Will you start composing or solving?

by Siegfried Hornecker
4/5/2020 – With all over-the-board chess action cancelled or postponed, this is a great moment to explore new territories. Our “Study of the Month” columnist SIEGFRIED HORNECKER sent us some tips to start composing an endgame study or two, or try solving some puzzles for fun.

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Discovering a new world

Due to the current global crisis, likely all physical chess tournaments will be cancelled when you read this. You can still watch games online, play online, and chess composition tournaments that are run online can also still be held as they require no physical interaction.

So as a measure against boredom, when you had your share of online games, I’d like to invite you to start composing an endgame study or two, or try solving some puzzles for fun. If you do, you can contact your national problem chess federation for further assistance and guidance, as far as it is still possible.

Axel Steinbrink, the official German solving organizer, recommends the following WFCC’s resources for solvers where you can find problems without solutions — and others with solutions, so you can check if you were right: 

You can download the PDF files listed under “Problems”, print them out, take a physical chess board and pieces and solve like it would be done at tourneys.

Luc Palmans, in addition to the WFCC links, suggests Yet Another Chess Problem Database (YACPDB) to search for a certain stipulation, as it shows diagrams and has an extra button for solutions.

Please note however that most tourneys are coined towards experienced solvers. If you didn’t see them all yet, you might first want to try solving the ChessBase Christmas puzzles. Possibly you also have some chess magazines at home with a problem corner where you can start solving and check your solutions in newer issues. Finally, Brian Cook sent me a link where solvers can try their hands at Mate-in-two problems (other stipulations are in beta testing at the website).

Unfortunately, apart from John Nunn’s book “Solving in Style”, which is only available as a paid e-book in some countries, I am not aware of any good instructions on how to learn solving, so experience will be the only teacher for most solvers. Where you might need half an hour at first to solve a checkmate in two moves, this will be reduced to five to ten minutes after a while, and in some cases you might be able to understand and spot ideas immediately, enabling you to solve studies even faster. Helpmates might also be relatively easy to solve, although it depends on the specific position — but there one doesn’t need to find counterplay, only a solution in which both sides help each other.

Those who only want to read, or who look for more problems and studies to solve, can find several — usually older issues of — chess problem magazines for free on the internet, such as the German Schwalbe. Their archive contains full PDFs from 2003 until five years ago. Or the endgame-studies magazine “EG” at ARVES, which is commonly used by yours truly as a source. Jakob Leck points to the extensive "Problemist" archive, while Geoff Foster finds the "Problemist" Supplement more suited for newer solvers.

Other noteworthy sites are OzProblems, a recently overhauled site devoted to the chess problem art in Australia, and Julia's Fairies, which includes problems that follow slightly different rules

A study by Abram Gurvich

I can offer a study by Gurvich to solve directly. When I was only 18 years old, I was presented with it and solved it over maybe 15-30 minutes. Of course, with my experience today, such an idea might be solvable much faster.


Try to find the solution on your own, and if you want to check if you got it right or just want to see the solution, scroll down in my latest Study of the Month article — this problem is the second to last entry. This study proves that Gurvich himself liked more mechanical positions in his early years.

[A reader, Geir Sune Tallaksen, noted that this Gurvich study needed a correction to be completely sound. A black knight has been moved from b4 to b2. - Ed.]


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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