Endgame Training

Endgame Training

The Endgame: Can I go Home Now?

What is an Endgame?

Just as middlegame planning flows logically from the opening, the endgame logically develops from the middlegame. In many cases, you can even anticipate the endgame as early as in the opening, where one side plays for an advantage in pawn structure that the player can truly exploit only in the endgame. In the words of the great champion Capablanca, "whereas the endings can be studied and mastered by themselves, the middlegame and the opening must be studied in relation to the endgame."

The endgame arrives after the players lose a majority of pieces and, more or less, clear much of the board. Attacks become more difficult to execute with this reduction in material and the emphases of play shifts away from tactics to strategy. The importance of individual pieces may undergo a marked change in value, and the roles of the pawns and the Kings become more prominent.

You can find a massive amount of documentation on the endgame in chess. Experienced players know of many positions, or types of positions, that lead to wins, losses, or draws. Unfortunately, no shortcuts are available to help you master such positions. You must study these positions if you intend to become a chess master. If you'd rather just play than study, however, you quickly find that learning just a few basic positions and a few common themes many endgame positions you can figure out others as you play.

Pawn Endings.

The truth about endgames begins with pawns. Once you damage your pawn structure you have to live with it.

The most basic type of ending is the King and pawn versus King ending. Sometimes it just comes down to a race for the queening square between the pawn and the enemy King. In that case, if the lone King cannot prevent the pawn from attaining its promotion to a queen, the game is lost. If the King can prevent the pawn's promotion the game ends up in a draw.

You have several ways to determine whether the King can prevent a pawn from promoting. One way is the pawn square method. The idea behind the pawn square is to create an imaginary square shape. The first side of the square is determined by extending from the pawn to the queening square. The second side is extended from the King. Because all sides of the square are of equal length, you can then create a mental picture of the other sides of the square. If the King is outside of the pawn square, the pawn can queen.

In Pawn endings.

The truth about endgames begins with pawns. Once you damage your pawn structure you have to live with it.

2. If faced with a choice of which pawn to advance, advance the pawn that is facing no opponent.
3. Always try to obtain a passed pawn.

Rook Endings.
Rook endings are the most common endings in chess, mainly because rooks are usually the last pieces you develop and the last you and your opponent exchange. Rook ending are awfully tricky. In fact one wag suggested a rule to the effect that "All rook endings are draws." Not all rook endings, however, lead inevitably to a draw.

Rooks are aggressive pieces and become despondent if relegated to passive defense. Keep this characteristic in mind, especially if you're defending an inferior position. Following are several rules for rook endings.

Activate your rook.
Give up a pawn to turn a passive rook into an aggressive one. This sacrifice may well be worth it. Put your rooks behind passed pawns.
You can best position rooks behind passed pawns. The next best rook position is to the side of passed pawns, and least desirable position is in front of passed pawns.

Advance connected passed pawns against rooks.
Connected passed pawns are most effective against rooks so advance these pawns together.

Put your King on the queening square.
If you're defending your King with one rook against a rook and a pawn, occupy the queening square with your King, if possible.

Harass your opponent's King with your rook.
If defending, you may want to harass the enemy King with repeated checks by your rook. Harass from a safe distance, however, and keep your rook as far away from the enemy King as possible to avoid losing it.

Look (out) for the draw in rook endings.
Rook endings, when both sides have pawns all on one side of the board, are often drawn: The defender can usually set up a blockade.

How to win the game if you are ahead in pawns.

Here is how to win the game if you have more pawns. Make sure that your opponents rook does not get behind your king when you are advancing it to protect your pawn storm. If you have a pawn chain, close any holes with your rook if you can. But most inportantly try to trade down. This is a very basic rule of chess. When you are ahead in material always try to trade down. Try to exchange your rook for his. If he loses his rook he can no longer harass your king nor take out your pawns. You should then have a easy won game. All you need to do then is get your king above your pawns and lead them to promotion.

Knight Versus Bishop

Use bishops in open positions.
Knights like closed positions and bishops like open ones. Endings are usually open, so bishops, tend to be superior in the endgame.

Reduce the mobility with pawns. Look for one-King and pawn endings.
It is easier to win a one-King-and -pawn ending than any other type of ending. If you can trade your piece for your opponentís and go into a one-King-and-pawn ending do that.

Use bishops if the pawns are spread out.
The bishop's advantage increases if pawns are spread out on the board. The less symmetrical the position of the pawns, the better it is for the bishops..
The bishop's superiority to the Knight lies in its ability to attack both sides of the board at once. The Knight cannot defend on one side and attack on the other simultaneously, but the bishop can.

Bishop Versus Bishop.

There are two completely different types of bishop versus bishop endings: when the bishops are of the same color and when the bishops are of opposite colors.
Look (out) for a draw with opposite-color bishops.
Bishops of opposite color increase the chances of a draw. They can never capture one another! In addition, opposite colored bishops can't get past each other's blockade.

Use a long range bishop to control a passed pawn.
The bishop can prevent the advance of a passed pawn by controlling the square in front of the pawn. Remember that the bishop can control a square from a long distance.
The farther apart passed pawns are, the better the stronger side's chances are of winning. If the pawns are close together, the enemy King can't be used to help establish a blockade. It they are further apart, this is not possible. The King can be used on one side or the other but not both.

Trade same-colored bishops if you're stronger.
In same-colored bishop endings, you can force the weaker side to give ground by offering to exchange. Put your bishop on the same diagonal as the one you opponent's bishop is on. Support our bishop with the King. If you have more pawns your opponent will not wish to trade and will be forced to cede the diagonal to you.

The General Winning Endgame Strategy.

All ending are different, but the following methodology can serve you well as a guide devising to the correct endgame plan, if you find yourself uncertain about what to do next.

