17 June 2011

How to solve a study?

I've already mentioned a simple procedure how to tackle a study. Admittedly, that was a little bit theoretical and might not always be helpful. Let's have a look at some more concrete hints that are worth keeping in mind when making solving attempts.

Key piece
Which piece makes the first move? There are cases where it's fairly obvious as certain threats or plans by Black require immediate countermeasures, e.g. pawn promotion or capture of a piece. Look at Bazlov's study in the previous post. White has no other choice than to move away the rook.
In some way, this applies to all compositions. However, Black's intentions may only become clear after hours of intensive pondering. Maybe, we can take a short cut by applying probability theory. What...? Yes! A while ago, some guys (sorry, I don't know who, when and where) analyzed which key piece is favoured in a study. In fact, they made a comparison of several types of compositions, but for now, we're only interested in the result for studies. Their statistics was based upon all compositions to be found in the FIDE albums up to 1964. It turned out that in 26% a pawn made the key move.
I was curious and made my own statistics. This time, the source was the endgame study database of Harold van der Heijden, third edition. Guess what? The result was the very same: pawn 26%, knight 19%, rook 18%, king 16%, bishop 15%, queen 6%. So, analogous to detective stories – the murderer is always the gardener – we should keep an eye on those "suspicious" pawns.

Introductory exchanges
Often, the first moves of a study are rather a prelude to the real action. They may include captures and/or checks. Usually, the key move is a pawn capture at most. Sometimes, there is a thematic choice of captures. Then, you have to work out the differences, of course. Questions like which remaining minor piece Is better are to be answered. This should be easier for more experienced solvers or chess players.

Dual avoidance
The fact that the existence of several equivalent continuations at any stage of the solution is a blemish and devalues any composition is quite useful for the solver. Normally, composers avoid those duals as far as possible, therefore somehow providing unintentional clues. For example, you think about a march of the white king from c2 to e5 as a promising maneuver. This is feasible in different ways, though. So, that means either this idea is totally wrong or you have to find the reason why, for instance, the king should visit e4 or avoid d3.
However, the famous Troitzky held other views, as to duals. So, be careful in that respect.

(to be continued)

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