Review: 100 Endgames You Must Know WORKBOOK

Review: 100 Endgames You Must Know WORKBOOK

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The book 100 Endgames You must Know by GM Jesus de la Villa was originally published in 2008. The book quickly became an international bestseller and an updated fourth edition was published in 2015. In 2017 it was converted into a course on Chessable, the spaced repetition learning environment. It is by far the most popular course on Chessable and currently has almost 3,000 students. 

GM and former world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk stated that she really enjoyed the book and made flash cards for each of the 100 positions with on one side the diagram and on the other side the solution. She would quiz herself until she new all the 100 endgames by heart. Clearly, this was before Chessable was available!

Some players believe that studying endgames is bad use of their time because they seldom reach the endgame phase. Although this argument by itself puts a major restriction on your development towards becoming a complete chess player, I believe there are also other compelling reasons to study endgames. Endgames are an ideal playground to learn to visualize and calculate.  One parent asked me why calculation exercises are important if you are already doing tactics. When you do tactics as a 1500 player, the solution are often 4 half-moves deep and the lines forced. In endgames, e.g. pawn endgames, a 1500 player will have to calculate much deeper and take into account different responses of the opponent. Another reason to study endgames is that you get a better feeling for the 'value' of the pieces and their cooperation with other pieces.  In this context I use the term 'value of the pieces' broadly, it is developing a feeling for their reach and their relative strength and weakness in different types of positions. Finally, in order to play the middle-game correctly you have to correctly assess the transition from middle-game to endgame after the exchange of pieces. How can you make the right choices in the middle-game if you can not evaluate positions that might arise after piece trades? 

Let's look at an example from the first Chapter - Basic Endings.

White To Move.
Can White force an entry for his king with 60.Qe5?
Before we consider the transition to a pawn endgame with Rxe5 we have to see if Black has any other moves. White wants to play Ke6-Kf7 and if the rook defends on the g-file then push f5-f6. Black could try 1... Qe5 Rh1 but that fails to 2.Ke6 Rxh4 3.Kf7 Rg4 4.Qf5+. and White wins
So we now know that we can focus on the pawn ending that arises after 1.Qe5 Rxe5 2.fxe5 because White will not win with 2 isolated pawns against Blacks g- and h-pawn after 2.Kxe5.
What can Black play after 1.Qe5 Rxe5 2.fxe5? The primary move my students mention is 2... Kg8 in order to try to block the passed pawn with Kf8 and Ke8. How should White continue now? Based on the principle of 'shielding off the Black king' a logical continuation is 3.Ke6 followed by 4.Kd7. Note that after 3.Ke6 g5 4.hxg5 hxg5 5.Kd7 g4 6.e6 g3 7.e7 g2 8.e8:Q+ White promotes with check and wins the game. Were you able to calculate and visualize the position up to 8.e8:Q+? Do you agree that you seldom solve a tactics exercise with 16 half-moves?
Did we consider all reasonable moves of Black? Hmm, how about 1.Qe5 Rxe5 2.fxe5 g5. Now the Black king is not on the back rank so there is no promotion with check winning a tempo, White can try 3.hxg5 hxg5 4.Kxg5 or 3.e6.
But how to assess the situation after 3.hxg5 hxg5 4.Kxg5 Kg7. Many players know the principles of the key squares. The key squares of the pawn of e5 are d6, e6 and f6 and after 4... Kg7 White is not able to occupy a key square. So a draw after all?
At this moment the introduction in the chapter comes into play. It contains the following diagram:
The aim or the diagram is to alert the reader to the danger of losing the opposition. 
So, no this is not a draw!! After 5.e6 White wins because of obtaining the opposition. Now we can finally conclude that 1.Qe5 is indeed a winning continuation.
I hope that this example convinced you that this endgame book is about much more than endgame technique. It learns you to calculate a variation tree and consider opponents moves. It will develop your visualization skills and give you a better feeling for the pieces and their coordination. 

The book contains in total 300 exercises. Chapter 9 (rook + pawn vs. rook) and chapter 11 (pawn endings) rightfully are the largest chapters in the workbook with in total 106. Each chapter starts with a short introductory text and a number of important theoretical positions. This is followed by the exercises, often in the form of a question. All the exercises are from over-the-board games and are based on their practical value to the student. 

  • Chapter 1: Basic endings (24)
  • Chapter 2: Knight vs. pawn (12)
  • Chapter 3: Queen vs. pawn (12)
  • Chapter 4: Rook vs. pawn (32)
  • Chapter 5: Rook vs. two pawns (13)
  • Chapter 6: Same-colored bishops: bishop + pawn vs. bishop (12)
  • Chapter 7: Bishop vs knight: one pawn on the board (12)
  • Chapter 8: Opposite-colored bishops: bishop + two pawns vs. bishop (24)
  • Chapter 9: Rook + pawn vs. rook (50)
  • Chapter 10: Rook + two pawns vs. rook (15)
  • Chapter 11: Pawn endings (56)
  • Chapter 12: Other material relations (18)
  • Chapter 13: Appendix (20)
  • Chapter 14: Solutions to exercises

The exercises in each chapter are organized in increasing level or difficulty making this book suitable for the average player to players at master level. In the chapter with Solutions a reference to the relevant chapter in 100 Endgames You Must Know has been included. This makes it easy to restudy the theory again if you have difficulty with solving these practical exercises.

Conclusion: I love this book! In order to master endgame principles you will need to practice them. The 100 Endgames You Must Know WORKBOOK provides 300 practical examples to reinforce the endgame theory that you learned in the 100 Endgames You Must Know book. The book will improve you calculation and visualization skills and build a deeper understanding of the value of the pieces and their cooperation. I am certain that this book will not just improve your endgame but your chess level in general. 

The list price for the paperback version in the US is $24.95. It is available at Amazon for $16.34 (Kindle $15.52). The digital version on Forward Chess  is  $17.99. The targeted release date on Chessable is June 17. The price at Chessable is unknown to me at this moment, I expect it to be on sale in the first week.