Endgame study

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An endgame study, or just study, is a composed chess endgame position—that is, one that has been made up rather than one from an actual game—presented as a sort of puzzle, in which the aim of the solver is to find a way for one side (usually White) to win or draw, as stipulated, against any moves the other side plays.


To the extent that they are composed positions and offer the solver a specific task, endgame studies are similar to chess problems in which the stipulation is to "checkmate black in two moves against any defense," for example. However, while problems often present very artificial looking positions, studies often appear that they could occur in a game.

As with problems, for a study to be regarded as a good one, it must have only one solution. Some argue that White must have only one move at each juncture to achieve one's aim, though some feel that minor alternatives (such as a choice of moving a knight b1–c3–b5 or b1–a3–b5) are permissible.

Various methods of classifying studies have been attempted; a commonly used indexing system is the GBR code.

Composed studies[edit]

Composed studies predate the modern form of chess. Shatranj studies exist in manuscripts from the 9th century, and the earliest treatises on modern chess by the likes of Luis Ramirez Lucena and Pedro Damiano (late 15th and early 16th century) also include studies. However, these studies often include superfluous pieces, added to make the position look more "game-like", but which take no part in the actual solution (something that is never done in the modern study). Various names were given to these positions (Damiano, for example, called them "subtelties"); the first book which called them "studies" appears to be Chess Studiels, an 1851 publication by Josef Kling and Bernhard Horwitz, which is sometimes also regarded as the starting point for the modern endgame study. The form is considered to have been raised to an art in the late 19th century, with A. A. Troitzky and Henri Rinck particularly important in this respect.

Most composers, including Troitzky, Rinck, and other famous figures such as Genrikh Kasparyan, are known primarily for their studies, being little known as players. However, some famous players have also composed endgame studies, with Emanuel Lasker, Richard Réti, Vasily Smyslov, and Jan Timman being perhaps the most notable ones.


Richard Réti
Ostrauer Morgenzeitung, Dec. 4th 1921
a b c d e f g h
h8 white king
a6 black king
c6 white pawn
h5 black pawn
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
White to play and draw. One of the most famous studies of all time.

The first study, by Richard Réti, is one of the most famous of all time. It is White to play and draw (see Réti endgame study). At first sight, this seems an impossible task: if White tries to chase after Black's pawn he can never catch it (1. Kh7 h4 2.Kh6 h3 etc. is clearly hopeless), while it is clear that Black will simply take White's pawn if he tries to promote it.

White can draw however, by taking advantage of the fact that the king can move in two directions at once: towards Black's pawn and towards White's own. The solution is 1.Kg7! h4 (1...Kb6 2. Kf6! h4 3.Ke5! transposes) 2.Kf6! Kb6 (if 2...h3, then 3.Ke6 h2 4.c7 Kb7 5.Kd7 allows white to promote his pawn) 3.Ke5! Now, if 3...Kxc6, then 4.Kf4 stops Black's pawn after all, while if 3...h3 4.Kd6 allows White to promote his pawn. Either way, the result is a draw. (Also see King and pawn versus king endgame, the section Rule of the square.)

Genrikh Kasparyan, Magyar Sakkélet, 1962
a b c d e f g h
h7 black king
d6 black bishop
f6 white king
h6 white bishop
a4 black pawn
a3 black pawn
a2 white rook
b1 black bishop
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
White to play and draw. An example of a more complicated study.
a b c d e f g h
h7 black king
c4 black bishop
d4 white bishop
e4 white king
a3 black pawn
a2 black pawn
b2 black bishop
g1 white rook
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Position after 8.Rg1 (see analysis, left)

Not all studies are as simple as the above Réti example. The study to the right is by Kasparyan (first published in Magyar Sakkélet, 1962). White is to play and draw. The main line of the solution is 1.Ra1 a2 2.Ke6 Ba3 3.Bf4 Bb2 4.Be5 a3 5.Kd5 Bg6 6.Bd4 Bf7+ 7.Ke4 Bc4 8.Rg1, but there are various alternatives for both sides. For example, White could try 1.Bf4 on one's first move, with the idea 1...Bxa2 2.Bxd6 and 3.Bxa3 is a draw, but Black can defeat this idea with 1...Bxf4 2.Rxa3 Bc2, which wins. To understand why one move works and another one does not requires quite advanced chess knowledge. Indeed, it will not be obvious to many players that the position at the end of the given line (see the diagram below on the right) is a draw at all.

Another study is shown at the Alexey Troitsky article. For what is sometimes reckoned to be the most famous study of all, see Saavedra position.

