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Chess, March, 2009

Ernest Pogosyants

Do endgames cause you sleepless nights? For Muscovite composer and teacher of mathematics Ernest Pogosyants (1935-1990) it was the other way round - his estimated output of 3000 published endgame studies (making him probably the most prolific study composer ever) was mostly the result of chronic insomnia, and an inspiring example of a great affliction used to produce something worthwhile.

In his 1999 book, A (First) Century of Studies (published by Russell Enterprises, Inc.), John Roycroft writes that Pogosyants, though a loyal party man, spent several months in a psychiatric hospital for speaking against a party official. It was his treatment during this period that caused the health problems that plagued him for the rest of his life and thus indirectly led to his colossal output.

I showed a study by Pogosyants in my last column and described it as short, sharp and sweet and typical of its author. The same can be said about our two studies today, culled from competitions in leading chess magazines on opposite sides of the world.

Ernest Pogosyants

1st HM., Chess Life, 1969


White to play and draw

White is a whole queen down, but those two connected passed pawns have got to be worth something. Also note that White's king is currently stalemated. 1.d7+ Kc7 Black can try 1...Kd8 but 2.Bf6+ transposes to move 3 of the main line. 2.Be5+ Kd8 3.Bf6+! Ne7 If Black takes White's last piece, then there is a stalemate - 3...Nxf6 4.e7+ Kxe7 5.d8Q+ Kxd8 = 4.Bd4! 4.Bxe7+? Kxe7 5.d8Q+ Kxd8 6.e7+ Qxe7 0-1 4...Nc6! There are several alternatives, but they all draw. Perhaps the best fighting try is sacrificing the queen, but it isn't enough - 4...Qxd7 5.exd7 Nf5 6.Bb6+ Kxd7 7.Kg1 =. 4...Qc7 anticipates a later position in the main line, so White can create the final position now with 5.Be3! =. 4...Qb7 achieves that same position a move later 5.Bb6+ Qc7 6.Be3 =, as does 4...Qb8 5.Bb6+ Qc7 6.Be3 =, while stalemate happens after both 4...Qxd4 = and 4...Qa6 5.Bb6+ Qxb6 = 5.Bf6+ Ne7 5...Kc7 6.d8Q+ Nxd8 7.e7 Qa8 8.exd8Q+ Qxd8 9.Bxd8+ Kxd8 10.Kg1 = 6.Bd4! Last time he was in this position Black tried ...Nc6, but repeating that would accede to a draw, thus - 6...Qc7! 7.Be3! and although still a whole queen down, White achieves what John Roycroft calls a 'believe-it-or-not' draw - e.g. 7...Qxd7 8.exd7 Kxd7 9.Bg5 =. Nothing too profound, but surprising nonetheless.

Our study for solving was published in a famous Russian chess magazine in the early sixties. The 'TT' after the magazine name is an abbreviation for 'Theme Tourney', which means that the competition in which this study won a second prize required that entries illustrated a particular idea, or, more grandly, theme.

Ernest Pogosyants

2nd Prize, Shakhmaty v SSSR TT, 1963


White to play and draw

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