Fast Endgame Technique

Fast Endgame Technique

GM Illingworth
Mar 19, 2018, 1:56 AM |

What differentiates a 'good' blitz player from a 'great' blitz player?

The answer to this question lies in my experience playing online blitz for over a decade ago. Back in 2007, I was rated in the 2800s on the late Internet Chess Club - which equated to around 2500 FIDE at the time - despite having a classical FIDE rating around 2100. I found it hard to break this barrier, and in the rare cases that I did, my rating usually 'reset' back to somewhere in the 2800s after further games. What did I need to do to improve my blitz skill?

When I was playing GMs online at this time, I noticed I was generally holding my own in the opening and middlegame phase, due to frequent work on my opening repertoire (which was narrow, but I knew it well!). However, when it got to the endgame, I found most of my Grandmaster opponents were outplaying me, even from 'normal' looking positions. 

True, in your case most of your games will be decided by tactical vision, but when neither side makes a major tactical mistake that is exploited, the game will ultimately be decided by superior endgame skill - which indeed, often translates to superior middlegame understanding, as one will be better equipped to assess piece exchanges. 

As it happens, I recently played a nice blitz game, demonstrating the importance of strong endgame handling in defeating a 'good blitz player' by almost anyone's definition.

So, what lessons can we learn from this game?

1) We don't always have to cover our opponent's threats! Maybe we can ignore them in favour of a counterattack?

2) Endgames will generally be decided by who has the more active pieces/better pawn structure. These are interconnected, as when we attack a weak pawn, our opponent generally must choose between defending that weakness (tying up his pieces to defense) or allowing the pawn to be taken. 

3) It is generally better to be a pawn down, but have active pieces, than to have equal material, but all your pieces tied up.

4) Exchanging pawns helps the defending side toward holding a draw.

5) Study the games of great endgame players - such as Carlsen, Kramnik, Karpov, Capablanca, Rubinstein and numerous other legends of the game.

Good luck applying your new endgame wisdom to your next games! If you enjoyed this post and my annotations, you can find my FREE analysis of another blitz game of mine by clicking this link.