Early example[edit]

Arabic manuscript, 1140
(Müller & Lamprecht, p. 257)
a b c d e f g h
a7 black king
b7 black knight
b5 white king
h1 white rook
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
White wins with either side to move

Most of the earliest studies are not valid in modern chess because the move of the queen and bishop have changed. In addition, pawns promoted only to the predecessor of the modern queen, which was a weak piece with a limited movement. However the moves of the king, rook, and knight are unchanged. In this Arabic study from 1140, White wins because the black knight is poorly placed.

Endgame study composers[edit]

Nikolaj Kralin and Yochanan Afek

Note: Russian names may be written with other spellings. The list is ordered alphabetically by surname.

  • Yochanan Afek (born in Tel Aviv 1952). Israeli chess master and composer of endgame studies and problems. International Master for chess composition (1989). He published about 120 studies and won many awards, e.g. eleven first prizes.
  • Iuri Akobia (b. 1937). Georgian composer of over 300 studies and author of many books on endgame composition, among which 4332 Studies with Stalemate, 4492 Studies with Mate, 4324 Studies with Positional draw. By profession a radiotechnical engineer, he worked for many years in the Georgian National TV station.
  • Yuri Averbakh (b. 1922). Russian Grandmaster (winner of a Soviet Championship in 1954) and composer of over 200 studies, many of which giving important contributions to endgame theory. With Chekhover and others he published in 1956 a four-volumes encyclopedia on endgames: "Lehrbuch der Endspiele".
  • Yuri Bazlov (b. 1947) . Russian composer of about 120 studies, winner of 16 first prizes. In 2005 and 2006 he won the PCCC " Study of the Year " award.
  • Pal Benko (b. 1928). Born in France from Hungarian parents, he emigrated to the USA in 1956. A Hungarian-American grandmaster over the board, he composed many endgame studies, winning 24 first prizes.
  • Charles Bent (1919–2004) . English composer of over 800 studies, winner of seven first prizes.
  • Johann Berger (1845–1933) . Austrian chess master, composer of about 250 studies and author of many chess publications.
  • Rinaldo Bianchetti (Genova 1882–1963). Italian endgame composer. In 1925 he published " Contributo alla teoria dei finali di soli pedoni " in which he proposed the theory of reciprocal squares in pawn endings.
  • Filip Bondarenko (1905–1993). Ukrainian composer of over 400 studies, winner of 19 first prizes. Author of many books, among which Triumph of the Russian Study (1955).
  • Vladimir Bron (1909–1985). Russian composer of over 400 studies, winner of 29 first prizes. Grandmaster for chess composition and author of many books, e.g. Selected studies and problems (1969).
Ignazio Calvi
  • Ignazio Calvi (1797–1872). Italian chess player and composer. He was the first to use with some depth the theme of under-promotion in endgame studies.
  • Oscar Carlsson (b. 1929). Argentinian International Judge for chess composition, author of about 80 endgame studies.
  • Vitaly Chekhover (1908–1965). Russian chess master and composer of about 150 studies. He is considered a major specialist on Knight endgames. Together with Averbakh he published in 1956 a four-volume encyclopedia on endgames.
  • André Chéron (1895–1980). French player and composer of over 300 studies. He won the France championship in 1926–27–29, then turned fully to endgame composition. Many of his studies are considered classics of endgame theory. Author of many books and a three-volume anthology of endgame studies (1952).
  • Luigi Centurini (1820–1900). Italian player and composer born in Genoa, he gave notable contributions to endgame theory, e.g. Bishop vs. Rook and pawns, Queen vs. Rook.
  • Emilian Dobrescu (b. 1933). Romanian composer and author of many books, among which Chess Study Composition. He published about 400 works, winning 64 first prizes. By profession he is a University teacher of Economical Sciences.
  • Oldřich Duras (1882–1957). A very strong Czech master, in 1914 he retired from over-the-board play and turned fully to endgame composition, winning 10 first prizes.
  • Paul Farago (1886–1970). Born in Hungary, he moved to Romania at age 24 and lived there for the rest of his life. An engineer by profession, from 1936 he was editor of the Romanian chess review. He composed over 200 studies, winning 19 first prizes.
  • Jindrich Fritz (1912–1984). Czech composer of over 500 studies and problems, 26 of which won first prize. Together with Richard Réti he was a follower of the famous "Bohemian School", in which most studies end in elegant checkmates or stalemates. He was a lawyer by profession.
