How to impove your endgame

How to impove your endgame


Akiba Kiwelowicz Rubinstein (12 December 1882 in Stawiski, Poland – 15 March 1961 in Antwerp, Belgium) was a famous Polish chess Grandmaster at the beginning of the 20th century. He was scheduled to play a match with Emanuel Lasker for the world championship in 1914, but it was cancelled because of the outbreak of World War I. In his youth, he astonished the chess world, defeating many famous players, including Capablanca and Schlechter; however, his later life was plagued by mental illness.

Between 1907 and 1912, Rubinstein established himself as one of the strongest players in the world. In 1907, he won the Karlovy Vary tournament and shared first at St. Petersburg. In 1912 he had a record string of wins, finishing first in five consecutive major tournaments: San  SebastianPiešťanyBreslau(the German championship), Warsaw and Vilnius (although none of these events included Lasker or Capablanca). Some believe that he was better thanworld champion Emanuel Lasker at this time. Ratings from Chessmetrics support this conclusion, placing him as world No. 1 between mid 1912 and mid 1914. Reuben Fine, on the other hand, believed he was not quite as strong as Lasker, and was also eclipsed by José Raúl Capablanca after 1911.

He was one of the earliest chess players to take the endgame into account when choosing and playing the opening. He was exceptionally talented in the endgame, particularly in rook endings, where he broke new ground in knowledge. Jeremy Silman ranked him as one of the five best endgame players of all time, and a master of rook endgames


How do I improve my endgame?

1. Start reading the endgame articles right here at, esp. those by WIM energia

1A. There's a lot of great stuff here, but in order to access  all of it you have to be a platinum member...still, you could do a lot worse than reading every article and watching every video  that this article recommends

2. Start reading endgame articles by GM Karsten Muller Corner

3. Start reading an endgame book. See my blog for reviews and suggestions if you don't already own any endgame books or want to improve your endgame library

4. If you own IM Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual consider joining this group

5. Learn all the basic checkmates: K+Q vs K, K+R vs K, K+2 Bs vs K and K, B+N vs K (although some Masters have said don't bother learning the last one, it's not rocket science and knowing it will be handy for middlegame positions as well)

6.  Learn the Lucena Position, Near and Distant Opposition, Philidor's Position The Square of the Pawn, Triangulation and X-Ray Attacks. I will add to this as other players weigh in and I think of more basic positions everyone should know.

7. Study endgames played by World Champions. Almost all the official world champions were acknowledged masters of the endgame. Additionally Akiba Rubinstein is considered to be The Master of R+P endings and GM Geza Maroczy was considered to be a leading authority on Q+P endings. 

8. Check out my other endgame blogs, all of the positions are set up as puzzles you can either try to solve (or "cheat" and just play through them via the move list).

9. Memorize the following 3 Endgame Principles and 15 Rules For The Endgame as stated by GM Fine in his monumental endgame book Basic Chess Endings (pp. 572-3):


1. Without pawns one must be at least a Rook ahead in order to mate. The only exceptions to this which hold in all cases are that the double exchange wins and that a Queen cannot succesfully defend vs four minor pieces.

2. Where one is 2 or more pawns ahead the win is routine. By this we mean that a straightforward advance of the pawns will net considerable material gain, usually at least a piece. With a piece to the good one can then capture more pawns, the more pieces, and finally mate.

3. The theory of the ending proper is concerned to a large extent with the conversion of an advantage of one pawn into a win. The basic principle is that one pawn wins only because it can used to capture more material. Straightforward advance will as a rule not do the trick (as it will with 2 panws). The chief devices to be used in the winning process are forcing an entry with the King, keeping the opponent busy on both sides (outside passed pawn) and simplification.


1.  Doubled, isolated and blockaded pawns are weak: Avoid them!

2.  Passed pawns should be advanced as quickly as possible.

3.  If you are one or two pawns ahead, exchange pieces but not pawns.

4.  If you are one or two pawns behind exchange pawns but not pieces.

5.  If you have an advantage do not leave all pawns on one side.

6.  If you are one pawn ahead, in 99 cases out of 100 the game is drawn if there        are pawns on only one side of the board.

7.  The easiest endings to win are pure pawn endings.

8.  The easiest endings to draw are those with Bishops of the opposite color.

9.  The King is a strong piece: Use it!

10. Do not place your pawns on the same color as your Bishop.

11. Bishops are better than Knights in all except blocked pawn positions.

12. Two Bishops vs B+N constitute a tangible advantage

13. Passed pawns should be blockaded by the King; the only piece which is not     harmed by watching a pawn is the Knight.

14. A rook on the seventh rank is sufficient compensation for a pawn.

15. Rooks belong behind passed pawns.


1. Ignore anyone who tells you not to study endgames because "...all games have openings but not all games go down to an endgame" or for whatever other BS reason(s) they pontificate. Unlike openings, once you know all the basic checkmates and other endgame principles you will know them for life - they will not be refuted or become outdated like opening variations often do.

Capablanca was once asked by an amateur how to improve his game. Capa told him to study endgames, and when he happened to run into the amateur several years later discovered that his advice had been ignored - and that the amateur was no better than when he first asked for advice. This anecdote may be apocryphal, but guess where it comes from?

2. The 15 Basic Endgame Rules are also quite handy for applying to openings and middlegames with the following exceptions: Rules 9 and 13, and sometimes Rule 12 esp if the pawns are blocked. Of course all the other rules may have exceptions in specific opening and middlegame situations.

3. The easiest endings to lose are the ones in which you don't know what you're doing. I've found this out the hard way and so will you!

4. The most common endings are R+P endgames. 

5. The following articles should be useful for those of you who are not (yet)   endgame experts (and no, I'm not either):

Lolli Position: K+Q vs K+R

Shameless plug dept: And be sure to check out all my other endgame blogs!

6. Feel free to post any comments, compliments :), complaints :( and questions     here along with any endgame advice or tips you'd like to see included here.