"My Games Don't Get To Endgames Anyways"

"My Games Don't Get To Endgames Anyways"

NM CraiggoryC

Over all my years of teaching I've heard all the excuses:

  1. "My games don't get to endgames anyways."
  2. "What's the use of being good at endgames, if I just killed in opening or by some devastating tactic?"
  3. "Everyone says studying tactics is the quickest way to improve at chess." etc. etc.

 Why do we feel the need to make excuses to not study endgames? <--That's a question that bothered me for a long time. I've even said some of the above excuses at some point. Finally, I think I found the answer: we don't like studying endgames and we don't think it comes into our games enough to justify spending countless hours studying them. 

In a previous blog (click here to view) I advocated for finding your own games that had endgames. Especially games that you could have won or drawn with more precise endgame play. There's no better motivation than an undeserved loss; especially in the endgame because usually that means the game went for quite a few hours.

I still believe in making endgames pertinent to you by finding them in your actual games. But two things happened that made me amend my previous opinion. One of the things is the answer to the first excuse: "My games don't get to endgames anyways."

Answer: Actually I can almost guarantee that had you adequate endgame knowledge, you'd find that there are plenty of points where your games at least could/should have gone to an endgame. Actually a good tactic for a defender of an attack is to try to find their way into an endgame. A lot of times the change of pace for the would-be attacker is too much and they blow the game.

Let's take a look at the great attacker Mikhail Tal's famous game against Hans Joachim Hecht:

The above game is remembered for Tal's pawn sac with 13. c5?!, for his amazingly creative Queen sac with 19. exf6!? and his dazzling display of tactics after the Queen sac (for example 21. Bf5!!). But what people don't remember is the game was actually decided in a Rook endgame. If Tal's attacking displays end in endgames then how could we assume that our games shouldn't/couldn't?!

Another Reason to Study Endgames: It leads to chess growth!

Let's just assume that your games actually don't go to endgames (we've already debunked that theory up above, but let's play along). Having endgame skills in your arsenal helps you develop your visualization and calculation skills. This is because in endgames there are less pieces, and therefore less possible moves. In the endgame you can actually calculate lines to the very end. In a middlegame position, you have to use your intuition to suggest some candidate moves and then you calculate as much as you can but in the end you can't calculate the whole line out. In an endgame you can calculate right up to a win, draw, or loss. So even if you're not using the endgame part of your study, other parts of your game are getting significantly stronger.

Finally, I'm stealing an idea from IM Jeremy Silman's great book on the endgame. In that book he suggests that the student should study what he deems as most beneficial for their skill level. Studying what you "should" know and any endgames that actually happened in your games is a great way to make studying the endgame pertinent to you. Hopefully with just studying what happens in your games and what you "should" know, you will no longer feel the need to make excuses as to why you don't need to study endgames anymore. My next blogs will be checklists for what each rating level "should" know.

Coming Soon

What Endgame Knowledge the:

  1. Beginner/Advanced Beginner should have (ratings 1000-1399)
  2. Intermediate/Club Player should have (ratings 1400-1599)
  3. Club Player/Advanced Player Should have (ratings 1600-1999)
  4. I'm an Expert/Master, what should I study now?! (ratings 2000-2200+)

Right now I'll leave you with a blitz game that I played today, just to prove that endgames can even creep into your 3 0 blitz games!

Black's Rook looks quite active on the 2nd Rank, should he exchange Rooks or avoid the exchange with a move like 36...Rd1+?


Black looks like he's getting himself into trouble. What move did Black play here that proved that he (me!) had a relatively easy draw?