First, advance your King.
The king comes out of hiding in the endgame and becomes a critical factor. Advance the King toward passed pawns or toward pawns that are weak an vulnerable to attack. Otherwise, generally advance the king toward the center.

Next, push your passed pawns.
As Nimzovich once said, passed pawns have a lust to expand. Don't go overboard, however. Advance the passed pawn only if doing so is safe. Advancing a pawn into the enemy's teeth., where its capture is certain, is essentially pointless.

Always be on the lookout to trade into a simpler ending by offering to exchange pieces. Generally speaking, the more material that's still on the board the more complicated is the ending. Don't trade from a winning ending into a drawn ending, of course but stay alert to the possibility of trading down into a simpler, yet still winning, ending.

Know your pieces.
If your pawns are still sitting on the same colored-squares as your bishop, try not to go into the ending in the first place! You probably have better chances in the middlegame. Steer the game into the type of ending where your pieces are more suitable to winning than are your opponent's.

Know the basics.
If your time to study chess is limited then, study the endgame. It can make a big difference in the outcome of your games. Learn the basic winning and drawing techniques for the various endings, and you should find yourself playing the openings and middlegame much better too!
Endgames are deceptively complex. Because there are so few pieces remaining, the natural tendency is to conclude that endgames are easier than middlegames or openings. In fact endgames are equally complicated. The difference is that they are easier to study. The openings and middlegames have too may possible variations to make heads or tails of them. The endings, however, are pieces in isolation in various endgame positions, you can then begin to understand them in combination with others. This strategy helps you to understand middlegame positions and even openings. The road to chess mastery should begin with the endgame.

Rules For The Endgame.

1. Activate you King.
2. If you have more pawns than your opponent, exchange pieces not pawns.
3. If you have fewer pawns than you opponent exchange pawns not pieces.
4. Try to create a passed pawn.
5. Protected passed pawns are very strong.
6. Outside protected passed pawns are usually decisive.
7. Try to promote a passed pawn.
8. If your opponent has a passed pawn, try to blockade that pawn.
9. Bishops are generally stronger than Knights.
10. Bishops of opposite color increase the chances of a draw.
11. Be aggressive with your rooks; if you choice is between defense and counter-attack, always counter-attack.
12. Rooks belong behind passed pawns.


If you would like to study some good books on the Endgame, here are a few of the more popular books I could find.

Fundamental chess Endings by Gm Karsten Muller & IM Frank Lamprecht. A one volume encyclopedia that covers all major endgames. In addition to detailed analysis, the authors emphasize the practical side of endgame play describing rules of thumb principles and thinking methods. A big fat book of 416 Pages List Price $29.95

Only Ruben Fine has a bigger book of 573 pages, Basic Chess Endings, but his book is very hard to follow with thousands of notations in the old descriptive notation. It is very dry reading and is more of a reference book than one on instruction. List $23.95

639 Essential Endgame Positions by Eric Schiller 400 Pages List $18.95 Every important endgame concept is explained. The thinking behind every position is explained in words so that players learn which positions are wining, which are drawn and which cannot be saved.

Pandolfini's Endgame Course by Bruce Pandolfini 319 pages List $12.00 Over 230 endgame positions problems, in an easy to use format with plenty of diagrams.

Essential Chess Endings Vol. 1, 2nd Ed. By Jermy Silman 298 pages list $16.50

Endgame Strategy, Mastering The Endgame Volume 1 by IM Mikhail Shereshevsky 218 pages list $19.95 Using classic examples from grandmaster practice, together with modern illustrations and instructive games Shereshevsky lucidly explains the basic principles of the endgame, king centralization, the role of pawns, exchanging pieces, suppressing counterplay and much more. He has two more books if you can find them they are Open Games and Mastering The Endgame Volume 2 and Closed Games. Instead of covering different material situations like most endgame books, these books look at different strategic themes in the endgame. Things like centralization of the king, the problem of exchanging, pawn majorities, are covered in Endgame Strategy. The other two look at typical endgame themes that arise from different openings. For example, Vol. 2 explores dark-square strategy, symmetry, etc. This series is very expensive but is highly instructive. Useful for USCF Class C to professional.

For me I find that the PC CD's are a far more easy way to study most phases of Chess and there are some very good endgame CD's available.

From Chessbase:
The ABC of Endgames List $27 There is a total of 176 commonly occurring treated endgames, with 29 examples highlighted and, pointed out studying which is considered as indispensable.. All impotent examples are included and for those wishing to deepen their knowledge there is a database text introducing the respective type of endgame with the possibility to immediately call up the relevant examples.

From Chess Assistant Training CD's:
All Chess Assistant Training CD's track your progress with a user statistics section.
Theory and Practice of Chess Endings List $29 Includes 700 exercises/lectures. It also illustrates all the major theoretical and practical endgame methods along with numerous examples.. There is a special training section that includes 300 exercises for the user to solve, showing the refutations of wrong moves as well as giving numerous hints to help find the correct answer. There are also 180 positions, especially chosen by their teaching value, to be played and trained against the built-in chess playing program Crafty. You also get a section on your user statistics which tracks your progress in, Practice Results and Statistics on Themes, Test Results from all the tests you took and ELO Dynamics showing your ELO change in a graphical form. This is a fun training CD that is easy to use and unlike books that most find hard to get through, you may find that you will want to study this CD just for its entertainment value as well.

Chess Assistant CD Studies 2.0. List $26.00 Contains 950 endgame studies subsidiary exercises categorized by theme and by difficulty.

Book Chess Endgame Training. List $29.00 Alexander Alpert. More than 2450 endgame exercises taken from practical games and endgame studies.

Please go to Endgame Training