Study of the Month: Special honorable mentions

by Siegfried Hornecker
11/29/2023 – Endgame studies don’t need to be perfect to be entertaining. Prizes are to be awarded to endgame studies that meet the highest standards. Honorable mentions are for endgame studies of great but not the highest quality. Special awards should be for those that can’t compete with other studies. Let us examine what this means.

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.


Not much literature seems to exist on how composition tournaments are organized. Informal tourneys, i. e. those where the problems are published prior to judging, are usually held in magazines and run either annually or bi-annually (which might be twice a year or more commonly every two years). The deadline here would be the end of an established time period (i.e. of a year or semester). Formal tourneys can be announced by anyone and have to consist at least of a director and a judge who can be the same person, although many judges prefer anonymized entries and as such the director would need to strip the names from entries as well as changing the authors’ comments and presentation style.

More important than those details however for our current article is how awards are selected. Usually prizes, honorable mentions, and commendations can be awarded, with special distinctions for problems and studies that can’t be compared to the others in the tourney. This might include joke entries, but also entries that are in big parts building on an established idea, or entries that fall outside the usual criteria for endgame studies.

V. Romasko & Vladislav Tarasiuk, Mitrofanov JT, 7 May 1993. Special honorable mention. White to move and draw

Undoubtedly the solution for this endgame study is one of the most baffling geometrical ideas: 1.Ra8+ Kb6! 2.Nd5+ Kb7 3.N:e3! Rc7+! 4.Kd6 Bg3+ 5.f4! B:f4+ 6.Ke6 K:a8 7.Nd5! Rc6+ 8.Kd7 Rd6+ 9.Kc8 R:d5 stalemate

Position after 7.Nd5: Black to move can’t win

This endgame study must look like pure magic. The lone knight holds against the misplaced rook and bishop with tactical precision. This should be worthy of a prize. Indeed, that is what happened… at the Pacific Ocean Komsomolets tourney in 1967, when Yuri Bazlov first showed this idea and won the 2nd prize. He extended the solution with (numeration of the study above) 9.-Bh2 10.Nc7+ Ka7 11.Nb5+ Kb6 12.N:d6 draws. Benjamin Yaacobi found the position after the fifth move in the shown study. Romasko added a different introduction in 1993, and again together with Tarasiuk for the study above.

All that is left for the judge is an introduction, spanning five moves, to a known ending. While the ending is of the absolutely highest level, it can’t be a determining factor for judging the study. As such, a special distinction was given for only the introductory play, which led to the known point.

Yuri Bazlov, 1967 (see text). White to move and draw: 1.c7 Rc8 2.Ne7 Bf4+ 3.Ke6 R:c7 4.Nd5, etc.

As we see, a special award, in this case a honorable mention, can be given for an improvement to an older study. This does not have to be necessarily in terms of an introduction, as the following example shall demonstrate.

Knud Hannemann (after Vazha Neidze), Stella Polaris January 1968, special honorable mention. White to move and draw.

The original version of this study from January 1968 was corrected in the March 1968 issue, as seen here. White draws with 1.Rd1+ Nf1+ 2.R:f1+ giving Black four choices on how to proceed, a black "allumwandlung" (all-promotion). The German term and its abbreviation AUW is used in the English language in chess problem circles. Let us look at the four variations in order of difficulty: 2.-g:f1N+ 3.K:f4 draws, 2.-g:f1R 3.Rh2+ Kg1 4.Rg2+ Kh1 5.Rh2+ draws, 2.-g:f1Q 3.Rh2+ Kg1 4.Rh1+ K:h1 stalemate are rather trivial, but what about the promotion to bishop? 2.-g:f1B 3.Rh2+! Kg1 4.Rb2! Nd3 5.Rg2+ B:g2 stalemate. Incredibly, 3.Rb2? Kg1! is a mutual zugzwang, and with White to play there is no way to draw.

The study was published "after Neidze", but we’ll see that it not only saves a lot of material but vastly improves on Neidze’s idea.

Vazha Neidze, Shakhmaty v SSSR 1963, 4th honorable mention. White to move and draw.

1.Rc2 Nf2 2.N:f2+ e:f2 3.R:b2! leads to four main variations as well here: 3.-f1Q 4.Rh2+ Kg1 5.Rh1+ K:h1 stalemate, 3.-f1R 4.Rh2+ Kg1 5.Rg2+ Kh1 6.Rh2+ draws, 3.-f1B 4.Rh2+ Kg1 5.Rg2+ Kh1 6.Rh2+ Kg1 7.Rg2+ B:g2 stalemate, 3.-f1N+ 4.Kh3 Ra8 5.Rb8 Ra7 6.Rb7 Ra6 7.Rb6, etc., until 11.-Ra1 12.Rb1 R:a1 stalemate

While the basic idea of the promotion is the same, Hannemann’s matrix vastly improves the study and adds own nuances, which I would have thought to be original enough to not require a special distinction. The judge half a century ago disagreed with my modern assessment.

