Chess in Black and White: Endgame Lesson 1
Defining the endgame is a challenge, and not nearly as black and white as many other parts of chess. Pun intended. Not only is a strict definition a challenge, but it also lacks importance to us. We are not interested in what move the game changed from the middle game to the endgame. Rather we are interested in reducing the difference between our areas of the game. We want to adjust our thinking and short term goals, while keeping our larger goals for the game throughout. Most of your games, especially those that don’t end in a single large blunder, will result in victory and demise in the endgame. As such this is where you can ensure consistent victory with a little work. No matter how much work you put into openings you will rarely win in the first 10 or even 20 moves. No matter how much work you put into the middle game and tactics, without the knowledge to turn the advantages into wins your tactics are not often useful.
Like much of this course the information is largely coming from my own experience. You are not learning what moves to play, but rather a system of thought that will help you make the in game decisions. I have a distinct mindset for each phase of the game. As such I need to decide when to shift that mindset to the endgame, and this time will differ in each game. Let us briefly look at a loose definition for the endgame and how your mindset can effectively change in this part of the game to achieve more success.
To get the most out of these lessons make sure to join the study group. The link is at the bottom of the lesson. If you missed the intro to the series you can find it here –
Is this an endgame?:
A. The board is open enough that the king can safely get active.
B. Rooks, if they are left, may roam the board largely unhindered by other pieces (remember pawns are not pieces they are pawns). If there are no rooks then that also indicates a move towards the endgame. I would say that each side has at most 3 pieces left, usually less.
C. The focus often shifts from mating/getting a material advantage towards queening a pawn or at least threatening to do so.
Remember these are generalities not rules. If the position lines up with more than one of these thought it probably time to get into an endgame mindset if you have not already done so. Especially for more advanced players it is a good idea to start thinking about the endgame before it appears on the board. This means even if you are not quite in the endgame, shifting your mindset towards the endgame can be helpful. For the advanced player it is not only helpful, but I word argue very important.
All of this is well and good, but what do I mean by an endgame mindset? The term may sound intimidating, but many of you probably do it to some extent already without even realizing it!
A shift in thinking so that the player is focusing efficiently for the last stage of the game. This is more important in some areas of the game than others.
Pieces: Once in the endgame the role of each piece is likely to change. Be ready to use you King, rook(s), and pawns differently. Mastery of Knights and bishops will also clearly show here. We will be looking at these changed roles more closely in future lessons.
Making moves: While there are less pieces on the board now, this actually raises the stakes because the remaining material is now more valuable. A pawn is easy to give up without much worry early in a chess game, but giving up a pawn in an endgame is likely to lead to a quick demise if your opponent is accurate. For this reason, especially in close games, TAKE EXTRA TIME for your moves.
Tactics: Some tactics are the same and some are different in the endgame. Learning which tactics to focus on can help streamline your thinking. Many people stop looking for tactics nearly as much once they reach the endgame. No you are not likely to win a queen or get a windmill tactic, but remember a tactic that wins a pawn in the endgame may be all you need!
Concepts: Each turn, in my head, I try to review the endgame concepts that are most likely to apply to my current game. This will help me make in game goals. Usually several concepts will work together. “Oh I can get my king active faster than they can, and that will create a second weakness, which will allow me to get a passed pawn, which will force his rook into a more passive position,…” These concepts are what we will be covering in the coming weeks.
Goals: Its good to have short, medium, and long term goals during the game, and I find it even more helpful during the endgame.
1 move – defend a pawn or attack a weakness
5 moves – get king active and to the center or maneuver rooks to control open files
Win – Advance e pawn safely for winning advantage
Of course these goals will constantly shift, but it will help you focus and think efficiently to have defined goals as you prepare for each move.
Below are the tasks you should do this week to solidify this lesson and prepare for the next lesson. If you want to be held accountable please post your thoughts and tasks in the forum in the endgame lesson group that corresponds with your level.
1. Define the endgame in your own words. What do you think is the most important characteristic of the endgame? How should this affect your mindset during the game?
2. Choose a game you lost in the last week that had an endgame. How could you have applied this lesson to that game? If you can post your game and comments in the beginner forum.
1. What is your mindset usually for the endgame? Do you have one? How would you apply the endgame mindset from this lesson to your games?
2. What do you feel you biggest strength and biggest weakness in the endgame? How can changing your mindset going into the endgame highlight this strength? How can changing your mindset going into the endgame help avoid your weakness? Or help fix that weakness?
3. Choose a game you lost in the last week that had an endgame. How did your weakness hurt you? Why didn’t your strength help enough to win?
4. Choose a game you won in the last week that had an endgame. How did your strength help win the game? How did you void your weaknesses? If you can post your game and comments in the beginner forum.
1. Write out what you want you mindset at the beginning of the game to be and what your focus for the typical game is. How does it change once you get out of the opening? How does it change when you enter the endgame?
2. Find a master game with an endgame in which one side wins. If you were playing white what would your plan have been entering the endgame? If you were black what would your plan be entering the endgame? How was one side able to win? If possible post the game in your level’s forum in the study group.
3. List out what you think are your biggest strengths and weaknesses are in the endgame. (at least 2 each) Brainstorm how you can use the middle game to lead to an endgame where you can use your strengths and avoid your weaknesses. (at least 3 ideas)
Challenge: List out your two most common openings as White and then your response as black to d4 and e4. That should give you a list of four openings. For each opening explore master games where that opening is used. You can use the game database on chess.com if you are a premium member or go to chessgames.com. If you have mastered these openings you can expect to going into similar endgames as you see when you explore the games. Now look at your own games, when you reach the expected endgames for your opening how do you fare? Is the problem with your overall game plan or is your endgame technique not up to par?
Thank you for reading and I hope you will join again next week when we look at PAWNS! Remember to join the study group if you have yet to do so, and post your work in the forums. Feel free to post any feedback/suggestions/comments and I would be happy to respond.
Have a great week and good luck in all your games!
Study Group - http://www.chess.com/groups/home/mps-endgame-class
Study forums by level - http://www.chess.com/groups/forum/mps-endgame-class
All material and information is owned by Michael Porcelli and Chess in Black and White. Copyright 2015 all rights reserved.