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Chess, September, 2008

Mark Liburkin

Much as I like modern endgame studies, with their intensive and remarkable themes, I was first attracted to studies by the work of the composers of an earlier age. In my opinion one of the best of these ‘classical’ composers was Mark Savelevich Liburkin, who lived from 1910-1953. He first became interested in the genre in 1925 following an article on stalemate studies by Leonid Kubbel. His first composition was published in 1927 and the van der Heijden database contains 171 examples of his work. He had a reputation for polishing his work for long periods of time before eventually publishing it: an approach that all good chess composers take. After World War II he was appointed study editor of Shakhmaty v SSSR, and he continued in that job up until his tragically early death in 1953. By profession he was an accountant, who at the end of his life was working for Moscow-based businesses.

For most of the information in the preceding paragraph, my thanks are due to Paul Valois, who very helpfully did some impromptu translation from Russian language sources over the phone!

As an example of Liburkin’s work, here is one of his lesser-known pieces.

Mark Liburkin

2nd Prize, 64, 1933


White to play and win

White is just a pawn up and all of the pawns on the board are passed, though the black ones are doubled. It is those doubled pawns that need urgent attention and White’s first task is to move inside the square of the f3 pawn. This being a study, he has to be careful how he does this. An instinctive desire to keep the king more active doesn’t work - 1.Kd2? Kxb5 2.d7 Nxd7 3.e6 Kc6 4.e7 Kc5 5.Nd6 Nf6 6.Ne4+ Nxe4+ 0-1 1.Kd1! Kxb5 1...Kb6 2.Ke1 Kxb5 3.d7 Nxd7 4.e6 f2+ 5.Ke2 f3+ (5...Kc6 6.e7 Kc5 7.Nd6 Nf6 8.Ne4+ 1-0) 6.Kf1 Kc6 7.e7 1-0, has transposed to the main line. 2.d7! Now White sacrifices his most advanced pawn to set up a zugzwang. 2...Nxd7 2...f2 3.Ke2 f3+ 4.Kf1 Nxd7 5.e6 Kc6 6.e7 1-0, has transposed to the main line. 3.e6 Kc6! 3...f2 4.Ke2 f3+ 5.Kf1 Kc6 6.e7 1-0, has transposed to the main line. 4.e7 To win, White must keep and promote his last pawn. Hence the disdainful refusal of the black sacrifice. Black now doesn’t want to move anything at the top of the board, his king and knight being perfectly placed. So he plays his only other available move. 4...f2 5.Ke2 f3+ 5...Kc5 6.Nd6 Nf6 7.Ne4+ 1-0 6.Kf1! White has again to be careful where he places his king - 6.Kxf2? Kc5 7.Nd6 Nf6 8.Ne4+ Nxe4+ = 6...Kb6 Black’s only other sensible choice leads to an echoed variation - 6...Kc5 7.Nd6! Nf6 8.Ne4+ 1-0 7.Nc7! Nf6 8.Nd5+ 1–0

In this study we see a struggle for promotion, a pawn sacrifice, zugzwang and a very careful white king, all hopefully of great appeal to the player.

Our study for solving is from a Russian tourney celebrating the 40th anniversary of a nuclear power station! Not a tourney, I suspect, that would ever happen in Great Britain. Enjoy your solving!

Aleksandr Golubev

Comm., Novo-Voronezh-40 AT, 2004


White to play and win

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