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Interview with endgame study composer Steffen Slumstrup Nielsen

14-06-2016 23:52

The Danish endgame study composer Steffen Slumstrup Nielsen has composed and donated 2 of his endgame studies to Xtracon Chess Open 2016! Steffen Slumstrup Nielsen won in 2013 the first price in the “Jan Timman 60 Jubilee Tourney”in competition with some of the worlds best study composers, and his winning study was included in Jan Timmans very popular lecture on studies last year in Copenhagen Chess Festival.

The 2 studies, donated by Steffen Slumstup Nielsen, are published up to this years tournament, the first one being published already, and solvers will have a chance to win a ticket to the Gelfand lecture, with a book included (!), this year, as can be seen in another news post.

We give you here a small interview with Steffen, who is a 2150 club player, about endgame studies, including an endgame study which Steffen find to be one of the best he has ever seen. Enjoy!

About his interest in composing endgame studies - - 

"The interesting thing about composing endgame studies is the exploration of the game of chess. Each day I discover positions, tricks or manouevres that I didn't know existed the day before. I sit down at my computer, set up some pieces, and quite quickly things begin to happen. Recently I discovered at position where King and lone bishop can draw against King, Rook and bishop. The stronger side is on the move and seemingly has three adequate moves, but they all fail. To me, it is pure happiness discovering these hidden secrets with few pieces. I can't believe I have this privilege."

About contacts with other study composers - - 

"Composing studies is quite a lonely venture, at least in Denmark. Only once a year, at the World Conference of Chess Composition do I get the chance to meet face to face my fellow study composers."

About working with studies vs. playing chess over the board - - 

"I am more of an explorer than a winner. I love the drama of the over the board game and the extensive history connected with it, but I don't have the necessary focus and endurance (and probably talent) to succeed or even improve. When I create studies I am instead driven by my thirst for discovery. To be honest I also get quite nervous playing, at times. I even seem to favor the post mortem or casual analysis rather that playing the actual game."

About the number of studies you can create each year - - 

"I am quite active these years. I maybe create around 20 studies a year and send them to various competitions - both online and in printed publications. Other composers, like for instance GM Jan Timman, have years when the compose more that 100 studies. Of the great Georgian composer David Gurgenidze at his peak it was said that he would go to the bathroom and return with a new study. And that was only when he went to pee.  A joke, of course, but there certainly are people for whom composing is a calling if not an obsession. No one has ever succeeded in making a living of composing, of course, so one has to remember one's day time job."

About a “world elite”and competitions for the words best composers - - 

"There are two composer who stand above the rest at present. Russia's Oleg Pervakov and Ukraine's Sergei Didukh. Chasing them, there is a field of perhaps 20-30 strong composers of approximately the same strength. I wouldn't know who to put in third, fourth or fifth place. Jan Timman and the great promoter of studies, Yochanan Afek, are in this group. So am I, but at the bottom. Every three years there is a world championship for individuals where each composer presents 6 of his best studies. Sergei Didukh is the reigning champion."

About studies and chess in general - - 

"Some people consider chess solely a game. To me it is mixture of game, art and science. I know that there are many chess players who only deal with endgame studies (if at all) in order to improve their playing performance. And run away from any other kind of chess problems. That is undoubtedly the way to go if their main aim is to improve their rating. But I can't help feel that this is a poor and narrow defintion of chess. I prefer the defintion of Austrian composer Friedrich Chlubna: Game + Problem = Chess. (Partie + Problem = Schach)."

About a favorite study - - 

"It is hard to chose af favorite study. Dolgov is a relatively unknown composer, but this is just a miracle that deserves to be wider known. Only seven pieces and a winning plan Magnus Carlsen would (surely) fail to find over the board. Even the computer struggles with it."


Vasili Dolgov, 1st prize Shakhmaty V SSSR 1966

White to play and win

You can find the solution a bit further down below!



The solution

1. g7 Rb1+ 2. Ka4!
Not 2. Ka2 Rb2+ with a draw. And  2. Kc2 doesn't work because Black replies 2...Rb2+ ! 3. Kd3 Rb3+ 4. Ke4 Tg3! Please notice this for later purposes.
2... Ta1+ 3. Kb5 Tb1+ 4. Ka6 Ta1+ 5. Kb7
Or 5. Kb6
5... Tb1+ 6. Ka7 Lg1+
6... Ta1+ 7. La6+ is winning.
7. Ka8 Ta1+ 8. Kb8 Lh2+
8... Tb1+ 9. Lb7 Lh2+ 10. Kc8 Tc1+ 11. Kd8 Td1+ 12. Ke7 and White wins.
What has White been doing? Fleeing to b8 seems quite pointless after this bishop check.
9. g3!!
A desperado move before the inevitable perpetual?
9...Lxg3+ 10. Kb7 Tb1+ 11. Ka6 Not at all. The king returns.
11...Ta1+ 12. Kb5 Tb1+13. Ka4 Ta1+ 14. Kb3 Tb1+ 15. Kc2
This is the same positon as in the note after White's second move. With one slight difference.
15... Tb2+ 16. Kd3 Tb3+ 17. Ke4
And now we all see it. Black's rook cannot go to g3 because the square is blocked by the bishop
17... Tb4+ 18. Kf5 1-0

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