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Chess, January 2007

Kasparyan and Gurvich

Michal Dragoun, the director of the 2nd European Chess Solving Championship held in Warsaw on 10-12th November 2006, selected compositions that gave the solvers a hard time. In the studies round he set a piece jointly created by composing Grandmaster Genrikh Kasparyan (1910-1995) and Abram Gurvich (1897-1962). Kasparyan's studies have the reputation of being hard to solve. Many experts consider him to have been the best study composer ever, though certainly not just because of the difficulty of solving his endgames.

Genrikh Kasparyan and Abram Gurvich

New Statesman, 1960


White to play and win

White prevails with a judicial sequence of mating threats. 1.Bc3!! The try 1.Kf8? Qxb4+ 2.Kf7 Bh5+ 3.g6 Bxg6+ 4.Rxg6 Qd2 -+ shows why b4 needs to be guarded and the line b4-d2 needs to be closed, but we'll have to wait a few more moves to find out why the fourth rank has to be cleared. The sacrificial key is explained by these requirements. 1...dxc3 White threatened 2.Kf8 Qb4+ 3.Bxb4 -- 4.Rh6# 2.Kf8! Qb4+ 3.Kf7 Bh5+ 4.g6 Bxg6+ 5.Rxg6 Kh7 6.Rg4! Kh6 Of course, Black can be boring ... 6...Qd6 7.Rh4+ Qh6 8.Rxh6+ Kxh6 9.dxe4 b4 10.e5 b3 11.e6 b2 (Worse is 11...bxc2 as 12.e7 mates rapidly - i.e. 12...c1Q 13.e8Q Kh5 14.Qe2+ Kg5 15.Qe4 Qb1 16.Qf4+ Kh5 17.Qh4#) 12.e7 b1Q 13.e8Q Qb7+ 14.Qe7 Qxe7+ 15.Kxe7 +- 7.Rh4+! 7.f4? Qc5 8.Rh4+ Qh5+ 9.Rxh5+ Kxh5 10.dxe4 b4 11.e5 b3 12.e6 bxc2 (This time 12...b2?? is a blunder, throwing away the win - 13.e7 b1Q 14.e8Q Qxc2 15.Kg7 +=) 13.e7 c1Q 14.e8Q Kg4! -+ 7...Kg5 8.f4+ Kf5 9.dxe4+ Qxe4 10.g4+ Kxf4 11.g5+ White finally picks up the black queen and justifies the first move! 1-0

Notice how everything on the board is used, not just in the main variation, but in the supporting variations too. That is good construction, and one of the many reasons why Grandmaster Kasparyan was so revered.

We don’t know how much Abram Gurvich, Kasparyan’s joint composer, contributed to this study, but he was a leading composer in his own right, producing a substantial output of his own, starting in the 1920s. Our solving competition this month is one of his more straightforward offerings.

Abram Gurvich

Shakhmaty, 1927


White to play and win

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