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The Top 3 Endgame Mistakes That New Chess Players Should Know

The Top 3 Endgame Mistakes That New Chess Players Should Know

Gserper
| 115 | Endgames

Watching Norway Chess 2023, I was glad to see that GM Hikaru Nakamura won another super tournament. Just like an American Chess Superman—who had a day job as a reporter and saved the world in his spare time—Hikaru beat the world's top players during a brief break between streams. I hope that the FIDE World Championship becomes a worthy goal for him now since it would probably give a further boost to his online following! 

Of course, I watched the games of another favorite player of mine, GM Magnus Carlsen. In one of them, he truly shocked me:

How could a world champion make a draw in such a position? First, Carlsen played the weird 85.h5? that disconnected his pawns. (He should play either 85. Rg5+ or 85.Rb4 automatically in blitz.) Then he played 86.Rb4??, which threw the win away. Yes, Carlsen had only seven seconds left when he played 85.h5? but considering the one-second increment, it shouldn't have been a very difficult task.

I guess at that point, Carlsen was already very tired. One way or another, here is a very disturbing fact: two world champions botched a very basic endgame. First, it was GM Ding Liren (see my old article), and now Carlsen.

Carlsen playing in Norway Chess 2023. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Now that you know the events that inspired me to write this article, without further ado, let me present the Top 3 Endgame Mistakes That New Players Should Know:

  1. Stalemating an opponent
  2. Inability to checkmate with queen or rook
  3. Losing a rook endgame with no pawns

1. Stalemating an opponent

This is by far the most common mistake that I see on a daily basis. Here is just one example:

Black had at least five different ways to checkmate his opponent in one move, but instead, they stalemated White! What happened here? Actually, it is quite typical: Black had such a huge material advantage that even if they blundered a queen and then a bishop, it would still not change the evaluation of the position: Black would be easily winning.

In situations like this, when a win looks unavoidable, beginner players lose their concentration and forget that the biggest danger is not blundering material but stalemating their opponent! So, the advice here is quite simple: when you have an enormous material advantage, and especially when your opponent has a lonely king, remember that just one bad move can lead to a draw due to a stalemate!

2. Inability to checkmate with queen or rook

Not understanding how to checkmate with K+Q or K+R against a lonely king is an easy problem to fix: If you are not sure about your technique in these kinds of endgames, practice it on Chess.com! For example, here you can practice how to deliver checkmate with a rook and king until it becomes automatic.

Click the image to take your endgame skills to the next level using the Endgames feature.

3. Losing a rook endgame with no pawns

It might surprise you, but K+R vs. K+R with no pawns is a common endgame online. What might be an even bigger surprise is that about 20% of these endgames are lost by one of the players. (Not because of flagging but due to a blunder!) Here I can give you several tips to avoid such a debacle:

Tip 1: Don't hang your rook!

Don't blunder your rook by putting it on a square where it can be captured! This is so obvious that it doesn't require any explanation.

Tip 2: Don't skewer your rook!

This and the following rules are just useful guidance to avoid a blunder. In many cases, there is nothing wrong with putting your rook on the same vertical or horizontal as your king. However, in certain cases, it can lead to an instant loss, so just don't do it!

By the way, did you notice that Black didn't manage to win the K+R vs. K endgame, which is "common mistake #2" on our list?

Tip 3: Don't protect your rook with your king!

This is extremely dangerous, as your opponent can chase your king away with a check and win your rook!

Tip 4: Don't put your king on the edge of the board!

While in most cases this is not a big deal, sometimes it can ruin your game instantly:

While the endgame mistakes that we discussed today are very common, it is really easy to fix them if you follow the simple recommendations that I provided in this article. I hope you'll never make these mistakes again in your games!

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