  • Tigran Gorgiev (1910–1976). Russian composer of about 500 studies. He is considered among the major reperesentatives of the grotesque genre, in which the initial position cannot be reached in practical play. He won 31 first prizes.
  • Nikolay Grigoriev (1895–1938). Russian chess master and composer of over 300 studies. He is considered an authority for only pawns and Rooks and pawns endgames.
  • Alexander Gulyaev–Grin (b. 1908). Russian endgame and problem composer. He adopted the pseudonym "Grin" for tourneys in western countries. Author of about 200 works and winner of many major prizes.
  • David Gurgenidze (b. 1933). Georgian composer, FIDE Grandmaster for composition. He published more than 600 studies, winning 32 first prizes. He often worked together with Yuri Akobia.
  • Abram Gurvich (1897–1962). Russian endgame composer, called "The Poet" for the beauty of many of his works, most of which were miniatures (with a maximum of seven pieces). Author in 1955 of "Soviet Chess Problems", by profession he was a theatrical and literary reviewer.
  • Vitaly Halberstadt (Odessa 1903 – Paris 1968). Ukrainian-born study composer, emigrated to France in 1925. Author of about 200 studies, some of which with Leonid Kubbel. With Marcel Duchamp he published in 1932 "L'opposition et les cases conjuguées sont réconciliées". Nine of his studies were awarded first prize.
  • Alexander Herbstmann (1900–1982). Russian composer, FIDE International Judge, winner of 18 first prizes. Sometimes spelled "Gerbstmann".
  • Jehuda Hoch (b. 1946). Israeli composer of about 150 studies, three of which won first prize.
  • David Vincent Hooper (1915–1998). English player and composer, author of A Pocket guide to chess endgames.
  • Bernhard Horwitz (1807–1885). German composer of ca. 400 studies and author with Josef Kling of the first anthology of endgames: Chess Studies London 1851.
  • Velimir Kalandadze (b. 1935). Georgian composer of about 250 studies, winner of six first prizes.
  • Genrikh Kasparyan (1910–1995). Foremost Armenian player (ten times winner of the Armenian Championship) and composer. He was the first studist to be awarded the title of Grand Master of composition from FIDE (1972). Author of about 600 works, many of which on the theme of domination, he won 57 first prizes.
  • Alexander Kazantsev (1906–2002). Russian composer of about 120 studies, winner of 11 first prizes. He was also a successful science-fiction writer.
  • Paul Keres (1916–1975). A very strong Estonian Grandmaster, he composed about 60 endgame studies.
  • Theodorus Kok (1906–1999). Dutch composer of about 300 studies. Winner of two first prizes, one of which in 1934 with a famous miniature.
  • Viktor Kondratjev (1945–2001). Russian composer of over 200 studies, many of which together with A. Kopnin.
  • Nikolai Kopayev (1914–1978). Russian composer of about 80 studies, one of the major experts in Rook and pawns endgames.
  • Attila Koranyi (1934–1997). Hungarian composer of about 150 studies, FIDE Judge for composition (1984), winner of 34 first prize awards.
  • Vladimir Korolkov (1907–1987). Russian composer of over 300 studies, he was a chief representative of the paradoxical and romantic genre. FIDE Grandmaster for composition and winner of 27 first prizes.
  • Vladimir Kos (1928–2007). Czech composer of about 60 studies, International Judge for composition (1991). He was an engineer by profession.
  • Nikolaj Kralin (b. 1944). Russian Grandmaster of composition. Author of some 300 studies, he won more than 30 first prizes.
  • Josif Krikheli (1931–1988). Georgian/Hebrew composer of about 70 studies, winner of six first prizes in international tourneys.
  • Leonid Kubbel (1891–1942). Foremost Russian composer of over 500 studies, many of which were awarded first prize for their great beauty and original conception. Also his brothers Ardid and Evgeny were chess players, Ardid being a strong master (he played in the first four USSR championships) and Evgeny a chess composer. Both Leonid and Evgeny Kubbel died of starvation during the Nazi siege of Leningrad.
  • Mark Liburkin (1910–1953). Russian composer of studies of supreme elegance, many of which won first prize.
  • Harold Lommer (1910–1980). British player and composer of over 100 studies.
  • Jan Hendrik Marwitz (1915–1991). Dutch composer of about 150 studies, winner of 16 first prizes.
  • Leopold Mitrofanov (1932–1992). Latvian composer of over 200 studies, winner of 40 first prizes.
  • Gia Nadareishvili (1921–1991). Georgian composer of a few hundred studies, many of which together with Yuri Akobia. Editor of an anthology of 312 studies commented by famous Grandmasters. International master of composition, winner of 27 first prizes.
  • Virgil Nestorescu (b. 1929). Romanian Grandmaster of study composition. Author of about 200 studies, he won 26 first prizes.
