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Endgames and Endgames

  • GM BryanSmith
  • | Oct 16, 2013

What is an endgame? We have discussed this before. In chess we might define the endgame as a position without queens, or with only queens, or something like that. But in popular culture the word "endgame" is also used. For example, "the endgame of the war in Iraq". The endgame means what it says: the end of the game. And as we know, the end is the most important part.

Well there are endgames, and there are endgames. And in the tournament I am now covering, I played a couple of good endgames, but the endgame of the tournament did not go so well.

The tournament began quite well. I am only going to cover in detail those games which reached an actual queenless position, but I will include some other games.

In round one I won quickly as Black against a young player rated 2065 (FIDE), with a piece sacrifice.

In round two I faced my nemesis, GM Alexander Stripunsky. My record against him is the worst record I have against any other player in the world. In fact, he was the first grandmaster I ever played (shortly after I left Alaska, when my rating was only about 2000), and on that occasion I drew. But since then I lost nine games, and only drew one other. To be truthful, most of those games were long ago when I was a far weaker player, but still, it was nice to finally beat him. I got a practically decisive advantage after the opening, but after losing the thread, the position became completely unclear. In severe mutual time pressure he made a blunder, and I was able to win:

In the following round I drew as Black against GM Alexander Shabalov. That game was exactly the same for fourteen moves as a later game against FM Gregory Markzon, and will be found in the notes there.

In the fourth round, I played a game which I knew would end up in this column, regardless of how the tournament turned out, since it was among the best endgames I have played. Against IM Leonid Gerzhoy (who made a GM norm in this tournament) I managed to use the two bishops, finally winning a pawn, and then winning a minor piece ending using Zugzwang motifs.

Around this point it was clear that I was on track for a GM norm, but actually making the norm seemed unlikely, since I needed to face three foreigners in the last five rounds.

That night I was completely unable to sleep, managing only a couple of hours. In addition I was coming down with a cold. In other cases this would lead to a sense of doom, but this time I managed to fight through it.


I ended up playing a quite lower rated player, FM Markzon, in the fifth round, having already played Shabalov, who was tied with me for first. Markzon was having a superb tournament and playing quite well. He hardly made any mistakes in the first half of the game against me, achieving a drawn position where I had only a symbolic advantage. There was not much I could complain about, because ultimately your opponent has to make a mistake if you want to beat him with black, and I had played correctly myself, so a draw would be normal. But I was not quite ready to agree to it, and finally he made a mistake, giving me good chances to win the resulting opposite-colored bishop ending:

In the next round I played GM Alex Lenderman as Black. It was the third Nimzo-Indian defense for me in the tournament, all the same line, the so-called Romanishin Variation, where Black leaves the bishop cut off on a5. It was a very interesting game but I won't comment it here because it doesn't fit into the subject of my column:

This was not a bad day at all. I had hardly slept, was sick, and got the black pieces in two consecutive games, thus having had black in four out of the first six rounds. But I had +4, and only needed 1.5 out of 3 to make my final GM norm and become a grandmaster at last. I would also have the white pieces in two of the last three games, and my opponents would be somewhat lower rated, since I had already played nearly all of the grandmasters, with the exception of the top seed, GM Alexander Rakhmanov, who had lost some games early on.

The main problem was I needed to play three "foreigners" out of the last three games. Ironically, with the exception of my first round opponent, all of my opponents spoke Russian as their first language (or perhaps Ukranian). But I had only played one "foreigner", a Canadian.

Nevertheless, it became clear that I would likely face three foreigners in the last three rounds, since I had already played all of the American players who were doing well.

In the seventh round I had White against IM Raja Panjwani, a player whom I had previously played and beaten three times. If I would win this game, I would almost certainly become a GM, since I would only need one draw out of the last two games. But my opponent defended well and the game ended in a draw.

The penultimate round was a great tragedy. I expected to play GM Rakhmanov with Black, and the goal was obviously to draw, since then I would have white against the Canadian IM Bindi Cheng in the last round, and the draw would probably be pretty easy. However, three minutes before the game (having already prepared for Rakhmanov) I found that I was actually playing Cheng with white that round. Of course I needed to play for a win, which would secure the GM title immediately, since it might not be so easy to draw as Black against Rakhmanov in the last round.

Throughout the game I stood somewhat better, and I think I missed a very good chance when I chose 26.g6 over the more positional 26.h6. Still, the position seemed to offer White slightly the better practical chances, and thus I avoided making a draw. Then suddenly the tension got to me, and I made a terrible blunder, overlooking my opponent's obvious move and losing instantly.

I was very upset after this game, since I had basically thrown away the certain GM title, and who knows when I would get another opportunity. I needed to beat the 2600+ Rakhmanov as Black, which would be very hard to do. Had I simply taken a draw against Cheng, I would have at least a very good chance of making a draw in the last round. Being upset from the previous round's disaster and feeling the need to complicate the game caused me to play pretty badly in the game against Rakhmanov and I lost.

So despite being neck-and-neck with the eventual winner Shabalov throughout the tournament, I ended up winning only $250 after the entry fee was taken out, not quite enough to cover my expenses, and no GM title. Truly it is the endgame which is the critical aspect of all things. Rakhmanov had started poorly, with bad losses to Shabalov and Stripunsky, but showed his character by winning the last four games, while my own nervous collapse has to be attributed to non-chess factors of personality and psychology. I hope some time soon I will have another chance to gain the GM title and remove this shadow which has come over my chess and life in general, the shadow of unfinished business, but at the moment there are few tournaments where this is possible, and those that exist I am unable to play in due to financial reasons.

