Written by Michael McDowell

The study is the type of composition which tends to hold most appeal for the player, as it follows the aim of the game. Depending on the stipulation White has to reach a position which is clearly won or drawn, after best play from both sides. Tactics are demonstrated in a highly refined form, as the composer presents an idea which is based around a move or a sequence of moves. In common with other forms of composition no superfluous force is used, and the composer usually tries to present his idea in as natural a setting as possible. Note that in the main line of the solution Black's moves are those containing most artistic merit and not necessarily those which allow Black to hold out for the longest time.

The modern artistic study dates roughly from the 1890s, when outstanding composers such as Troitzky and Rinck became active. Throughout the succeeding decades many classic lightweights were composed, featuring ideas which have sometimes been incorporated into later studies. 1 is a fine example.

(1) H. Mattison

Rigasche Rundschau, 1914



Studies are composed primarily to entertain, but may also offer practical instruction for the player. It is easy to imagine the position of 2 arising from a game where Black, in a last-ditch attempt to draw, has sacrificed material to allow his king to attack White's last pawn. Yet White can win if he plays exactly.

(2) Leonid I. Kubbel

Ragaer Tageblatt, 1914



The best studies feature cut and thrust, with both sides producing surprise moves or deep manoeuvres, as illustrated by 3.

(3) Yochanan Afek

2nd Prize, Tidskrift för Schack, 1972



This study illustrates one major difference between problems and studies. In problems any play outside of the thematic variations is considered secondary and no composer would add force simply to give extra variations or extend the length of the problem; however in studies, where the point may reside in a single move or, as above, in a specific position, the composer actively tries to incorporate interesting introductory play. The more pieces move into position during the course of the solution, the greater will be the solver's surprise when the finale is reached.

Some ideas are particularly suitable for presentation in studies. One of the most popular themes is the systematic manoeuvre.

(4) V. A. Korolkov

4th Prize, Shakhmaty v SSSR, 1964



Stalemate may occur rarely in games, but is one of the most common drawing devices in studies.

(5) F. Simkhovich

Shakhmaty v SSSR, 1940



Some studies sacrifice plausibility of position to show spectacular content, and are termed romantic.

(6) V. Korolkov and A. Dolukhanov

Sovremenni Shakhmatny Etudi, 1937



In most studies White plays first, but sometimes the composer finds that his setting offers no scope for a suitable opening move. John Beasley's cute miniature 7 is a straightforward demonstration of another popular idea, reciprocal zugzwang, where each side would achieve a better result from a position if the other was to move. It is not possible to retract a white move from the diagram without leaving an immediate mate.

(7) John D Beasley

diagrammes, 2001


Black to play; White wins

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