How to study the Chess Endgame

Imagine learning to swim by reading an article on Wikipedia or learning to drive a car by reading its manual. What’s going to happen when you really put yourself out there behind the steering wheel?

Well, I hope your fellow passengers are insured.

Similarly, there are different methods to develop a solid understanding of Chess Endgames. This blog will help you get started on your journey to Endgame mastery through different methods and book recommendations.


Endgame Theory:

I imagine theoretical endgame positions as lighthouses. A stranded boat might find a way to the land if they spot a lighthouse in a distance. Similarly, the more knowledgeable you are, say about Rook endgames, you’ll know which way to steer your boat to gain an advantage or a safe draw when there are more pieces on the board.

Let’s take the following position for example:

An easy theoretical draw
Let’s assume you know that the position above is a certain draw. Now, try to use this knowledge to your advantage in the position below.

Image what could have happened had you not known the basic draw with the a/h pawn and the wrong-corner bishop? This happens so many times for developing players during tournaments.

Here’s another example that many beginners get wrong. You have a Bishop for a Rook. If you go to the correct corner, you get a draw! If you miss it, you lose the game.

[Black to play. Will you take your King to a8 or h8? Think! Think!]

Got the answer? Don’t scroll if you haven’t found it yet.
Now, consider the two positions below. These are the final positions depending on which way you have decided to go.

A. Wrong Corner Loses (above)

B. Correct Corner Draw (above)
It’s a very simple idea. Give yourself a treat if you found the correct idea!
In all these positions above, knowledge of a few basic positions guarantees you a victory (or draw in case you are on the losing side) but if you don’t know the theory, there’s a big chance you might screw up something.
To learn these positions, there are many good Endgame books out there. We recommend the following:

100 Endgames you must Know by Jesus De La Villa and published by New in Chess.

[A free sample of the above book can be found here Or click the image above.]

The author has also recently released a workbook (100 Endgames You Must Know Workbook) which can be studied along with this book.

[A free sample of the above book can be found here. Or click the image above]

One more reference book on Chess Endgame is Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual. You can call it the Bible for Chess Endgame and every serious chess professional will be studying the principles from the book.

 

[A free sample of the book can be found here. Or click the image above]


General Endgame Strategies/Principles:

The second most important aspect of getting better at Endgame is understanding the different strategic ideas that are important in the Endgame phase.

Example: King Centralization, Piece Activity, The importance of Tempo, Liquidation, Principle of Two Weakness, Prophylaxis, etc.

Now, consider the below position. Capablanca wins this endgame with white against Ragozin back in 1936. What interests us most is Capa’s annotation, which helps us understand his way of thinking in this position.

“White’s plan is to prevent the advance of the c-pawn (after which the b-pawn could become weak) and to control the entire board up to the fifth rank. This is achieved by moving the king to e3, and by placing the rook at c3, the knight at d4, and the pawns at b4 and f4. After he has attained such a position, White will be able to advance his Q-side pawns” ~ Capablanca
[Full game: Capablanca Vs Ragozin, Moscow, 1936]

These Endgame strategies can be learned by studying games (and their analysis) of great endgame players like Capablanca. But another smart way is to study books on this topic because the author must’ve already done the hard work of combing through tons of games to find specific games and explained in simple words.

Recommended Books for Endgame Strategy:

Capablanca’s Best Chess Endings – By Irving Chernev

Endgame Strategy by Mikhail Shereshevsky

Also, note that Dvoretsky Endgame Manual has a chapter on General Ideas in the Endgame with fantastic examples.

There are also newer books in the market like:

Monster Your Endgame Planning series (Links for book sample: Volume 1, Volume 2) by Grandmaster and FIDE Senior Trainer Efstratios Grivas.

Mastering Endgame Strategy by Swedish Grandmaster Johan Hellsten. (Book Link).

Improve Your Practical Play in the Endgame by Grandmaster Alexey Dreev. (Book Link)

[Note on Forward Chess book links: The Forward Chess links we have mentioned in this blog can be used to download free samples of the mentioned books]


Calculation:

Well, a car needs four wheels after all! You can’t drive much with one or two wheels missing.

Knowing the theory and strategies alone will not help you bring home the win. You have to be able to calculate Endgame properly. For this our recommendations are:

  • Solve Tactics every day using either book or apps. [List of best-sold books on Chess Tactics can be found in this link]
  • Solve a lot of Pawn Endgames! (Pawn Endgame is a magic pill for your calculation practice!)

Book Recommendation for Pawn Endgame: 

Secrets of Pawn Endings – by Karsten Muller, Comprehensive Chess Endings Volume 4 Pawn Endings by Yuri Averbakh, 100 positions you must know workbook.

[Best-selling Endgame books catalog on ForwardChess can be found here]


Practice: The last, but the most important aspect of Endgame study.

Yup, that’s the fourth wheel!

In the end, you should be able to put your knowledge and skill into actual practice. Practice important Endgame positions with your friends or using any software or online tools (example).

You can set up the Endgame positions and practice until you beat (or draw) against the computer! This step helps us master our Endgame techniques and develops a deeper understanding of the different ideas involved!

Thank you for reading 🙂

Our best wishes for your endgame journey! Let us know what you think using the comment section below.

Until next time,

Arun from Forward Chess team.

https://forwardchess.com/

 

 

Arun J

Content & Marketing @Forward Chess