be3 B:b5 11.B:b6 B:a4 12.N:a4 Bb4+ 13.Kd1 with an equal game, for example 13.-Nbd7 14.a3 N:d5 15.a:b4 N7:b6 16.N:b6 N:b6, and the bishop against knight is compensation for the doubled pawns and lacking development, so the game should be equal.

(Anand - Gelfand, position before 15.g:h5)

(Fine - Yudovich, position before 8.-a:b5)

While in both cases a knight was sacrificed to “win” a rook, at least in the idea of the attacker, using a fork on f3/f6 to a king on d1/d8 and rook on h1/h8 as the idea of the sacrifice, this is mainly coincidental. Many other variations exist where a queen is lost in the opening, but those two examples may show how similar ideas in different positions can lead to different ideas of a queen being dominated. Unlike Fine, Gelfand resigned directly after noticing he was lost.

We have seen how a queen can be dominated in endgame studies and in practical play. Many beautiful endgame studies exist where a queen is trapped, and quite a few of them are very famous, so we don’t need to repeat them here. There are obviously also dominations of other pieces, so let us look at rooks next. In last month’s column, we already saw two cases as well.

7R/7p/3NPk1r/3r4/1B6/1K6/8/8 w - - 0 1

Dmitri Petrov, Leninska Smena 1966, 1st honorable mention. White to move and win

The beginning is easy enough to find, but after 1.e7 K:e7 2.Nf5+ Kf6 3.N:h6 Kg7 miraculous things happen: 4.Ng4! Rd3+ 5.Kc4 Rg3 6.Rg8+!! K:g8 7.Nh6+ Kh8 8.Bc5 Rg7 9.Bd6! Rg6 10.Be5+ Rg7 11.Nf5 wins

The ending is reminiscent of a famous study by Gleb Zakhodyakin. Incredibly, his first studies were published in 1929, meaning the following classic is from his second year of published endgame studies.

Gleb Zakhodyakin, Shakhmatny Listok, 10 August 1930, 1st prize.

White to move and draw

The pawn on f2 can’t be stopped. But what else is there?

1.g7+ N:g7 2.Nf7+ Kg8 3.Bc5! f1Q 4.Nh6+ Kh8

Black’s forces are uncoordinated, but he has an entire queen against the opposing bishop. Certainly White must resign, as 5.Bd4 Qc4+ ends the game quickly.


The fork 5.-Qa6+ and 6.-Q:d6 is refuted by the fork 7.Nf7+ and 8.N:d6.

5.-Qe1 6.Be5! Q:e5 7.Nf7+ Kg8 8.N:e5 draws

The queen is surprisingly helpless, being the only piece that isn’t dominated. And yet, it is her that falls in the end. An early masterpiece by Gleb Nikolaevich Zakhodyakin, who at the time of publication just had hit his 18th birthday a month prior. A small coincidence: Gleb Zakhodyakin was born on 7 July 1912, Dmitry Petrov was born on 8 July 1909. They nearly shared the same birthday. Special issue 30 of the British Engame Study News, March 2002, has a presentation of 15 Zakhodyakin studies, selected by John Beasley. “The impotent queen” from the study above is on its title page.

The versatility of two bishops makes the domination of a rook or its conquest after a pin a common theme in endgame studies as well. Kasparyan also lists a few endgame studies where the rook protects his king and gets defeated in the process. Two knights also have various ways to dominate a rook. Yours Truly used one in a 2009 endgame study.

S. Hornecker, Schach 12/2009 (correction).

White to move and win.

After 1.f6 the play is split into two main variations. The relevant one here is 1.-Bg2+ 2.B:g2 Rb1+ 3.Bf1 R:f1+ 4.Kg2 R:f6 5.h3+ Kg5 and the rook is dominated, but White seems to be in zugzwang. However, the pawn on b5 can move: 6.b6! R:b6 7.Nf7+ Kf6 8.Nd5+ wins.

