A Month of Studies: Part 1

  • NM llamalord42
  • | Jan 2, 2014

           Greetings, chess fans! My name is Walker Griggs. I am 17 years old and a USCF National Master, currently rated 2324 USCF. I attend Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. At Oberlin, between semesters, students are allowed and expected to complete a "Winter Term" project. My project is this: For the month of January, I am embarking on a plan to create chess endgame studies. Furthermore, I want to publish them/enter them in competitions. I will also be chronicling this endeavor via Chess.com.

           My specific goals include:

          -at least 5 quality, innovative endgame studies abiding by the rules and aesthetic guidelines set down by other study-makers

          -via this series on Chess.com, an insight into the creative process of making these studies. 

          This type of creative journalling in chess studies making has only ever been done before by Jan Timman in his excellent book The Art of the Endgame, which I read to prepare for this project. In it he hints at, although does not carefully describe, the process of creating a study: "As a rule, the endgame study composer has an end position in mind, which contains a spectacular hidden point. Then comes the stage of retrograde thinking: he investigates the position backwards, asking himself: 'What was White's last move?' and then 'What was Black's last move?' "

          I have found myself using similar methods in my previous attempts at creating studies. Examine, for example, this rather inelegant composition, my only attempt at a 'study' up to this point: 

           This "study" is hardly very good, having multiple aesthetic flaws: many, many pieces; a short, uni-faceted solution; and a very artificial looking cage for the white king. The unlikely pawn formation on the f-file is particularly aesthetically unappealing.
           Nonetheless, I created this in much the same manner as Timman describes: I began with a checkmate with two bishops and worked backwards, adding material to prevent escapes and to give White counterchances should Black play another solution (this weakens the study, however, so perhaps the queen on h8 and pawn on g7 should disappear and it should become a "find the quickest mate" problem).
           I look forward to creating some better studies this month. Hopefully they will be instructive for some of you aspiring endgame players and study makers, interested students or those interested in the creative process.Perhaps they will merely be pleasing to the lover of chess art. Be prepared, for the month of studies is coming!


  • 23 months ago


    Oh yeah, that's a lovely 3. ... Nf1! move.

    Thanks for explaining!

  • 24 months ago

    NM llamalord42


    There is actually a wonderful checkmate there, as after 3.Kd5 there is the very lovely quiet move 3...Nf1! threatening 4...Ne3+ 5.Ke4 Bc2#!. The only way to stop this is 4.Qxd7, but after 4...Bxd7 5.g8=Q, Black mates with 5...Ne3+ 6.Ke4 Bxf5#!

  • 2 years ago


    @llamalord42: Oh yeah, ignore my most recent comment, that was silly!

    Ok, so what about if after 2. ... Nxd2+ white plays 3. Kd5 - how will black proceed? I cannot see a way for balck to win (similar to my previous line).


  • 2 years ago

    NM llamalord42

    @JoneseyNick, since Black makes the first move (irregular in a study), I see how you might be confused, but the knight is already on b3 by the time 2.Qc8 is legal. Thanks!

  • 2 years ago


    @llamalord42: I guess you missed that the black knight is on a1 so you cannot play 2. ... Nxd2+

  • 2 years ago

    NM llamalord42

    2.Qc8 Loses to 2...Nxd2+ 3.Kd3 Bc2#

  • 2 years ago


    As @Caliphigia pointed out, how does black proceed after 2.Qc8?

    If 2. ... Nc5+

    Then  3.Kd5 Bc6+  4. Qxc6 dxc6+  5.Kxc6  and black cannot stop the g pawn from Queening.

    Have I missed something?

  • 2 years ago


    @ Zazen5: You are talking about a kid in community college. Excellent article, indeed considering he is not a professional author or even educated yet. 

    You really show your ignorance and belligerance by taking a dump on a kids homework. Stop bullying kids on the internet who have deeper than qualifications than yourself: instead, go get a job.

    Llamalord: A+ work, son. Keep it up and good luck with your studies.


    Oh, Zazen, PS: Just saw your rediculous profile picture. Do yourself a favor: don't go within 200 feet of a day care or elementary school; you'll probably find parents on cell phones staring at you in a disconcerted fashion... just before the cops show up to see why you are flexing your muscles at people's kids.

  • 2 years ago


    Hi Walker! Just wanted to say hello as an Obie myself (OC 1989), though not rated anywhere close to the NM title.

  • 2 years ago


    @zazen5: let me try to help you out. in chess, the word "studies" (or "etudes") means something quite specific.  it means finding a singular “hidden” beautiful way to win or draw in a given position. a study /etude is like a composition, featuring a point of technique, but performed because of its "artistic merit." my point being that "aesthetics" is highly relevant within this context. actually, there are even rules for the creation of etudes, but perhaps you can look that up for yourself. it sure beats ignorance.

  • 2 years ago


    Given that you are a NM, perhaps you could do something new.  Specifically there are books that outline endgames as you have shown here.  Esthetics or how the problem looks is irrelevant.  What is relevant is the position and the tactics that are a result and how the mind works in playing this out.  Specifically a positional player who tries to make quiet moves and avoid outright tactical confrontation could have problems labelled and for the tactical player they could work on positional player.  Rather than labelling a book "endgame" as it has been done over and over, why not dissect the psychological decision making that goes on during these endgames?  If you are a NM you certainly have a specific self talk and decision making that got you to that level.  Why not share these viewpoints for each move on correctness when reviewing games and specifically why each move is bad in terms of tactics, position, overall strategy and short and long term implications?  All this would certainly be work, but I dont believe there are many books that have this done mostly because it would cut down on the sheer volume of games available to print due to page limitations.  But quality, not quantity is important.  Why not label your book as about quality rather than hastily reviewing 100 endgames with no real commentary other than the algebraic notation that goes on and on.  When reviewing some of the books I own I sometimes ask myself, does anyone actually get through all these algebraic notations for games, they seem endless.  I know when I look at one page it takes me about a week to go through each page.  I have some 1998 books and I still havent gotten through them.  And there are constantly new books being published.  

    On the game above you wrote: "Merely lengthens the inevitable; although this longer checkmate is not as beautiful as the main line, it is perhaps just as elegant, given the dual queen sacrifices by :.. Whether a game is beautiful is irrelevant.  Something could look just awful, but if it is a dilemma that is hard to solve, well then isnt that beautiful?  How do esthetics fit in at all?  If I want something beautiful to look at, I'll just go look at a woman somewhere, there are plenty around.

    Given that you are 17 you should have plenty of energy to do something new instead of the endless algebraic notation.  If people want to review games they can simply review the week in chess, after all there is no notation there, just the games which can speak for themselves, no "author" is needed.

  • 2 years ago


    very interhesting puzzle, I actually had quite a hard time solving it lol

  • 2 years ago


    nice project,continue it.

  • 2 years ago


    Well, it's ussualy white who has the first move and wins in a study, so you should reverse the colors of the pieces. Also, how is black going to win after 2. Qc8?

  • 2 years ago


    Nice. I have no skill to assess the position set. Best of LUCK for your project :-)

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