The Great Ones (6)

You always admire what you really don’t understand
Blaise Pascal

The chess study I posted at the end of my last column was composed by Alexander Herbstman (April 10, 1900 – May 22, 1982). According to his biography:
Herbstman composed 350 studies during his long career and was among the 6 composers who were awarded the title of IM in composition in 1959 (with another endgame studies composer, André Chéron). He wrote ten books about chess studies and met many important Russian study composers of his time such as the Kubbel brothers, V. Platov, N. Grigoriev and A. Troitzky. He recounted his relations with them in his article “Memories of famous composers” published in EG 65, 1981.

My good friend Olimpiu Urcan has helped me put together the history of that study. A shoutout also goes to Dr. Harold van der Heijden who’s famous “Endgame Study Database VI” includes all versions presented below. I thought it would be interesting to see how the human mind worked before chess engines became strong enough to change chess, as well as how the same chess engines could actually be useful in the process of creation.

The first diagram below is the original study Herbstman composed back in 1929. It is a nice study that stood the test of time until 1982 when Herbstman found the refutation for it. The queen sacrifice Black prepared with 3… b6 is quite interesting and not that easy to envision:

Once a refutation is found, a study ceases to have any value. That means the challenge was to eliminate the refutation. The way Herbstman solved that one out, was to reposition the d2- and d3-pawns on the a-column and give Black an extra move (a4-a3). With no stalemate possible anymore, the study rose again like the phoenix from its own ashes:

Now comes the improved version of it into the spotlight. Benko felt the study had a lot more potential and came up with the version I proposed last week. He figured out the threat of a checkmate with the knight, reason why Black would have no choice but to give up its queen for it. This was published by him in his chess column “Endgame Lab” from Chess Life:

There is one more twist to this story. Olimpiu provided me with 4 versions of this study and below I have the 4th one dated 2005. The difference between this one and the original study (1929) is White missing its f4-pawn. Maybe Herbstman wanted to fix the original one with a position as close to it as possible. For sure he did not achieve that. Because White is missing the f4-pawn, the bishop cannot sacrifice itself on f3 no more. In that case Nf7 would be pinned and Black could win with ease. The engines actually give the Black wins verdict for it before the first move is played. Hopefully someone could shed some light into how the version below came about:

Eugen Demian

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Valer Eugen Demian

Author: Valer Eugen Demian

The player – my first serious chess tournament was back in 1974, a little bit late for today’s standards. Over the years I have had the opportunity to play all forms of chess from OTB to postal, email and server chess. The journey as a player brought me a lot of experience and a few titles along the way: FIDE CM (2012), ICCF IM (2001) and one ICCF SIM norm (2004). The instructor – my career as a chess teacher and coach started in 1994 and continues strong. I have been awarded the FIDE Instructor title (2007) for my work and have been blessed with great students reaching the highest levels (CYCC, NAYCCC, Pan-Am, WYCC). I am very proud of them! See my website for more information. I have developed my own chess curriculum on 6 levels based on my overall chess knowledge and hands-on experience. A glimpse of it can be seen in my first chess app:
I can help you learn chess the proper way if this is what you seek! View all posts by Valer Eugen Demian

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