Branislav Djurasevic, Moscow Tourney 2016, special honorable mention. White to move and win.

Branko has become one of Serbia’s prolific endgame study composers. Here he shows an interesting tactical play: 1.f:e7 Bg8! 2.d7! Rf4! 3.d8N! Rf8! 4.e:f8N! wins after both players played like grandmasters. In a practical game, playing 4.-Bd5 and exchanging on g6 might cause difficulties for White, but in an endgame study it is assumed that the players have precise theoretical endgame knowledge, without any restictions imposed by the 50/75 move rule.

Jörg Gerhold, Schach September 2006, special honorable mention. White to move and win.

The play here is 1.Bd1+ Kb5 2.Be2+ Ka4 3.Nb7 Nb5+ 4.B:b5+ K:b5 5.c4+! d:c4 6.Nd6+ Ka4 7.N:e4 R:a5 8.K:c4 Rhc5+ 9.N:c5+ R:c5+ 10.K:c5 and a finale is reached that leads to a well-known checkmate. 10.-a5 11.b5 c:b5 12.h3 h5 13.h4 b4 14.Kc4 b3 15.a:b3 mate

How should this study be judged? The pawn checkmate at the end is well known and the introductory play is rather forced, yet it is interesting and well-crafted. As Yours Truly was the judge for this tourney, a special honorable mention was given, as it felt unfair to compare it to other endgame studies, but still was to be merited on the introduction in terms of its construction. I still believe today that this is a justified accolade for this study. In fact, it is among the very few interesting introductions to the final point. Even if only the final checkmate is the same, interesting play is rare to find. One of the examples of a tactical battle was shown less than a decade ago.

L’ubos Kekely & Michal Hlinka, Magyar Sakkvilag 2015, 3rd prize. White to move and win.

Here the judge was apparently more enthusiastic than me, as a prize was given. Let us look at the solution: 1.Nc5 Q:b7! 2.Rg4+ Kh5 3.Rh4+ Kg5

The pawn on d3 is a big issue. If White just takes the queen, the pawn is unstoppable. Yet… 4.Ne4+! Q:e4+ 5.K:e4 d2 6.Rg4+ Kh5 and if you can’t win the queen, you might want to win the king instead: 7.Kf4 g5+ 8.Kf4 d1Q 9.Rh4+ g:h4 10.g4+ Q:g4+ 11.h:g4 mate

I lied. The queen was won together with the king.

Such checkmates might be of a (low) practical value. The same certainly can’t be said about the following endgame study, but we believe that by now readers will be able to figure out why a special honorable mention was given to it.

Richard Becker, Schach November 2010, special honorable mention. White to move and win.

The first two ranks of the board define the amusing play 1.Kc1+ Kf1 2.Kd2+ Kg2 3.Ke1+ Kh1 4.Kf2+ Kh2 5.Be5+ Nf4 6.Ke1+ Kh1 7.Kd2+ Kg2 8.Kc1+ Kf1 9.Kb2+ Kf2 10.Ka1+ Ke3 11.Re1+ Kf3 12.Ra3+ wins

Another reason why a special honorable mention might be given is if some interesting idea is achieved (similar to in Becker’s study) that is in its way a small task.

Mikhail Zinar. Olympiya Dunyasi 2013, special honorable mention. White to move and win.

I was always a great fan of kings and pawns endgames, and as such of Nikolay Grigoriev and Mikhail Zinar. Here we see the "king of pawn endgames" in his other field, the tasks construction. White wins with 1.f:g8Q R:g8 2.f7 Rh8 3.f8Q R:f8 4.e7 Rh8 5.e8Q+ R:e8 6.d7 Rh8 7.d8Q R:d8 8.c7 Rh8 9.c8Q R:c8 10.b7 Rh8 11.b8Q R:b8 12.a7 Rh8 13.a8Q R:a8 14.Nc4/Nc6 wins

Placing the knight on a3 doesn’t resolve the minor dual at the end, as 14.Nc2 also would win, with White sacrificing the knight on e3 later (at Ra8+Ra6 vs. Rh7). The study shows seven precise promotions to queen, i.e. promotions to rook wouldn’t suffice to win.

Other usage cases for special awards, such as special honorable mentions, include the use of non-standard material (promoted pieces, for example), retro ideas (only one side can castle and you have to proof which one by castling yourself before the opponent does, or the study starts with en passant after you can prove the last move was a double-step), extremely long studies (with often repeating manoeuvers), and likely more. On the flipside also endgames that contribute to endgame theory or just are interestingly constructed might receive special distinctions (we saw the latter in the first example of this article).