So remember, that in chess and other things, how it ends is how you are judged, not how it begins. So study your endgames.



  • 5 months ago


    Here's my best endgame since joining the site: http://www.chess.com/livechess/game?id=1134929016

  • 23 months ago


    Well, that last GM norm didn't take so long after all!! Congratulations, Bryan!!!

  • 24 months ago


    Andre_Harding   yes I think it does. They are about 1500 GMs and what I expect of one is to be at least +2500 as I expect an elite GM to be +2700 or have been when he was younger (i.ex. I consider N.Short an elite GMs despite he is now about 2690).

    I know Bryan has been a +2500 but not consistently. If he does, the title will come automatically and if he doesn't, he will earn it by a good struck and still has the chance to a profitable arrengement.

  • 24 months ago



    Bryan has already been rated 2500 FIDE. Also, there are more than 500 GMs currently rated below 2500. That doesn't diminish the accomplishment of earning the GM title one bit in my eyes, because such a miniscule percentage of chessplayers earn the GM title (less than 1 in every 10,000 players), that small nitpicks lose their point.

  • 24 months ago


    I think that Bryan, like many others is in the grey zone, 2450-2500. You are not really in the GMs rating but you have the chances to achieve it.

    When I was a kid, my teacher, IM Angel Martin, 4 times Spanish Champion, was also there for many years. Others have arranged their matters to achieve the GM title and true to themselves, many have accepted being "only" IM.

    I think truly that to be a GMs, one should stablish himself for many games over the 2500. But the rules permit that being a +2400, to get the norms and playing i.ex. in a foreign country is easier (the 3 foreigners rules in a tournament to achieve a norm). This rule has been created to difficult arrengaments but in Spain, many south american inmigrants can skip it easily.

    I believe that adquiring norms only with a +2500 rating would give more brilliance to the GMs title.

  • 24 months ago


    which best bids GM Smith?

  • 24 months ago


  • 24 months ago


    One more thing:

    there are Puzzles section on my www.iPlayooChess.com blog dedicated solely to endgame tactics from actual games, as well as famous chess endgame studies (so if you want to learn the practical/tactical side of chess endgame you might go there and check us out).

    "Knowledge of the endgame is the magic key to the secrets of chess mastery…"

    "Delving into the secrets of the endgame reveals an amazing world of chess harmony." -–Vassily Smyslov

  • 24 months ago


    It’s a pity, many a well-contested game is utterly spoiled through the lack of knowledge and interest in playing the endgame. Yet it is constantly happening. Once in the finishing stage of the game, it loses appeal it may have once had to players. They are playing quickly and routinely, doing whatever it takes to get through one more move. Again, they are essentially resigning from the game.

    It’s a typical behavior and a huge mistake of inexperienced players. As a matter of fact, the difference in playing strength between the master and the amateur is most marked in endgame play.

    In order to improve your game, you must study the endgame before anything else, for whereas the endings can be studied and mastered by themselves, the middlegame and the opening must be studied in relation to the endgame. — Capablanca



  • 24 months ago


    You are very bright young master Embarassed, but...such moves like h6- Master must to do AUTOMATICLY- g6 is pure AMATEUR style. Of course this style is nice Embarassed,but only for spectators...You need good coach, very good. My recomendations- yoga and Botvinnik ( you need stabilization).Good Luck !

  • 24 months ago


    Thanks for the honest insight. 

  • 24 months ago


    You pushed too hard against Cheng overpressing yourself. And then the last game was desperate.

    In the Candidates Aronian thought he had a last chance vs. Kramnik and avoided drawing twice. If he had, he would have tied first with Carlsen but then probably with Kramnik too, because the latter pushed too hard also vs. Ivanchuk in last round.

    A draw is a draw specially in last rounds, half point and let others fiddle with their nerves.

  • 24 months ago


    In popular culture, the endgame begins with stalemate. Proves that few politicians and even fewer reporters are among the legions of chess players.

  • 24 months ago


    Bryan, even though the finish to the tournament was heartbreaking, realize that you are playing at Grandmaster level (and have been for some time). That's the biggest hurdle to becoming a GM and you have solved it.

    I'm quite sure most players going for GM norms have had their nerves get the best of them on occasion, especially when looking for that last norm. You're certainly not alone.

    I know it's expensive and not easy, but following your chess career and your articles I suggest making a short trip to Europe and playing in only the most top-heavy opens you can find. You have proven over and over again that you can beat very strong players with both colors, but are not a total fishkiller (that's a good thing!), so just play against the strong GMs as much as possible and make your final GM norm with +1 or +2. I'd look at the 2014 Moscow Open...actually all the big open tournaments in Russia seem to have tons of 2400s-2500s (and up) and few weak players. Reykjavik might be good next year, but is not nearly as top-heavy.

    If traveling is too cost-prohibitive, just bide your time and perfect your game in time for the World Open. It seems like a long wait, but the tournament will be upon us before you know it.

    What is the best antidote for nerves? Strong play.

    I know you can do it. By this time next year I expect these articles to be written by GM Bryan Smith.

  • 24 months ago


    The Endgame justifies the means!

  • 24 months ago


    nice  games

  • 24 months ago


    nicxe articlr

  • 24 months ago



  • 24 months ago


    Obrigado, Smith !!!

  • 24 months ago

    NM Petrosianic

    interesting games!

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