The great strength of solver Klaus Rubin was shown by him proving that the original setting without wPa2 was incorrect, as Black had a way to draw with bishop against two knights. As the final position of his analysis fits our domination theme, it is included below.

Analysis by Klaus Rubin.

White to move can only draw.

In rare situations, a single minor piece, or even just pawns, are enough to trap a rook. There is one way to win a piece that most practical players might not immediately think about but likely find when confronted with the situation.

Boris Didrikhson, Shakhmaty v SSSR 1926, 3rd honorable mention.

White to move and win

We leave this as a puzzle for the readers to figure out (or replay below).

Vladimir Korolkov, Trud 1 July 1951, 2nd honorable mention.

White to move and win

Similarly, this puzzle is left to the readers. It is more of a battle for promotion, but with a twist.

It might seem far less impressive to dominate minor pieces, but among the many ideas that demonstrate such ideas some are outstanding. Nearly a century ago, a study was widely reprinted in which rook and bishop fought against two minor pieces. 85 years later, in Magyar Sakkvilág September 2016, a pawn was added on f4 to get rid of a dual found by Wouter Mees at the end.

Mark Liburkin, 64, 30 September 1930, 1st prize (correction).

White to move and win

1.Rc7+ Kb8 2.Rb7+ Ka8 seems to leave White in dire straits. It seems that with the loss of the pawn on c6, the game will end in a draw. A battle of wits follows.

3.Be8 N:c6 4.R:b6 Nb4! 5.Bf7! Be8 6.K:b4 (or 6.Rh6, as Black has nothing better than taking on f7) 6.-B:f7 7.Rh6! and the bishop can’t get to safety. 7.-Bd5 8.Kc5 Be4 9.Kb6 wins. Okay, the bishop did get to safety, but it costs the king. Without the pawn on f4, White also could win with 7.Kb5/Kc5 Ka7 8.Kc6 Be8+ 9.Kc7 and a well-known theoretical position is reached. 9.-Bf7 10.Rf6 Bg8 11.Rg6 Bh7 12.Rg7 Bc2 13.Rg2 Bb3 14.Rg3 and the bishop falls.

Liburkin also composed the final study for the month, in which the mutual relationship between rook and knight is explored. Pogosyants, likely in his sleepless nights, recomposed it but in a correct form. I believe it to be justified to give both names as authors in this case.

Mark Liburkin, Trud 1935, 1st commendation

Correct version: Ernest Pogosyants, Zarja 1980.

White to move and win.

After 1.g7! R:g7 2.B:e8+ the play is split into two main variations:

2.-Rg6 3.B:g6+ N:g6 4.e8R! and the knight has no spaces. Note that due to the king on b5, White can’t just play 3.Bf7 N:f7 4.e8Q Nd6+. Circumventing this doesn’t win either, as 3.Kc4?! Nf7 4.Kc5 Nh8 still allows White to win with 5.B:g6+ N:g6 6.e8R!, but not 5.Bf7? N:f7 6.e8Q Rf6 7.Qe4 Ng5!! 8.h:g5 K:g5 with a fortress.

2.-Ng6 3.B:g6+ R:g6 4.e8N! and two main variations happen again: If the rook goes to e6, then .5.Ng7+ wins the rook, and if it goes to g8, then 5.Nf6+ wins.

If you didn’t solve the studies above, now is your last chance before looking at the replayable entries below. For more (but not much more) information on Mark Liburkin you can for example read our February 2019 article, which uses as one of its sources the foreword to the 1981 book by Rafael Kofman about Kaminer and Liburkin (in Russian, “Izbrannye etyudy Kaminera i Liburkina”).

Magical Chess Endgames Vol. 1 & 2 + The magic of chess tactics

In over 4 hours in front of the camera, Karsten Müller presents to you sensations from the world of endgames - partly reaching far beyond standard techniques and rules of thumb - and rounds off with some cases of with own examples.


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.