How to Improve in Endgames, Part 2
With this and last week's article I am wrapping up the Endgame articles that I have been writing for the last two years. Last week we learned how to use references for analysis of one's endgames that happen to be of a theoretical nature. Today we will look at endgames that belong to different categories and what approach one should take to improve in these kinds of endgames.
These are a few categories that one can keep in mind when one is analyzing a particular endgame:
- Theoretical endgames (ex: R+B vs. R or R+3P vs. R+4P)
- Planning and typical endgame structures (ex: endgames from French, KID, QID etc.)
- Unbalanced endgames (ex: Q vs. 3 pieces, R vs. 4P)
- Endgame virtuosos (ex: games by Karpov, Andersson, Sokolov)
- Tactics and initiative in endgames.
- Modern endgame treatment (ex: new ideas from recent games)
I really believe that one should learn endgames from analysis of their own games. One builds an attachment to the game played, has feelings about it, and cares about where he or she went wrong. One learns more from their own mistakes too. Therefore, the most basic step in learning endgames is the analysis of personal games. It is easy to say but hard to do. What does one do if there is no coach at hand? Surely sitting down and analyzing alone can be frustrating - one needs some guide or reference. The above six categories can narrow down the category of a particular endgame. In the last article we looked at category 1 - theoretical endgames. The endgames belonging to this category are the easiest to decipher--maybe not the easiest to memorize but still, one can get a very clear idea of how to play them.
Let us look at the following endgame, once again taken from my most recent tournament in Detroit. Try to figure out where it belongs in the above-mentioned categories.
It seems that category 2 is the best fit and maybe categories 4 and 6. This is a very typical endgame structure of the Maroczy bind. There are clear and typical plans in this structure for both sides. Endgame books that are aimed at general endgame understanding typically cover the topic of endgames from the Maroczy bind. "Mastering the Endgame" by Shereshevsky and Slutsky is an excellent reference to have and the two volumes cover most of the general endgame ideas. There is a chapter in Volume 2 called "Maroczy Bind Formation" which has many examples but here I will show only one. The authors mention that Rubinstein and Botvinnik used a Maroczy set-up as white very successfully, whereas Simagin, Larsen and Averbakh successfully defended as black. One can look up the games of these players to get a better feel for the position, the method that will supplement category 4.
Generally, black's aim is to exchange the dark-squared bishops. White's pawns are all on the light squares and the dark-squared bishop guards the weakened dark squares, and therefore it is to black's advantage to exchange it. This is an example with comments from the book when the bishops are not exchanged.
The methods of playing these types of endgames have changed over the past few decades. Black typically does not play the Be6-Nd7 plan. aiming for b5. They mostly play for blockading the queenside with a5-Nd7-Nc5, thus gaining some space there. Then they exchange the bishops and try to push for d5. The example that we saw from the book shows clearly the dangers that black can face if they misplay this endgame. However, the book does not say much about modern treatment, so we have to look elsewhere. This is when chess databases become handy. I pulled the example below from the base, where the idea of the Nd5-exchange and fighting for the c-file is present.
Personal experience matters a lot too when one studies a particular endgame. I happened to play many Maroczy bind endgames and here are a few exerpts that show the main ideas of the endgame. In the next endgame one can see the advantage of having knight vs. bishop in positions where the knight is exchanged on d5:
The following example is from my game too. It shows the ideas of pawn breaks f5 and b5.
Now that we looked at multiple examples it is time to get back to the original game. I did manage to get the d5-push in the game, which brought me a point.
Today we looked what to do with an endgame that is not theoretical but has a typical pawn structure. It is definitely harder to find good references for the typical plans and play for these type of endgames compared to the theoretical endgames but this type of work can be very rewarding. As you could see from all the examples above, the same ideas circulated in all of the positions.
Next week we are starting the new column "The Best Moves Never Played".