I am holding a book called “Grandmaster Chess Strategy” by Jurgen Kaufeld and Guido Kern published by New In Chess in 2011. The book is a collection of Ulf Andersson’s games with excellent annotations by the authors. If you have not heard of Ulf Andersson I can assure you that he is a god of endgames. Going through the games of excellent endgame players should be part of your endgames study plan. However, one can be easily drowned in the bulky volumes of books published on great endgame players. Nowadays, it is not a matter of getting the information but rather of filtering it right. So, here we have a book with 80 games of Andersson; what should we do next? The chapters are classified by particular themes or material balance which is very helpful in the selection procedure. Going in detail through all the games would be ideal but here we are interested in a situation when you have only about 3-4 hours overall to dedicate to this book.
As the authors go through the games they give selected diagrams where you can stop and test your skills by answering their questions. I would not pay attention to particular theme as the themes can spoil the experience. For example, if you are reading a chapter on exchanges of bishop for knight then when solving the exercises you might be biased towards the exchange. Let us look at a few selected positions chosen randomly from the book.
"The natural (and certainly also the good) move would be 20. Rfc1, in order to occupy the c-file. White finds an unconventional move which will turn out to be very useful. How does White continue?"
The g4-move is a typical idea in all kinds of endgames. In many endgames having the h5-g6 structure is beneficial for black; with g4 white prevents this set-up. G4 also paralyzes the black kingside and makes room for the white king. It is interesting to note that Rfc1 is almost an automatic move, however Andersson waited with it as immediately pushing g4 is more important (black could have played h5 and stopped it). The continuation of the game is interesting, so it is worth continuing with the game.
“Find the decisive re-grouping which consolidates White’s clear positional advantage.”
To find the regrouping with the knight on d5 is hard for white because it takes 4 moves to get there and certainly black can find something to do over these four moves, right? Not really, because with previous moves white tied down the black forces and black cannot launch anything active because it would only speed-up the process.
The above example was from Chapter 1, let us move to the end chapter and choose an example from there. The example that I chose intrigued me because the question asks us to find a plan. And generally many players tend to think in specific moves rather than in terms of plans, so developing planning can help many.
“Work out a plan to gradually turn the white position into a winning one.”
The knight was placed perfectly: it blocked the c5-pawn, which blocked the bishop. From c4 it defended the b2-pawn and e5-pawn. The rook was not doing much, so Andersson found a way to activate his passive piece. Then, he improved the position to the maximum reaching the following position.
“Is White bogged down or can he still decisively strengthen his position?”
The rook transfer is unbelievable – there is no chance I could find it at the board. Usually, one would push the kingside pawns but in this situation the rook was not placed ideally on the a-file. Placing pieces on active squares should be a priority and only then one should improve the pawn formation. It seems that the position is still far from being winning, however after the game move black ends up in a hopeless position.
“White has a highly superior formation. Find the decisive move which leads to the win”.
It is hard to say where black went wrong in this game. Andersson showed once again a mastery of exploiting one weakness after the other, until black’s defense collapsed.
We looked at a few of Andersson’s endgames featured in the book “Grandmaster Chess Strategy” by Kaufeld and Kern. Even from these few examples you can see how well he played different kinds of endgames. Solving the positions outlined by the authors as you go through the book is a good way to improve your endgame technique. One thing that you probably will take from it, regardless of how much effort put is how to be patient in endgames as this theme reappears almost in all of Andersson’s endgames.