john nunn - endgame challenge

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The best book for improving your endgame play


  • Endgame Challenge

    John Nunn

  • First published in the UK by Gambit Publications Ltd 2002

    Copyright John Nunn 2002

    The right of John Nunn to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

    All rights reserved. This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser. A copy of the British Library Cataloguing in Publication data is available from the British Library.

    ISBN 1 901983 83 8

    DISTRIBUTION: Worldwide (except USA): Central Books Ltd, 99 Wallis Rd, London E9 5LN. Tel +44 (0)20 8986 4854 Fax +44 (0)20 8533 5821 . E-mail: USA: BHB International, Inc., 302 West North 2nd Street, Seneca, SC 2967, USA.

    For all other enquiries (including a full list of all Gambit Chess titles) please contact the publishers, Gambit Publications Ltd, P.O. Box 32640, London Wl4 OJN. E-mail Or visit the GAMBIT web site at

    Edited by Graham Burgess Typeset by John Nunn Printed in Great Britain by The Cromwell Press, Trowbridge, Wilts.

    10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 I

    Gambit Publications Ltd Managing Director: GM Murray Chandler Chess Director: GM John Nunn Editorial Director: FM Graham Burgess German Editor: WFM Petra Nunn

  • Contents

    Symbols and Terminology 4 Acknowledgement 4

    Introduction 5 The Studies 10 Solutions 52

    Index of Names 252 Index of Material 254

  • Symbols and Terminology

    + check ++ double check # checkmate ! ! a brilliant move ! a good move ?! a dubious move (a move that does not change the result of the position but which creates

    unnecessary difficulties) ? an error (a move that changes the result of the position) ?? an obvious error 1-0 the game ends in a win for White 1h-1h the game ends in a draw 0- 1 the game ends in a win for Black (D) see next diagram

    Most published endgames studies compete in composing competitions. These are often called tourneys. The best studies in a tourney are awarded Prizes, while those of slightly inferior quality, not quite worthy of Prizes, are awarded Honourable Mentions. Some tourneys are Championships of cities, countries, etc. In this book the abbreviations for these terms are as follows: Tny Tourney Pr. Prize Hon. Men. Honourable Mention Ch. Championship

    A player is in zugzwang if any move he makes is detrimental to his position, but in this book we distinguish between various different types of zugzwang. The position 'iPe6, M5 vs 'iPg7, l!.f6 with Black to play is zugzwang, because any move Black makes loses the f6-pawn and then the game. However, the position with White to play is still a win because he can make the pass move 1 'iPe7. We call this situation a non-reciprocal zugzwang. By contrast, in a reciprocal zugzwang the result depends on who moves first, with each side preferring that the other player moves first. An example of a reciprocal zugzwang is the standard position 'iPg6, l!.f7 vs 'iPf8. If Black moves first then he has to allow

  • Introduction

    The purpose of this book is to present my selection of the 250 greatest endgame studies of all time in an instructive format. Endgame studies are composed positions but this fact should not dissuade over-the-board players from looking at them. Unlike the esoteric genre of chess problems, studies are closely related to overthe-board play. The aim in each position is to achieve a win or draw, and many of the positions are simplified endgames which might easily arise in over-the-board play. The solution normally involves a surprising or instructive feature. Most of the world's top players are interested in studies and some, such as. Reti and Smyslov, have become noted composers in their own right.

    I would first like to describe how I wrote the book, and then deal with the question of how to use the book and what the reader can hope to learn from it.

    The process of selecting 250 studies from the tens of thousands which have been composed turned out to be an arduous one. In order for a study to be correct, two main criteria have to be satisfied. Firstly, it should indeed be possible to achieve the intended aim (win or draw); secondly, the route to the target result should be unique (this criterion should be interpreted with some flexibility; for example, minor alternatives in move-order may not be a serious flaw). The second criterion is what makes endgame studies so suitable for solving, because if there is just one solution, the solver can only succeed by uncovering the point of the study. By contrast, over-the-board positions often have multiple solutions and are usually less suitable for solving purposes.

