End Game Strategies

Useful Endgame Strategies


     Why is endgame study so important? Endgame study is important because it frees up your game. Without it, you are hesitant to reach even winning endgames because you are unsure of them. This can lead to reckless middle game play. Checkmate or bust is a good term for it. Before I learned basic endgame theory, I would attack, attack and attack some more because I knew if I entered even a Rook and King versus a lone King, I couldn't handle it and my score suffered for it.

Today I want to talk about a couple of useful Endgame themes that will show up in your games from time to time and how to view these positions. These are examples from my own game played on www.chess.com.


Black just moved Re7. (A stronger move would have been Re1 when the g2 pawn promotes after a few checks from black on the 7th and 8th rank). The position is dominated by the passed g2 pawn and the fact that black is up on material. Black's plan should obviously be to try to promote that pawn or gain other advantages on the board while white is forced to deal with the weakness. If you are playing black in this position, you should not defend the pawn at all costs. "What? It is arguably the most valuable piece on the board." True, but you should use that advantage to create advantages elsewhere on the board. You can easily weaken your position or lose valable tempos trying to defend the pawn. Why do that when you can capture other pawns on the board and duplicate white's problems elsewhere on the board? In this way you simplify the board while maintaining your advantage and avoiding passive play.

When you are up in material, do not offer your opponent a simplifying exchange at the expense of your position. Your opponent, if he/she is good, will decline it and improve their position. This is a great way to lose a won game. Instead you should strive to make use of your extra material by using it to attack or create other weaknesses on the board. You want to bring your opponent to his knees and beg you for the exchange.

Black has moved Re2+. The dual purpose move is to defend the g2 pawn and attack the a2 pawn. If white captures the black rook, black Queens the g2 pawn. If he retreats, the a2 pawn is taken.

The next position in the game brings up a very useful theme of placing a piece below that of passed pawn so that if the king captures the piece, the pawn promotes.

We all know that two passed pawns against a lone king can babysit themselves all day long because if the king captures the "lower" pawn, the "higher" pawn will move up the board and promote. This theme also works very well with pieces below the passed pawn. In this position, the king must babysit the g2 pawn while the black king is free to roam the board and mop up pawns so white resigns in this position.

Having a piece in the endgame, en prise below the passed pawn occurs at the highest levels of chess, not just at the amateur level.







To sum up:

(1) A passed pawn is great asset. Do your best to calculate a sequence to promote the pawn. Failing that, use the pawn to create other weaknesses on the board while the opposition is forced to handle the passed pawn. Do not defend the pawn at the expense of weakening your position or losing the initiative when you can recreate another weakness on the board and simplify the position.

(2) Placing a piece below a passed pawn works just as well as protected pass pawns. The position can babysit itself while you look to create havoc elsewhere on the board.

(3) When you are ahead in material, do not fall into the trap of simplifying at the expense of your position. You should use your extra material to gain advantages to the point that your opponent is forced to exchange to relieve his weaknesses.


Very true!  Let's add a bishop to the problem and improve black's postion based on that bishop and see how black can take advange with a more trying postion!

Now granted, a lot of times the bishop or knight would do well in similar positions and black's king has an improved position, but notice how black is able to slowly improve his postion with his king and other pawns while the black king must play babysitter to the g2 pawn.  Only when black can't improve his postion any more, does he release the knight from guard duty.


Is this the best line? Can you give some lines where white attacks the g pawn with the bishop?

Thanks for the posts. I really enjoy studies about the endgame.


The problem with taking the g2 pawn with the bishop (in this position) is that when the full exchange of pieces happens, the king is too far away from the a-file to prevent the black a pawn from Queening. 

The position I set up in the comments section is meant to be a winning position to show how the concept mentioned in the article might work in a even material game.  It is up to the player to decide whether to employ the techique in the position he is playing.  He or she must determine if the techinique is sound by calculating out the moves.   


Joey:  I think it would be a great addition to the post if you can show us one of your advanced games (or maybe a hypothetical position) where you create those types of advantages and/or exploit them.  Thanks for your continued input.