Judit Polgar’s Chess Artistry Competition videos

6 Feb. 2022 | by Peter Wong

The renowned GM Judit Polgar organises an annual Global Chess Festival in each October, and the 2021 edition includes an event called the Chess Artistry Competition. This is a composing tourney aimed at promoting endgame studies to chess players, with an emphasis on game-like positions. The tourney was held in memory of Pal Benko (1928-2019), a world-class player and problemist, who was a friend of Polgar’s. The competition successfully attracted numerous entries from many of the world’s best study composers. The judge was GM John Nunn, who placed 20 of the compositions in his award, including seven that earned prizes. What’s particularly noteworthy is that Polgar has produced a series of excellent videos on the event. These clips not only look at some of the prize-winning studies, but they also put a spotlight on the chess composition field. Polgar interviews Nunn, some of the successful participants, and other people involved, such as ex-World Champion Vladimir Kramnik.

The videos are quite long at around half-an-hour in length. My brief summaries below only give a taste of the many subjects covered. I like how the awarded studies are presented, with their solutions explained in an accessible way. You can also view these studies (with interactive diagrams) on the ARVES site: Pal Benko Memorial Tourney.

Chess Artistry Competition 2021

Polgar asks Nunn what judging an endgame tourney entails. He also talks about which problem genres he enjoys, how he got into chess composition, and the process of solving problems. The pair then examine the 1st Prize study by Sergiy Didukh, in which two remarkable stalemates need to be averted.

Vladimir Kramnik: Chess endgame studies give joy and happiness

Polgar and Kramnik consider how endgame compositions represent the beautiful side of chess. They discuss his own first study, which he created at aged 10. He shares an amusing anecdote about why his composing career was cut short, thanks to Garry Kasparov. Two studies are then analysed – the 2nd Prize winner by Yuri Bazlov, and the 7th Prize by Steffen Nielsen and Martin Minski.

Beauty and Perfection in chess = endgame study

How endgame compositions influence practical play is explored by Polgar and Nunn. Do players solve studies for pleasure or for training purposes? Nunn says he’s attracted to studies because they are the purest form of endings, but both agree that compositions have also inspired their practical defensive play. After looking at the 2nd Hon. Mention study by Amatzia Avni and Martin Minski, Nunn describes his process of composing a problem.

Chess Study Composer Jan Timman

Polgar and Nunn relate their experiences of competing with GM Jan Timman over-the-board. She calls him an artist in various respects while he praises Timman for producing many excellent studies. Nunn elaborates on how he himself composes studies, touching on subjects like having ideas that didn’t work out and endgame theory knowledge. The complex 6th Prize winner by Jan Timman is deciphered.

Yochanan Afek: 55 years of composing

Polgar talks to Afek who exceptionally has achieved both the IM title for the game and GM for composition. He describes how collaboration works in composing, and how ideas for a study often arise from analysing a practical game. He stresses that a study requires not only accurate play but also a paradoxical or surprising idea. Polgar asks how he maintains his creativity over a 55-year chess career, and they examine his joint study with Aran Kohler that won 3rd Prize.

Mentor and Student composing endgame studies

Polgar introduces Marjan Kovačević, a double-GM in composing and solving, and his student Ben Smolkin, who’s only 15. Kovačević mentions that chess compositions encompass many genres besides studies and his favourite is the two-mover. Each of his works can take anywhere from days to years to complete! Smolkin points out that playing the game and composing are very different skills. Polgar looks at their joint 4th Prize winner, which impressively goes for 23 moves.