Filipp Bondarenko & Anatoly Kuznetsov, Thémes 64 1963, special honorable mention. White to move and win.

This shows one such study without black counterplay as an example of how play can look like that already feels like only one player actually does something.

1.Be4+ g2 2.Bc6 threatens to checkmate with 3.Qf4 R:f1+ 4.Q:f1 mate. The queen must protect the knight while threatening checkmate on h2 for this to work, so Black can only play 2.-g5 3.b5 Ba7 4.Kd1 Bb8 5.Kc1 Ba7 6.Kb1 Bb8 7.Ka1 Ba7 8.Qb1 Bb8 9.Ng3 mate, or 8.-R:f1 9.Q:f1 mate

I would like to close with two examples from the same tourney that both iterate the points made prior to the study above. The first one shows another at the time task of four knight promotions in a pure pawn endgame (it was raised to five promotions in 2013 by a table tennis fan with the pseudonym "Darius Knight", and while the real Darius Knight is one of the top table tennis players the pun is to be appreciated).

Valery Dolgov, Grigoriev MT 1986, special honorable mention. White to move and win.

The solution here is 1.e8N+ Kd7 2.f8N+ Ke7 3.g8N+ K:f8 4.g7+ Kf7 5.h8N+ K:g8 6.Nf6+ K:g7 7.Nh5+ K:h8 8.N:g3 wins

Andrey Kornilov, Grigoriev MT 1986, special honorable mention. White to move and win.

Kornilov was a renowned retro expert, so his study starts out with 1.h:g6. Wait a minute. There is nothing on g6. What happens? Well, through retroanalysis (it is left as an exercise to the readers, or can be seen below the solution) White can prove that the only possible last move of Black was g7-g5, and as such the pawn on g5 can be captured en passant. The play continues with 1.-h:g6+ 2.Ke4 Kg5 3.a4 c3 4.Ke3 c2 5.Kd2 Kf4 6.a5 h3 7.g:h3 K:f3 8.a6 e4 9.a:b7 e3+ 10.K:c2 e2 11.b8Q e1Q 12.Qb7+ Kf2 13.Q:d7 wins but the play has several minor duals after the main point. For example 9.a7 leads to the same position after 12.Q:b7+. I am also not fully convinced that after 13.Qd5 White eventually would have to win by taking on d7 and can’t just support the b-pawn. But the main focus of the study was clearly the retroanalysis and another point was that White can’t play 4.Kd3 immediately because the pawn must go to c2 to safely be captured. Otherwise the promotion on e1 is with check, or (if White goes to c2 after the check on e4) Pc3 survives. Both seem to not lead to a win.

Did you solve your exercise? It actually is easy when you analyze it. As a great hint for your solving, you might want to look at the pawn structure and think of how it can have happened. Pc4 must have come from a7 and Pe5 from c7. That means Ph4 came from e7. Since White has all pawns, no promoted pieces were captured. However, Pe7 made three captures on dark squares to get to h4. Pc7 made two captures on dark squares to get to e5. The other possible last move was c5-c4, but then Pa7 would have had to make two more captures on dark squares. However, Bf1 never can reach a dark square, and it is among the seven captured pieces that are necessary to be captured by the pawns. So Pa7 captured the bishop either on b5 or c4. This makes it impossible that the last move was by Pc4, and due to the pawn configurations, also no other pawn can have made a move before. The last move can’t have been Kg7-h6 either, as the pawn on f6 can’t have made a move before that. As such Pg5 must have moved, but not from g6 as then wKf5 would already have been in check. So Pg7-g5 was the only possible last move.

With this we conclude our small journey – our caleidoscope – of the world of special honorable mentions. We hope it was enjoyable.


We have an update on an earlier article we wrote about a Youth Chess Composing Challenge. The following study was selected for the FIDE Album 2019-2021. This makes the composer (at 12 years and 7 months when he submitted it to the tourney) the youngest composer of a FIDE Album study.

Christopher Yoo, 4th Youth Chess Composing Challenge, section C, 1st place. White to move and win.

1.Nd8! Kg7 2.c7 Bh7 3.Ne6+ Kf6 4.Nf8 Bg8 5.d8N Bf7+ 6.N:f7 Rc4 7.Nd6! e:d6 8.Nd7+ Ke7 9.Nc5 R:c5 10.b:c5 Kd7 11.c:d6 a6 12.Kg5 wins.

Please find the full award here and also replay the study in our widget if interested.

Previous issues of the "Study of the Month"...

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.