Chess in Black and White: Issue 3 "General Endgame Principles for all levels"

Chess in Black and White: Issue 3 "General Endgame Principles for all levels"

Jan 7, 2014, 6:02 PM |

Today's post is a little late because I have been busy playing an online game with Nakamura on our site! When I finish the game I will post it for you. In the meantime lets discuss some endgame principles that can apply to every level. I tried to also create some helpful diagrams. Remember, as always, these are guidelines that can take many different forms, and have exceptions. Please read and I hope it helps make your confusing positions a little more black and white!

1. Pawn Structure

Pawn structures are key in endgame more so than ealier in chess. The small weaknesses such as an isolated pawn or doubles pawns can be the difference between a win and loss. 

a) These weaknesses can lead to individual pawns becoming targets, and if your opponent has several targets it can be hard to hold off his attack. As each additional piece comes off the board, small weaknesses become magnified. The same goes for advantages, a doubled pawn you gave your opponent in the opening may  not seem important until only a couple pieces are left on the board. If you see that you have a much better pawn structure than the opponent then be glad to trade down into an endgame in most situations.

b) if there are pieces left on the board like rooks, knights, and bishops, they are much more effective against a weakend pawn structure. 3 connected pawns can be worth a knight or even a bishop, but isolated pawns and doubles pawns are almost never worth a piece. Once again these happen eallier in the game, but seem importent much later. One way of looking at it is at various points in the game try to visualize the board with only the King and Pawns left, and if the position makes you smile then move towards the endgame where using these principles will help you convert many endgames.

c) Not all pawns are equal, isolated pawns and doubled pawns are worth less than a normal pawn, while a passed pawn is worth more. Passed pawns should be pushed when possible, because even if they do not make it to becoming a queen, they force your opponent to stop the passed pawn. While your opponent is busy dealing with that, you can get busy winning on the rest of the board.


2. Switch and Bait

This is also called the principle  of two weaknesses. When you attack on one spot it can be good to swtich it up and then attack another part of the board. This can be a complicated princible and has much more depth than I explained, but this blog is for all levels. Even beginners can apply it in somer simple situations to win games though. Draw the king one way and then use that time to create another advantage elsewhere. Often this can be used to allow your King to penetrate the position and start eating pawns while the opponent is occupied elsewhere.


3. Space

The more of the board you control going into the endgame and duriong the endgame, the more effective your pieces are and the closer your pawns will be to getting a promotion. This principle applies to all phases of the game, but is often more visible in the endgame. If you own 2/3 of the board and your opponent is passive and backed to the last few ranks of their side then I value my pieces/ pawns pawns = 1.5,pieces 3.5, rooks 5.5, and their pieces at 2.5, rooks 4.5 and pawns still 1.This translates as an active piece compared to a passive piece should be able to win a pawn, and two active pieces compared to two passive pieces should win the game. Look at the other diagrams, and your own games, to see how the side that conrols more space ends up with more active pieces, and more active pieces win games.


 4. Control the ranks and files

When rooks are on the board, their placement is important. Rooks belong on open files, and a rook on the 7th is worth a pawn; these go with space advantage. This should be something you work on through out the game. That is why you bring the center files and.or open files able even in the opening. 


5. Trapping pieces; even though there are less pieces on the board, it is not hard to trap your opponents piece if they are not paying attention, or if you aren't then your pieces may be trapped! These same traps happen in middle game, expecially be careful taking what apears to be a free pawn right after your oponnent queenside castles. Also note that your rooks dont become surrounded by pawns. Knights can easily be trapped in corners and endges.



6. A bishop pair is often winning if only one person has it. Bishops are faster than knights but can only cover half the squares. That is why a bishop pair is so powerful, since the bishops are just as fast but now cover all the squares. In an endgame , where there are less pieces on the board, the bishops can cover all four corners and multitask better than any other piece.


7. King Power! Your king is often the most important piece in the endgame, so use him. This goes with every other principle, so look back and see how in almost every example the king plays a sometimes subtle and sometimes obvious, but always key role. Without your king it will be very chalenging to get a winning advantage, and often impossible to mate the opponent. No single piece can win without the king!


Once again thank you for reading and feel free to post questions and comments. Tomorrow I plan on posting my game with Nakamura

-Michael Porcelli