12 February 2024

Failed Twice

On Friday morning, I spent about ten minutes struggling with this chess problem, then gave up and looked at the answer in the back of the book. Friday's failure was a repeat of the same process with the same problem several months ago.

White to move and win
It was composed by Oldrich Duras and published in Deutsche Schachzeitung (October 1908), 310. The solution was published in January.

I encountered the position in Sergey Ivashchenko, The Manual of Chess Combinations, vol. 2 (2002). Reuben Fine presents it without a diagram in Basic Chess Endings (1941), 121.

While attempting to solve the puzzle, I had a faint recollection of some of the key ideas from a study by Alexey Troitzky that I had spent some time with last summer after getting a copy of Yuri Averbakh, Bishop Endings (1977). Troitzky's study also appears sans diagram in Fine, Basic Chess Endings.

White to move
I could recall the bishop maneuvers in the Troitzky study, but forgot the importance of the king's position.

In the Troitzky study, White wins with 1.Be6 Ke7 2.h6 Kf6 3.Bf5! 

I remembered this idea.

3...Kf7 4.Bh7

And this paradoxical move.

Black to move
4...Kf6 5.Kf4

This necessary move is not possible in the Duras study. The solution in Deutsche Schachzeitung (January 1909) reaches a similar position after one of the moves that fails, 1.Bc5, and the line was part of what I examined before I gave up.

Most of my effort, however, was spent trying to make 1.Bd6 work. That move was also the first one that FM Jim Maki tried when I showed him Duras's study during a youth chess tournament on Saturday. Black's drawing idea of the king taking refuge on and adjacent to the promotion square is one I learned the hard way in a tournament game a quarter century ago (see "A Memorable Lesson").

If Bd6 and Bc5 both fail, how can White win? I know now. Maybe I will remember the next time that I see this study by Duras.


  1. this position is also no. 391 in kasparian's 888 minature studies book. saw it there, so knew what to try =o)

    1. I have that book, but cannot say that I remember everything I've studied in it. Perhaps, though, it was vaguely familiar from 888, in addition to Sergey Ivaschenko's Manual.