Study of the Month - Up to five pieces allowed

by Siegfried Hornecker
7/31/2022 – The term "malyutka" - "baby" - is used for endgame studies with up to five pieces. The art of such studies is very old, but some modern composers extensively researched such positions. Obviously, endgame tablebases made composing such endgame studies easier in the late 20th century, and it seems that there can't be much variety with only three pieces apart from the kings. Yet, even with so few pieces, some interesting ideas can be found.| Photos: Pixabay

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Up to five pieces allowed

Let us first define a few terms. Gady Costeff, the task composer whose mighty works often include many many pieces, once quipped similar to: "For you a miniature is when there are seven pieces on the board. For me a miniature is when there are seven pieces not on the board." This brings us to the concept of naming different kinds of material balances. The following list covers everyday usage:

  • Up to five pieces - malyutka
  • Up to seven pieces - miniature
  • Up to twelve pieces - Meredith
  • One side has only the king - Rex Solus
  • White has only the king and one additional piece - minimal
  • (Informal: If the material exists in endgame tablebases - tablebase material / EGTB material)
  • (Informal: Endgames with kings, rooks and pawns only - Georgian material)

The term "minimal" usually is used when there is a big material imbalance, although technically studies with similar material can also be minimals, such as the Saavedra study. The informal terms might not be widespread, so I might be mistaken about their usage. They are known to your author in that way.

Using Chess Query Language to filter out only endgame studies with exactly five pieces in the initial position, 7410 matches out of 93839 endgame studies in the sixth database of Harold van der Heijden were found. This is a lot more than your author expected. Upon checking further, Yours Truly noticed that 25 of the entries are by him even, including the following one.


Siegfried Hornecker, Kalandadze JT 2006, 6th prize

Black to move, White draws

1.-f1Q 2.c6 Qf7+ 3.Kd8! Qf8+ 4.Kc7 will lead to three main variations. Can you find all of them?

For our presentation of "baby" studies your author chose rather modern ones, as readers will be aware of many classics. As an additional criterium prizewinners were selected. So it is hoped that the following examples offer additional value to readers.

There is a famous drawn position:


Black to move draws

with 1.-b5+ 2.a:b6 e.p.+ Kb7.

If Kc4 is on c5, the drawing move is 1.-b6+, etc.

In 1888 Louis Paulsen proved that White wins if his king is on d5 and he has the move, starting with 1.Kd4. He was inspired by a game against Metger he played in Nuremberg 1888.

My friend Branko incorporated this into an endgame study recently.


Branislav Djurasevic, Cirtdan 2018, 3rd special prize.

White to move and win

White is a bishop up, but the winning way is tight.

Tight but probably not too difficult to find is also the drawing way in the following endgame study.


Nikolai Ryabinin, 14th Russian Team Championship 2001, 5th/6th place.

White to move and draw

Obviously 1.Rc8? Nc4! loses quickly, and nothing is gained by 1.Rd8+? Kc3 2.Rc8+ Nc4. White might be able to draw easily if his king wasn't in the corner, but as it is 1.Rg1? Nd1 2.Rg3+ Ke2 3.Rg2+ Nf2+ happens with check. Oops! So the only idea is to somehow gain the time to remove the king from the corner sooner or later. This must start with checks: 1.Rg3+! Kd4 2.Rg4+ Kd5 3.Rg5+ Kd6 4.Rg6+ Kc7 5.Rg7+ Kb6 6.Rg6+ Kb5 7.Rg5+ Kb4 8.Rg4+ Kb3 9.Rg3+ and White claims a draw next move with 10.Rc3, or repeats giving checks (if the king returns to b4), it seems. However, Black has 9.-Nd3!! What now?

The following endgame study is very famous, but possibly some readers haven't seen it yet.


Yochanan Afek, WCCC tourney 2003, 2nd place (version).

White to move and draw.

It seems hopeless to fight on, as 1.Kg7? b5 2.K:g6 b4 shows that the knight doesn't move very far. Precise play also wins for Black after 1.Nf6? b5 2.Nd5 Kd2! 3.Kg7 g5 4.Kg6 g4 5.Nf6 b4 6.N:g4 b3 7.Ne5 Kc3!. So what can White do?

Endgame studies don't need to be long or complicated to be aesthetically pleasing.


Hamlet Amiryan, "64 Shakhmatnoye Obozreniye" 1995, special prize.

White to move and draw.

Black only can work with a checkmate threat, and White's moves also don't leave much room, so the entire solution is rather forced: 1.g4+ Kf6 2.g5+ Kf7 3.g6+ Kf6, and you should also find the other moves easily.


