Thursday, June 5, 2014

Gaining A Strong Endgame

Of the three phases of Chess, the endgame is neglected the most in training. It’s actually rather amazing how little about endings most players know. Being well versed in endgame theory is much more important than most players give it credit for. Not only is it just an important part of your game, but many times the endgame occurs with little time left on the clock. If you are faced with a king and pawn situation, how confident are you that you will play correctly? It’s likely that you understand:
  • Opposition
  • How to promote a pawn verse a lone king
  • That rook pawns are drawish
  • The pawn square
  • Etc.
However, how well do you understand:
  • Distant opposition
  • The Lucena Position
  • The Philidor Position
  • How to prevent from drawing with a queen and king vs king and pawn
  • How about how to play split pawns against a king without your king
  • Outflanking
  • Triangulation
  • How about rook and two pawns vs rook
  • How about rook endings in general. After all they are very common.
            The truth of the matter is that this list could be very large. If you have a solid endgame foundation, odds are that you will be able to turn potentially lost games into wins. A good strategy when playing chess is to play for the endgame. Many players destroy their pawn structures during the middlegame, and then lose it when the endgame comes. There is a lot that has to be considered when it comes to the endgame, but a large part of playing it comes down to what you know rather than what you can do.
  • It’s very easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of content that is available to learn, and probably the best reading to start with is:
Silman's Complete Endgame Course – Jeremy Silman
This is one of the few chess books that truly impressed me. Silman does a great job of presenting key information, and covering a vast majority of what a player needs to know.
  • Second after going through Silman’s book I would recommend:
Chess Endgame Training – Bernd Rosen

This book is kind of a recap on some things, but covers some good topics that are not covered in Silman’s book. At this point if you have gone through both of these books and really learned what they discussed, then you should possess a strong foundation. For those who really want to take it over the top I have three suggested readings:
  • Fundamental Chess Endings – Karsten Muller & Frank Lamprecht
  • Endgame Manual – Mark Dvoretsky (This book is meant for Chess master level players)
  • Secrets Of Rook Endings – John Nunn (This is an excellent book that discusses nearly every combination of rook endings)
            When it comes to practicing your hard core endgame ability there is really only one way I can suggest. Using a computer allows you to set up any position, and have an opponent that plays nearly perfect. Stick to different sections of study and replay different positions. You can add dynamic to your study by further randomizing things; instead of playing out a position ex: the Lucena position, play out the position again and again with a different placement of the pieces each time.
Finally this brings us to Bridging the Gap
            What I mean by bridging the gap is connecting your opening and endgame studies together. This is a little discussed topic, and the reason is probably because most players are not ready for such training. Once you have a solid opening repertoire and endgame it is time to start finding commonalities. What types of pawn structures are typical in one variation verses another? What types of strategies exist in each type of position? Once you have made all these connections, you can begin to decide if perhaps some of your opening variations are better than others. Already knowing what type of endgame you might be playing can significantly help your planning in the middlegame. Such an understanding is a strong weapon against all of your competition.

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