    I have been interested in endgame studies since I was a junior player, and I have many study books on my shelves. Nevertheless, I was reluctant to rely only on these sources and my memory for the selection, since it would be all too easy to let an excellent study slip through the net simply because I had not consulted an

    appropriate source. I therefore decided on a more systematic approach, based on the Van der Heijden study database, which currently contains about 60,000 studies. From these I examined, at least to some extent, about 20,000 studies. Clearly, with this number it wasn't possible to conduct a detailed analysis of each study; the aim was simply to construct a shortlist of about 2,500 studies from which to choose the studies for inclusion in the book. At this point the problems started. Every author has the experience of selecting material for inclusion in a book, only to discover that for some reason it is not suitable and has to be discarded. By taking care with the original selection, I normally manage to keep the percentage of rejected material down to reasonable levels. However, all my precautions were in vain when it came to writing Endgame Challenge. In the process of finding 250 (hopefully) correct endgame studies for inclusion in the book, I found flaws in over 1 ,000 compositions. The high ratio of rejected to included material explains why this book took me over a year to write, and it means that readers will never see the majority of the work involved in writing the book!

    I was surprised that so many studies turned out to be incorrect; after all, these were positions that had been published in magazines and tested by solvers. Moreover, many of the studies to fail were well-known compositions which have been frequently reproduced in the years since their first publications. It is clear that part of the answer is that I was able to use a powerful computer system for testing the studies - the combination of Deep Fritz running on a fast dual-processor computer and the Nalimov tablebases has almost frightening analytical power.

    The following diagram provides an example of a well-known study that fell victim to the silicon monster.

    The main line of the intended solution is (skipping various analytical complexities): 1 h7


    G. Kasparian =1st Pr., Chess Life & Review, 1 970

    White to play and draw

    l:lg5+ 2 f8 g6 3 h8'ii'! .i.xh8 4 e7+ h7 5 e8W l:tg8+ 6 cj{f7 l:txe8 7 l:ta4! h6 8 l:lf4! .i.b5 9 l:th4+ 'ii;1g5 10 .l:.h5+ 'ifr>xh5 with an attractive stalemate.

    However, Black can improve by 2 . . . l:lh5 3 l:lc6 .i.b5 ! 4 l:lb6 .i.d4! 5 l:lxb5 l:lxh7. It turns out that White cannot avoid falling into a lost l:l+.t vs l:l position, for example after 6 g8 l:la7 7 l:ld5 .i.e5 8 l:ld l xe6. This fact is not at all obvious, and to verify it by hand would be a considerable task.

    However, this can only be part of the answer, as many of the flaws hardly needed a computer to discover. The following study is typical.


    G. Kasparian 3rd Pr., L'ltalia Scacchistica, 1963

    Black to play, White to draw

    The intended solution is l . . ..i.f3 (Black's choice of square is designed to prevent White's bishop from moving to g4 at move six) 2 'ii;ld7 d5 3 'ifr>xe6 d4 4 .i.c8! d3 5 'iti>d6! d2 6 c7! d l'ii' 7 b6+ 'ii;la8 8 .i.b7+! .i.xb7 and the play ends in a surprising stalemate. The problem with the study is that Black has a win by l .. . tt:Jg7! 2 'iti>d7 tt:Je8 3 'ii;lxe8 (3 .i.c8 .i.b7) 3 . . . .i.b7 and White's bishop is trapped on a6, so the d-pawn cannot be stopped. This is a fairly simple line just three moves deep, and it is surprising that the flaw remained undetected for so long.

    I found this to be a common pattern. Often those reproducing studies made no attempt to analyse the positions themselves, preferring instead to repeat the composer's original analysis virtually unchanged. One of the worthy exceptions to this was the famous endgame analyst Andre Cberon, whose four-volume Lehr- und Handbuch der Endspiele (Siegfried Engelhardt Verlag, 1952-7 1 ) is still regarded as a classic today. Unfortunately, sticking so rigidly to the 'party line' has often meant that thorny analytical issues have remained unresolved, sometimes for a very long time. This added considerably to my workload, since when I encountered some unclear point, looking it up would usually not help and I was thrown on my own resources. Sometimes the tricky point was resolved in the composer's favour (see, for example, Nos. 101 and 125) but more often it led to the study being discarded. However, in the end I produced a final list of 250 positions for inclusion. Although they have all been checked both by human brain and by computer, the complexity of some of the positions is such that a few flaws may


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