The Gazette - August 2010

Sponsored by Sean O'Brien
Edited by Guy Whitehouse
The views expressed in the Gazette do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the BCA, nor those of the editor.

Talking about Cinderella

No; this is not about a Grimm fairytale, a Rossini opera or Frederic Ashton ballet. It is about arguably the most challenging and at the same time unsung aspects of chess: the “study”.

All studies are problems, but not all problems are studies; the term is reserved for endgame positions only, the smaller the number of pieces the better. A much more important difference is that, whereas both types adhere strictly to the laws of chess, you will hardly ever get a problem position in your own games, whereas certain elements of a study, if not the positions will inevitably turn up in your playing practice.

A study solution has to be absolutely sound, foolproof and irrefutable, demanding an extraordinary mindset in the creator. So why is such a rare talent so relatively unsung?

There are plenty of problem-solving societies, competitions and columns in the daily press, but I have never heard of anything similar for studies. The name of Sam Lloyd as a composer of hundreds if not thousands of problems is known throughout the chess world; can the same be said of S. Troitsky, the Russian who did the same for the study at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries?

The reason must be that studying the endgame comes very much at the bottom of most players’ priorities, but there is no doubt that players wishing to improve their performance neglect it at their peril.

I have given myself the task of producing a collection of studies in audio format for those of our members who have no computers and find it too arduous to surf the Internet. The studies are all taken from recent issues of INFORMATOR. To whet your appetite, I have given three examples. One word of advice: don’t be discouraged by your inability to find the solutions to most or any, but don’t rush to the solution. Examine each position carefully and try to find the elements that, enable the side with the lesser material to win. These studies will teach you much about the extent to which superior positions can more than compensate for material advantage. Remember: White always moves first.

1. Troitsky 1894

White: Kc2, Rf5, Ng7, Pa4, Pf4

Black: Kc4, Nc5, Pf2.

How can White possibly draw this since he cannot stop Black from promoting his Pawn! After White’s first move Black has two choices.

Solution: 1 Rd5! F1-Q (or 1 -Kd5 2 Nf5 Ke4 3 Kd2 Kf5 4 Ke2 Ne4 5 a5 Kf4 6 a6 Kg3 7 a7 Kg2 8 a8-Q f1-Q 9 Ke3) 2 Rd4 Kd4 3 Nf5 Kd5 4 Ne3 draw.

2. Troitsky 1909

White: Kd2, Qg3, Na4

Black: Kd4, Qb8, Nc7

In an OTB game White might well agree to a draw in this, for him, won position.

Solution: 1 Nb6 Qe8 2 Nd7 Kc4 3 Qc7 Kb4 4 Qc5 Kb3 5 Qc3 Ka4 (or 5 -Ka2 6 Kc1 Qe2 7 Qa5 Kb3 8 Nc5 Kc4 9 Qa6 etc) 6 Qd4 Ka3 7 Nc5 Qb8 8 Qa1.

3. Troitsky 1916

White: Kg2, Qa1, Bg7

Black: Kg4, Qh7, Bd7, Ph5

Do the bishops of opposite colour or the extra Pawn matter? No, White’s control of a central diagonal and the squeezed position of Black’s Queen decide the outcome for White.

Solution: 1 Qd4 Kg5 2 Qf6 Kg4 3 Qf3 Kg5 4 Qg3 Bg4 5 Qh4! Kf4 6 Qf2 Bf3 7 Qf3 Kg5 8 Qg3 Kf5 9 Qd3 etc wins.

An important feature of studies is that the sequence of moves by both players is absolutely forced. This is why there are so few alternatives given in the solutions.

For finding out when this recording is ready, watch this space.

Hans Cohn.