Endgame studies in chess are, according to authors Jon Levitt and David Friedgood in their highly entertaining - and recommended - modern classic Secrets of Spectacular Chess, essentially, well worked-out versions of other people's chess fantasies. You can imagine an Endgame composer thinking: ‘Would it not be fabulous if a chess game could have finished like this…?'
And it has been known for games to end as if composed, which we term in chess as being ‘study-like’. And today’s diagram is arguably one of the most famous, where the cliché ‘study-like finish’ is more than justified, and was acknowledged as such by newly-minted US star Fabiano Caruana, with his final round win over Dieter-Livu Nisipeanu of Romania giving him his third Dortmund Sparkassen title in Germany at the weekend.
Caruana victoriously tweeting ‘That was my Ortueta-Sanz’ was referring to the alleged finish to Martin Ortueta Esteban vs Jose Sanz Aguado, Madrid 1933 — the murky history of which can be discovered on Tim Krabbé's wonderful website. Apocryphal or not, the combination itself is very instructive; and the motif from it is one that, when learned, can come in useful even in your own games, as happened to Caruana in his final round win in Dortmund.
The solution to the original game (show in today’s diagram) cannot be published often enough: 1...Rxb2!! 2.Nxb2 c3 3.Rxb6 c4!! 4.Rb4 a5 5.Nxc4 c2 and the pawn queens and wins. Now go compare this to Caruana’s final round finish in today’s game.
Dieter-Livu Nisipeanu - Fabiano Caruana
43rd Dortmund Sparkassen, (7)
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4 The venerable Evans Gambit - one of the most romantic of romantic openings. It was invented in 1824 by the Welsh naval captain William Evans whilst he served onboard his Royal Mail steam packet between Milford Haven and Waterford. This adventurous gambit soon took the imagination of the chess world when it was adopted on a regularly basis by the likes of McDonnell, Bourdonnais, Anderssen, Morphy, Chigorin and Steinitz. But despite never being refuted, the gambit went out of fashion at the turn of the 20th century - only to sensationally spring back to life in 1995, when Garry Kasparov rehabilitated it to good effect by beating Vishy Anand at the Tal Memorial. 4...Bxb4 5.c3 Ba5 6.d4 d6 7.Qb3 Qd7 8.dxe5 Bb6! While in days of yore, players would try to hang on to the material, in the modern age Black returns the pawn for positional reasons. 9.a4 Na5 10.Qa2 Nxc4 11.Qxc4 Ne7 12 .Ba3 0-0 13.0-0 Re8 14.exd6 cxd6 15.Rd1 Qc6 16.Nbd2 If 16.Qxc6 Nxc6 17.Bxd6 Rxe4 Black has a big advantage with the bishop pair and better pawn structure. 16...Be6! 17.Qxc6?! Dangerous, as Black has superb compensation for the pawn, thanks to all his pieces becoming very active very quickly. White really had to play 17.Qd3 and try to find a way to hang in there. 17...Nxc6 18.Bxd6 Rad8 19.Bb4 Rd3 20.a5 Bc7 21.Nf1 Rxd1 22.Rxd1 Nxa5 The material balance may have been restored, but just look at how much better Black's prospects are, having the bishop-pair and better pawn structure - and that's not to mention the passed a-pawn. 23.Nd4 Nc4 24.Nxe6 Rxe6 25.Rd7 Rc6 26.Ng3 g6 27.Ne2 a5 And this is where Caruana tips his hat to Ortueta-Sanz 1933. While the original is more spectacular, it is interesting to see how remembering such study-like finishes can help in your games. Here, Caruana would instantly have recognised the motif of sacrificing his pieces to allow the pawn to safely pass. 28.Nd4 axb4 29.Nxc6 b3 30.Rxc7 Nd6 0-1