Pal Benkö. Jenö Ban MT 1989, 1st prize.

White to move and win

Black seems to easily be able to conquer the knight on h8, but in fact White has an idea at his disposal. 1.Ng6? h:g6 2.Kc7 Ke7 is still too early. So what is the solution?


I. Galushko, Vecherny Leningrad 1985, special prize.

White to move and win

This is actually a pretty nice little study. It is optically similar to the Réti study, but the solution is vastly different. It starts similar enough with 1.Kf6 h4 2.Ke5 h3 3.Kd6 h2 4.c7+ Kc8, but how does White continue? Also, as a question to our readers, what is the first name of this composer?


Lars Falk, Miru Mir Molodoj Leninets (Kurgan) 1986, special prize.

White to move and win

The names of the sources sometimes are pretty difficult. I believe "Molodoj Leninets" to be the magazine, but what is "Miru Mir"? This is especially strange as "Mir" means "World".

The study is an interesting demonstration of the power of the knight. Obviously the solution must begin with 1.c7 when Black has the tactical idea 1.-Rd5+ 2.Kc6 Rd8! How can the win be secured?

We will end our exploration of "baby studies" with two works from Velimir Kalandadze, with whose 2006 jubilee tourney we had started. Velimir Kalandadze (15 May 1935 - 27 October 2017) was among the greatest Georgian composers of endgame studies. The Georgians specialized in a variety of different themes, such as endgame studies with kings, rooks and pawns on the board, as well as "malyutka", or "baby" studies as we looked at this month. The special prize study from the Nona Tourney 2008, which is shown on the Italian Wikipedia entry for Velimir Kalandadze, becomes a "baby" study after the introduction as well.


Velimir Kalandadze, Shakhmaty v SSSR 1984, special prize.

White to move and win.

White has four legal moves. Two of them lose obviously. But of the other two - 1.Kc8 or 1.Ra7 - only one wins and one draws. Think deep to find out which plan is correct to avoid for example a draw with KR-KP with the a-pawn.

The final endgame study this month is easier to solve:


Velimir Kalandadze, Achalgazdra Komunisti 1956, 1st special prize.

White to move and draw.

Obviously White has to keep giving checks. But after 1.Rh8+ Kg2 2.Rg8+ Kf2 3.Rf8+ Ke2 4.Re8+ Kd2 5.Rd8+ Kc2 6.Rc8+ Kb1 the king has taken cover behind the final pawn of White. The threat of promotion with check prevents ideas like Rh8 and Rh1+. So how can the draw be secured?

We hope that this small selection of "malyutka" studies, i.e., studies with five pieces, was entertaining and/or interesting to the readers. Those who don't want to solve the puzzles can of course just replay the studies below.

Your author recalls reading a book, possibly by David Gurgenidze, in 2016, which contained a selection of Gurgenidze's malyutka studies. From the database entries, it must be the 2005 book "Malyutka dlja Vsekh". Driving with the always good-humored Branislav Djurasevic (the author of the second study this month) and others in the car near Belgrade was a welcome opportunity to read the book that David Gurgenidze had lent your author for the drive. This small episode, as well as an interesting entry on Tim Krabbé's diary that names "Etyudnaya Mozaika Malyutka" as a magazine dedicated exclusively to endgame studies, show that there is an interest in specialized literature about "malyutka" studies. Unfortunately, apart from the book above and the books "Malyutka Gruzinskikh Etyudistov" from 2000 and "Malyutka" from 1999, your author doesn't know of any specialized literature. That magazine titles aren't always true was a lesson that Yours Truly learned when judging endgame studies in the magazine "Best Problems" many years ago. Not only are endgame studies separate from problems in the composing terminology, their quality also was not always "best". This small excursion is to show that the magazine "Etyudnaya Mozaika Malyutka" might have other endgame studies than just "babies".

For legal reasons we can't attach all 7510 malyutka endgame studies, but the CQL code can of course be attached. It consists only of three lines. For Chess Query Language 6.1 use the following code where you might have to rename the input file name. Note that the name of the cql file will determine the name of the output file, for example if you copy this code into a file named malyutka.cql the output file will be malyutka-out.pgn:

cql (input heijden6.pgn)



This month a lot went wrong, hindering progress in writing this article. As such, the interview with a philosopher that was planned for this month and hinted about at the end of last month unfortunately has to be postponed. Your author hopes to deliver it next month. The interview partner cooperated nicely, but the circumstances on the outside didn't...



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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