One Pawn, Knight, Bishop, and Rook Save the Day

Sergei Tkachenko,

a Grandmaster of composition, is a member of the Ukrainian team that won the 5th World Chess Composition Tournament in 1997 and which came in second in 2000. 2004, 2013, and 2017, has produced four books in which white ends up with just one pawn, knight, bishop, or rook in the finale manages to win or draw.

I think of these small books as “little jewels,” as in diamonds! These amazing and fantastic studies, some classics from bygone ages, others originally published in the Soviet Union, or ex-Soviet countries, and Sergei’s own compositions, are a feast for those who enjoy expanding their minds and improve their play.

I recall reading a story about former US Chess Champion Stuart Rachels,

from Alabama, in which his father, James Rachels, a professor of Philosophy at the University of Alabama, a position in which one can now find Stuart, who followed in his father’s footsteps, said that when he came home Stuart would often greet him in the driveway while holding a Chess board with a study he had been attempting to solve. Stuart would have loved these books!

Each book contains one hundred problems. The paperback books measure four by six inches so they can be transported easily. They can also be purchased in Kindle form. Unfortunately only One Pawn and One Knight are available on Kindle now. They are free if you purchase a Kindle unlimited. How can one beat that price? In addition, the Endgame Books Available on the Forward Chess App, which can be found here: https://forwardchess.com/product-category/endgame-books/

Some examples follow:


Black to move

M.Klyatskin, 1924 (finale)

The first problem is No. 1 in the pawn book. It is one of the most well-known studies in Chess, and the solution should be known by anyone attempting to play Chess. This illustrates there are studies for everyone, from beginner to Grandmaster.


White to move and win

Authors: J. Kling and B. Horwitz, 1853

One more pawn study by the man famous for ending World Champion Jose Raul Capablanca’s

long winning streak (http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1102101):


White to move and draw

Author Richard Reti, 1925 (position after black’s first move)

From One Knight Saves the Day:

“Newbies to chess problems will also find analyzing these studies useful. The diverse set of tactical ideas involving a single knight in the finale will enable them to gain a deeper understanding of the knight’s resourcefulness. The first studies appeared in the game of shatranj, a precursor of modern chess (VII-VIII centuries). They were called mansubat (singular: mansuba), which can be translated from Arabic as “an arrangement.” Around 700 mansubat have survived, some of which involve a lone knight n the finale.”

Mansuba No. A1 from the XII century has spawned a vast number of studies:


White to move and win

Unknown author, XII century

The next is from one of the most famous Chess players in the history of the game:


White to move and win

Author Paul Keres, 1936

I had the good fortune to meet Paul Keres


A stamp released in the USSR in 1991 to mark the 75th anniversary of the birth of Paul Keres

at the Church’s Fried Chicken tournament in San Antonio, Texas in 1972. For those with a desire to learn about Paul Keres I highly recommend the magnificent six part series recently concluded @ https://chess24.com/en/read/news/paul-keres-prince-without-a-crown

The next volume, One Bishop Saves the Day,

contains a history of the development of the bishop. “In the game of shatranj, a precursor of modern chess, the bishop differed from its modern cousin. It could jump diagonally over both its own player’s and its opponent’s pieces. At the same time, this bishop was much weaker and more vulnerable: it moved diagonally only two squares at a time (no lese and no more)), which made it easy prey for more mobile pieces.” Examples are given, but you must purchase the book to see them, as I give only modern examples:


White to move and draw

Author Jan Timman, 1982 (Grandmaster Jan Timman

is the Honorary Editor of the best Chess magazine in the world, New In Chess)


White to move and draw

Author Pal Benko,

1967 (Everyone should be familiar with Pal Benko, the man who punched out by Bobby Fischer! http://chessmoso.blogspot.com/2010/12/getting-killed-over-chess-game.html)

In One Rook Saves the Day

we find:

“In the game of shatranj, a precursor of modern chess, the rook was the strongest piece. The rook featured frequently in ancient mansubat (singular:mansuba) – the first chess compositions. In those days, it was called a ‘rukh’ (sometimes spelt ‘roc’ or ‘rucke’), an ancient and powerful phoenix-like firebird so big that it could even carry elephants in its claws.”


Black to move. White achieves a draw

Author Sergei Tkachenko, 2000, the GM who put these wonderful books together. (http://www.gmsquare.com/composition.pdf)

Every day for I do not know how long I have gone to TWIC (http://theweekinchess.com/) every morning an attempt to solve the Daily Chess Puzzle as a way of firing my brain. Since receiving these books I attempt to solve at least one study. There have been days when I hold the position in my mind and reflect on it throughout the day. For example, yesterday I kicked back in our new recliner to rest, close my eyes, and there was the morning position. One day we were busy so I had not had time to attempt to solve the position that had been indelibly etched in my memory, but when I went to bed that night, there was the position, which I was still unable to solve. The next morning, after taking a couple of jolting slugs of coffee, I opened the book currently being read, looked at the page, and “Wa La,” there was the position! Getting up immediately I walked over to the desk graciously given to me by my friend Michael (Mulfish) Mulford when he moved to Lost Wages, set up the board, and solved the study!

The books are published by Elk and Ruby (https://twitter.com/ilan_ruby?lang=en).

‏I love these books I have come to think of as little nuggets of gold!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.