I Hate Endings

Jun 27, 2008, 10:08 AM |

The next step in retooling my game (and this will apply to many reformed mate-happy attackniks out there who want to improve their results) are dreaded endings.  I hate studying them.  I positively hate them.  But sometimes, to reach goals we have to make sacrifices.  This will be a big one for me.

To help me advance this aspect of my game, I'm turning to a book I've never cracked open (but recognized its value when I purchased it several years ago), namely "Silman's Complete Endgame Course" by Jeremy Silman.  It is truly an excellent book.

 The book is organized in a revolutionary way, but consistent with Silman's other seminal works, "Reassess Your Chess" and "The Amateur's Mind", he addresses concepts in a way consistent with the reader's rating.  Here, Silman introduces endgame concepts appropriate for each rating class (E,D,C,B,A,Expert,Master) with each building on a concrete grasp of previous material.  Thus, in reading the "B" endgame section, be sure to go over any issues in the "C" through "E" sections that are with which you aren't intimately familiar.

For me, in the expert class, there was an appalling number of concepts from the earlier classes I had no idea of.  Yes, I kind of knew about Lucena and Philidor positions, and surviving Bishops-opposite-color endings, but there is simply an incredible amount of material I need to be up to speed on before even getting to endgame elements associated with my own class.

The book is fun and easy to read, so I highly recommend it.  It features many diagrams, so you don't much need a chess set to follow along.  However, me and Fritz will be replaying over many of these ending themes and no doubt Bookup will come in handy as well.

Silman's Endgame Course is also revolutionary (instead of preaching universal concepts inappropriate to the readers rating-level) in that it ignores some things as irrelevant that were staples of previous "theoretical" books.  When was the last time you saw an endgame book that intentionally does not teach the Bishop+Knight vs. King mate.  Silman points out that his ending has occurred exactly once to him in his career, while several strong players with whom he's acquainted with have NEVER had one.  Silman believes the time mastering such trivia is better spent on other things, but that it doesn't mean you shouldn't learn how to do it if you have an interest to. 

My endgame learning priorities are based on the ones that occur most frequently, i.e. Rook + pawn endings, King + pawn endings.  Bishops of opposite-color endings are frequently drawn (although there are exceptions), while other minor-piece endings can devolve quickly into King + pawn endings.

So while I expect learning these high-priority endings will be painful, I'm hoping the results make it worth it...especially when it comes to being able to recognize a winning endgame from the middlegame and being able to transist to it.