  • John Nunn (b. 1955). A very strong English Grandmaster and composer of over 300 studies, he is a major expert in compiling endgame tablebases for chess-playing engines. Two times World Champion for solving of chess compositions (2004 and 2007).
  • Enrico Paoli (1908–2005). Italian Grandmaster "Honoris Causa" (1996) and composer of about 150 studies. Author of many books on the endgame, e.g. 96 Studi Scacchistici and Il Finale negli Scacchi.
  • Edmund Peckover (1897–1982). English/American composer of over 100 studies.
  • Pauli Perkonoja (b. 1941-07-19). Finnish study composer, International master of composition from 1969 and world champion in 1995 of problems solution.
  • Oleg Pervakov. Russian composer of about 100 studies, winner of more than 20 first prizes. One of them, a study of with only pawns, is quite famous. He works as a chess journalist for the Russian chess magazine "64".
  • Platov brothers Mikhail (1883–1938) and Vassily (1881–1952). Latvian brothers, they composed over 300 studies, most of them together.
  • Ernest Pogosjants (1935–1990). Also spelled Pogosjanz. Latvian Grand master of composition, he published 1790 studies, making him the most prolific of all composers. He won 22 first prizes.
  • Frantisek Prokop (1901–1973). Czech composer of about 300 studies. Author of many books, e.g. The Magic of Chess Diagrams in 1968.
  • Richard Réti (1889–1929). Czech Grand Master and composer of some 100 studies, one of which, an ending with only pawns, is very famous (see diagram in this article).
  • Henri Rinck (Lyon 1870 – Badalona 1952). French study composer, he emigrated to Spain in 1910. He published 1670 studies, winning 58 first prizes. A chemist by profession, he devised the Rinck Code for diagrams classification.
  • Pietro Rossi (b. 1924). Italian composer of over 100 studies. The Italian Chess Federation (FSI) awarded him a gold medal in 2007 for his merits in the field of chess composition.
  • John Roycroft (b. 1929). English Grandmaster of chess composition. Author of many publications and editor of the study and problems section of New in Chess. Founder (1965) and editor-in-chief of the quarterly magazine EG, entirely dedicated to endgame studies.
  • Jan Rusinek (b. 1950). Brilliant Polish Grandmaster for chess composition, winner of 32 first prizes.
  • Fernando Saavedra (1847–1922). Spanish composer, later settled in Britain. Famous for a study demonstrating that an underpromotion to Rook wins an endgame previously considered as drawn (Glasgow 1895). See diagram in this article.
  • Boris Sakharov (1914–1973). Russian composer of about 70 studies. By profession an electronics engineer, he was the first Vice-President of the FIDE Problems Commission.
  • Alexander Sarychev (1909–1987). Russian composer of over 100 studies, most of which with minor pieces and pawns, often with brilliant ideas. Winner of 10 first prizes.
  • Vasily Smyslov (1921–2010). Russian Grandmaster, World Champion 1957–58. Composer of many studies and author with Levenfish of a work on Rook and pawns endgames.
  • Edward Cecil Tattersall (1877–1957). British composer and author in 1910 of the first English-language collection of selected studies: A Thousand Endgames.
  • Jan Timman (b. 1950). Dutch Grandmaster and composer of 145 endgame studies.
A. A. Troitsky
  • Alexey Troitsky (1866–1942). Foremost Russian composer considered the father of the contemporary school of study composition. Author of over 1000 studies with important contributions to endgame theory, especially of Knights vs. pawns.
  • Harold van der Heijden (b. 1960). Dutch composer of about 100 studies and author of a database containing 67691 studies (2005).
  • Milan Vukcevich (1937–2003). American player and composer born in Yugoslavia. He was the first American citizen to be awarded the title of FIDE Grandmaster of composition (1988). Third in the US championship 1975 above Reshewski, Byrne and Evans, for many years he was considered the strongest in the world for problems solution. By profession an electrical engineer, he was for many years in the scientific staff of the General Electric company.
  • Gleb Zakhodyakin (1912–1982). Russian composer of about 200 studies and winner of many first prizes.
  • Mikhail Zinar (b. 1951). Ukrainian composer of about 280 studies, most of which of the king-and-pawns type. Considered by many as the greatest expert in pawn endgames. Author of "Harmony in Pawn's Studies", Kiev 1990.

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • John Beasley and Timothy Whitworth, Endgame Magic (Batsford, 1996), an introduction to the subject
  • A. J. Roycroft, Test Tube Chess (Faber, 1972), a general overview of studies, including 433 examples

External links[edit]