If you've spent enough time in the world of chess, it's not unlikely that you've come across the following position, with white to move and win, or an essentially identical one. You'll see plenty of hits for it, for instance, if you google: chess breakthrough combination. And if you hadn't seen it before, now you have:

[FEN "6K1/ppp5/6k1/PPP5/8/8/8/8 w - - 0 1"]

1.b6! cxb6 (1...axb6 2.c6! bxc6 3.a6) 2.a6! bxa6 3.c6

The exact position can vary; the point is that the black king is far enough removed from the pawns that white can create a queen starting with 1. b6!, when one of the white pawns will get a clear path to promotion, and black's pawns are too far from the finish line to survive.

Botvinnik uses this position to illustrate the very concept of combinations in his "What is a 'combination'?" That short piece first appeared in Russian in a 1939 edition of the magazine Shakhmat v. S.S.S.R., and it can be found in English as an appendix to his One Hundred Selected Games. In it, he labels the given diagram simply "An old Position," suggesting that to him it was a piece of chess folklore, without any specific known origin. So it might be too much for me to ask where/when this combination truly first arose. Instead, I am only wondering:

When did this breakthrough combination first appear in the chess literature?

One can hardly ever be entirely sure that something's really the first appearance of a thing like this, so I'd be happy with any answers pointing to earlier sources than Botvinnik's. It doesn't seem too unreasonable that there's something pretty old to be found, when things like the classic Bxh7+ sacrifice are known to appear at least as far back as Greco's chess manual of the early 1600s.

  • 6
    I can't answer your question but it's shocking when one sees it for the first time. It's a double-attack followed by a tactic on an overloaded piece. Poor b7 can't protect himself and defend the a6/c6 square(s)!
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Jun 2, 2012 at 13:17
  • @TonyEnnis: My instinctive reaction was Kf8! It works, but I missed the simple solution.
    – user21820
    Commented Sep 6, 2020 at 13:27

2 Answers 2


I just saw it in one of Yusupov's books, he has it credited as "Cozio 1766".

His 1766 book "Il Giuoco Degli Scacchi" is actually digitized by Google books: http://books.google.it/books?id=aCcCAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=thumbnail&q&f=false

Unfortunately, neither diagrams nor notation were invented yet. You're on your own to find out where he describes the position...

  • 2
    I'd held off on accepting this until I could actually locate the position in the Cozio book. And then I forgot about the post. I never did spot it, but for now I will err on the side of assuming it's really in there somewhere. Thanks!
    – ETD
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 13:34

I first saw a similar analysis in JR Capablanca's "Chess Fundamentals." Can't remember the exact page, but note that it is in the "public domain," which is to say that it is relatively easy to look up.

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