Latest Book Highlight: Endgame Labyrinths

Following hard on the heels of Jacob Aagaard’s very popular A Matter of Endgame Technique, which won the 2023 English Chess Federation’s Book of the Year Award, comes another endgame tome with a considerable amount of pages – this time with the assistance of a co-author.

Grandmaster Training: Endgame Labyrinths by Steffen Nielsen & Jacob Aagaard ‘presents the reader with 1002 challenging studies selected and truncated, with their usefulness for the practical player in mind.’

The mention of ‘studies’ can put off practical players, who often find the concepts too deep or obscure. The authors take this into account. ‘It is common for studies to be extended by less interesting maneuvers or by incomprehensible sequences, before the main themes come into play. The studies in this book have been pruned to leave the reader with 1002 clear and solvable challenges.’

1002 challenges! That should be more than enough to keep even the most diligent of chess students busy for some time.

In the words of Steffen Nielsen, the current World Champion in study composition:

‘The endgame study is a piece of art that is closely connected to the game of chess. As a composer of endgame studies, I have two aims. One is purely artistic and the other is making my work accessible to the chess public.’

Time now to put the claims of accessibility to the test by picking one of the 1002 studies completely at random.

Studies based on pawn endgames usually have more of the ‘real game’ feel to them somehow, so here is a good one to test your powers.

J. Moravec, Ceske Slovo 1941
White to play and draw

The straightforward pawn race loses for White: 1. Ka5 f5 2. b4 f4 3. b5 Kc5 4. b6 Kc6 5. Ka6 f3 6. b7 f2 7. b8=Q White queens first…

…but now Black queens with check and has a winning initiative. 7…f1=Q+ 8. Ka5 Qa1+ 9. Kb4 Qb2+

The white queen is lost and checkmate swiftly follows.

How, then, should White continue, from the first diagram?

The path to the draw starts with an unlikely-looking move: 1. Kb3!

Where is the white king going?

1…Kd3 2. Ka2!

Another counter-intuitive move – but all is under control. Incidentally, 2. Ka3?? looks like to does the same job of clearing the pawn’s path, but after the pawn race Black will have a winning queen check on a1.

2…f5 3. b4! Kc4 4. b5 (an essential decoy) Kxb5 5. Kb3

As if by magic, the white king has managed to remain in touch with the black pawn!

The bottom line is that Grandmaster Training: Endgame Labyrinths  ‘…is a book for strong players wanting to improve their game through solving endgame studies.’

Now that we have given you one of the answers, there are only 1001 left to try.

Sean Marsh

Sean Marsh

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