The composite step biconjugate gradient method (CSBCG) is a simple modification of the standard biconjugate gradient algorithm (BCG) which smooths the sometimes erratic convergence of BCG by computing only a subset of the iterates. We show that 2×2 composite steps can cure breakdowns in the biconjugate gradient method caused by (near) singularity of principal submatrices of the tridiagonal matrix generated by the underlying Lanczos process. We also prove a "best approximation" result for the method. Some numerical illustrations showing the effect of roundoff error are given. © 1993 Springer-Verlag.