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Endgame is Deceptive

Endgame is Deceptive

Jul 9, 2017, 4:00 AM 0
Endgame is a deceptive phase of the game.
With so many pieces traded off the board, it's very easy to assume that the position is simple, and that there are no hidden surprises waiting around the corner.
It is very easy to believe that just playing normal "on the surface" moves will get you through.
However, it is precisely this phase of the game, the endgame, that requires the most vigilance, alertness, and accuracy.
If you make a mistake in the endgame, there very well is no coming back from it, because there is just simply not enough pieces to "muddy the water".
And what I've learned this past month is, there are hidden traps all over the place in the endgame.
Even in situation where you think one side should just smoothly win, there are defensive resources around the corner that you never thought were possible.
These are examples from the games that I've played.
Without calculating anything, just by looking at the pawns and piece placement, try to figure out who is better in these positions.
Game 1 (Black to move)
Game 2 (White to move)
Game 3 (Black to move)


Ok, let's review these positions.

Game 1

Game 2 
Game 3 


Lessons Learned:

Game 1

  • Some of the most logical looking moves can be a blunder. (who would've thought that pushing e4 right there would be a bad move?) He had to wait for a better timing for e4.
  • Be specific on where the pieces need to be. All I needed was King on c5, not c8 or c7. Because neither of us did this, both of us just assumed that Black's pawns were going to be faster.
  • Have to calculate. In the endgame, especially pawn race situations, there is no substitute. 

Game 2

  • Don't just assume the game will win itself. Always ask yourself "how can this turn into a draw?" The idea of him setting up a dark-squared blockade and making my light-squared bishop look silly simply didn't occur to me.
  • Again, verify your general assumption with calculation. It wasn't that I didn't think g5 was possible. I simply thought that it was bad purely on general reason that fixing the pawns give me protected passed pawn. Little did I realize that that protected passed pawn can be firmly blockaded.
  • Know the peculiarity of your own pieces. If I had a knight instead of the light-squared bishop, dark-squared blockade wouldn't have made a difference. But because I had light-squared bishop, out of all the minor pieces, I had to be wary of the possibility of him fixing my pawns on the light-squares.

Game 3

  • Again, need to ask yourself, "How can this position possibly turn into a draw? How can this possibly go wrong?" Had I asked that question, I would have figured out, "Well, the only way for my win to evaporate is if somehow, this position turns into an opposite-colored bishop endgame. Well, then let's prevent that RIGHT NOW" 
  • Verify your assumptions with calculations. I assumed that there is no way (other than blundering a piece) that my win can be taken away. I assumed that going into K+P endgame is winning for me. Assumption not backed by calculation, but just blind optimism. Playing with unchecked assumptions is a surefire way to get burned in the endgame.
  • Think concretely. I didn't want to play Bxg1, because that improve his King coming to the center. I wanted to centralize my King before doing anything else, because that's what you do in the endgame. These are all general concepts that fell flat in the face of concrete variation in this particular game. Had I given Bxg1 a chance and looked further, I would have realized how powerful Nc5 is. But I threw it out because I didn't want to improve his King from his corner.
  • Always remember that even in simplified endgame, where you think there is no way you could go wrong, there is always a way that you didn't realize. Don't judge endgame positions based on what's on the surface. A win can turn into a draw or a loss in an instant.

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