Another method to reach 2000 USCF, Part 6: How to Become Really Good at Endgames

Jun 7, 2015, 8:36 PM |

Do you hate endgames? Or know players that do?

Well, let me tell you a secret: it is quite possible to meander through your openings and middlegames and, as long as you haven't blundered badly, still have a chance to steal victory in the endgame.

Without my endgame skills, I'm not sure I would have made 1800, let alone 2000+. 

A strong endgame is one of the best weapons for battling talented players; I would say it is at least as important as clever opening preparation.

I think a lot of players who don't enjoy endgames didn't have to work on them, because they could rely on other aspects of their game to bring them victories -- usually these "other aspects" include calculating ability and attacking ability.

Well, I've always been a subpar calculator, and a poor attacker. Only with a large or overwhelming advantage can I be fairly sure my attacks will strike their target.

But... more than a few opponents have been quite afraid to enter endgames with me Wink.

Like the other aspects of my "Blueprint to 2000" I emphasize KNOWLEGDE to help in playing endgames well.

What to work on can be divided into two parts: technical knowledge and strategic play. In other words, we need to:

1. Develop an ability to identify which positions are likely won for one side, and which are likely drawn. This comes from understanding the important features of different endgame types.

How big an advantage is required to win? How much of a disadvantage is acceptable to hold the draw? "Advantage" in the context of the endgame is traditionally divided into "Material Advantage" and "Positional Advantage" (better piece(s), passed pawn(s), weak pawn(s), space advantage, better pawn structure, etc.).

This knowledge also helps you answer questions like the following:

"I have an extra pawn and the material is Q+R+N+5P vs. Q+R+B+4P -- should I trade queens? Or rooks? Or minor pieces? Multiple pieces? Nothing?" [This is a hypothetical situation I concocted without a particular position in mind, but with such limited info, I would aim for the N+5P vs. B+4P ending.] Stay tuned for Part 7 of this series, which will give some guidelines that explain my reasoning!

2. Work on planning, and on understanding and using different playing methods in endgames.

For example, pawn advances to gain space and fix weaknesses; intelligently exchanging pawns to get closer to a drawn position; how to spot opportunities to utilize the famous "principle of two weaknesses"; how to create/prevent king invasions; understanding fortresses, etc.

Approaching the 2000 level, very often one or both players are clueless about how they should play a certain endgame. Use that to your advantage.

More next time!