Chess: Stalemate by Self-Blockade

Edward Winter


The present feature complements our more general article Stalemate, as well as A Stalemate Manoeuvre.


Can readers offer game positions featuring the ‘walling in’ technique? The term was used on page 26 of The Tactics of End-Games by J. Bán (London, 1963) to describe a self-blockade erected to achieve stalemate. Bán illustrated the procedure with three endgame studies, but no positions from actual play.

One case arose in the famous rook-odds encounter between F.J. Marshall and Archibald J. McClure (American Chess Bulletin, February 1923, page 27). Another instance, on which specifics are invited, is the position given on pages 265-266 of Encyclopaedia of Chess Middlegames (i.e. the highly undependable 1980 edition) as ‘Lukanin-Smul’jan, SSSR 1948’ and as ‘Lukany-Smulyan, Taganrog 1938’ on page 32 of Endgame Preparation by J. Speelman (London, 1981):


Black to move

1…c4 2 dxc4 c5 3 Kg4 Kc7 4 Kf5 Kb6 5 Kxe5 Ka5 6 Kd5 Ka4 7 Kxc5 a5.



When reproducing C.N. 2446 on page 43 of A Chess Omnibus we added with regard to the above game:

Also ‘Lukanin-Shmulyan, Taganrog, 1938’ on page 89 of the second edition (1979) of Nichya! by L. Verkhovsky.

Two games with this theme in databases are Nikolayevsky v Taimanov, Tbilisi, 1967 and Smejkal v Stulik, Bratislava, 1967.

A well-known study (1889 vintage) by J. Berger is to be found, inter alia, on pages 585-586 of his book Theorie und Praxis der Endspiele (Berlin and Leipzig, 1922), but on page 586 he also gave a pre-1889 composition by J. Fernández with the same motif. No source for the earlier study was provided, but it can be noted here: page 168 of the 15 August 1885 issue of the Brooklyn Chess Chronicle:


Composition by José Fernández (Mexico).
White to play and draw.

The solution given on page 188 of the 15 September 1885 issue was: 1 e5 Kb7 2 e6 Kc7 3 e7 Kd7 4 Kh2 a4 5 Kg3 a3 6 Kh4 a2 7 g3, and draws by stalemate.



Concerning the Berger composition, see too page 138 of the American Chess Bulletin, November 1934.

Christian Sánchez (Rosario Argentina) points out that the ‘walling in’ motif was seen in Kasparyan’s only pawn study, published in Shakhmaty v SSSR, 1937. It is too well known for repetition here; see, for example, page 37 of Kasparyan’s book Finales artísticos (Barcelona, 1976) and pages 34-35 of The Complete Studies of Genrikh Kasparyan by A. John Roycroft (Milford, 1997). The latter source also gives a superb study by Grigoriev from Shakhmatny listok, 1929.

Mr Sánchez adds that on page 63 of 2.500 finales (Buenos Aires, 1963) Kasparyan offered another study with the same motif.


A. Selesniev
White to move and draw.

This was published on page 44 of the January-March 1920 number of Tidskrift för Schack. The solution appeared in the November-December 1920 issue (page 105):

1 b6 c6 2 f4 f6 3 Ka6 c4 4 a5 c3 Stalemate.


Black cannot avoid this with 4…c5 because of 5 Kb5 c3 6 Kc6 c2 7 a6 c1(Q) 8 a7 mate.


The Selesniev composition was printed a year after he enjoyed the remarkable accolade of having a monograph on his studies published by the reigning world champion. 35 Endspielstudien von Schachmeister A. Selesnieff by Emanuel Lasker came out in Berlin in 1919. It was, however, only a 20-page booklet.


See too pages 55-56 of Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual by Mark Dvoretsky (Milford, 2003). The section entitled ‘The Stalemate Refuge’ includes discussion of Chigorin v Tarrasch, Ostend, 1905 and Aronson v Mednis, US Open, Milwaukee, 1953.

From Harold van der Heiden’s study database, we note a composition by E. Reicher from page 61 of the 4/1953 issue of the Romanian magazine Revista de șah, with the solution on page 63:


White to move

1 Nxc3 Kxc3 2 g5 Kd3 3 Kg2 Ke4 4 Kg3 Ke3 5 h3 Ke4 6 Kh4 Kxf4 Stalemate.


If 2 gxf5 gxf5 3 Kg2 Kd3 4 Kf3 Kd4; or 2 Kg2 fxg4 3 Kg3 h5 4 h3 gxh3 5 Kxh3 Kd3 6 Kh4 Ke4 7 Kg5 h4.

Below is a letter from Adrian S. Hollis (Oxford, England) dated 8 April 2001, concerning a game which he drew against P.W. Haddock:



Black to move

Latest update: 11 July 2022.

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