List of endgame principles

Louis-Holtzhausen

 

The main chess endgame principles:

  1. Get your king close to the action – ideally in front of your own pawns.
  2. Cut the enemy king off from the action when you can.
  3. Rooks should be placed behind passed pawns – your pawns or your opponent’s pawns.
  4. Advance your good pawns to increase your chances of creating a passed pawn.
  5. Attack your opponents weak pawns to force your opponent’s pieces into defensive positions.
  6. Place your pieces on squares where they restrict the mobility of your opponents pieces.
  7. If you have a material advantage, it is good to exchange pieces but keep pawns. Exchanging pawns increases your opponent’s drawing chances. The less pieces there are on the board, the more important the pawns become.
  8. If you have an advantage, you should leave pawns on both sides of the board so that your opponent will be forced to defend on both sides of the board.
  9. If you have one bishop, put your pawns on the opposite colour squares – this way you can control squares with your pawns which the bishop can’t control.
  10. The bishop pair (two bishops) are usually very powerful in the endgame, possibly worth at least an extra pawn.
  11. The best piece to block a pawn with is a knight. This is because the knight also attacks the squares from where other pawns can protect the blocked pawn.
  12. Passed pawns should be pushed forward and supported by all your pieces. Remember – promoting a pawn can often be as good as checkmate since you will be able to force a win with a new queen.
  13. Passed pawns on the edge of the board is a key advantage since you can use it to distract your opponent’s pieces (or king) away from other targets.
  14. A bishop is usually slightly better than a knight when the action is on both sides of the board. However, when the pawns are only on one side of the board, the knight can be more useful since it can reach both the light and dark squares.
  15. Bishops on opposite colour squares tends to often lead to a draw even when one player has an extra pawn or two.
  16. Create threats on both sides of the board. This may cause your opponent’s pieces to become overloaded with defensive tasks and give you an opportunity to promote a pawn by a tactical combination.

 

AndyClifton

Mostly true (some of them are not always true).

Louis-Holtzhausen

Well yes, principles are not always true - only most of the time.

But like some guy said - you have to understand the principles before you can know when to break them

virtualsight
Louis-Holtzhausen a écrit :

Well yes, principles are not always true - only most of the time.

But like some guy said - you have to understand the principles before you can know when to break them

Viktor Korchnoi is the one.

kellypk417

I am not the best endgame player, so this was informative to me, thank you!

ozzie_c_cobblepot

It's always good to review this type of thing.

Saadstroke

I found rooks significant in the endgame. Many a times, I successfully checkmated the opponent king with two rooks.

pbfft-boz

Thanks for the informative post!

Piperose

From the list (1st post)

(11) Isn't the Bishop better at this? Could some elaborate more on this, please.

Sqod
Piperose wrote:

From the list (1st post)

(11) Isn't the Bishop better at this? Could some elaborate more on this, please.

 

No, the knight is the standard / Nimzovich / "My System" blockader, for the reasons mentioned.

This is a fairly good list, in my opinion. 

My main complaint is (9), but maybe that's because the openings I play tend to defy this guideline. I'm always winning endgames against the computer when the computer leaves its pawns on a color its bishop can't defend, especially where there are opposite-colored bishops.

There are more heuristics about opposite-colored bishops that are very good, found in the book "Amateur to IM" (Hawkins)--that could be included here, by the way.

Actually I wonder if endgame *tricks* are more important than endgame *heuristics*. That was my main impression from "Pandolfini's Endgame Course", where the key to each position typically wasn't a heuristic but rather a common endgame trick. I've never seen a list of endgame tricks, but that would be at least as useful as a list of endgame heuristics.

 

TwoMove

(9) is a principal that Capablanca liked and applied in his endgames. Opposite -coloured bishops endgames are the main exception. As Hawkins explained in dropping the anchor chapter, there the weaker side arranges pawns in way can be defended by bishop, and sits king in front of passed pawn.

Piperose
Sqod wrote:
Piperose wrote:

From the list (1st post)

(11) Isn't the Bishop better at this? Could some elaborate more on this, please.

 

No, the knight is the standard / Nimzovich / "My System" blockader, for the reasons mentioned.

This is a fairly good list, in my opinion. 

My main complaint is (9), but maybe that's because the openings I play tend to defy this guideline. I'm always winning endgames against the computer when the computer leaves its pawns on a color its bishop can't defend, especially where there are opposite-colored bishops.

There are more heuristics about opposite-colored bishops that are very good, found in the book "Amateur to IM" (Hawkins)--that could be included here, by the way.

Actually I wonder if endgame *tricks* are more important than endgame *heuristics*. That was my main impression from "Pandolfini's Endgame Course", where the key to each position typically wasn't a heuristic but rather a common endgame trick. I've never seen a list of endgame tricks, but that would be at least as useful as a list of endgame heuristics.

 

Thanks Sqod, I'll have a look at the book.

Sqod

A few more endgame heuristics are:

() A rook pawn is more difficult to use to win than any other pawn, if the opponent's king can get in front of it. Usually that situation ends in a draw, especially a stalemate.

() Oftentimes a pawn cannot promote, or promote safely, unless a friendly bishop covers its promotion square.

() In a R-P ending where you have a decoy pawn and where there are balanced pawns on the other flank, winning the position usually depends on how much damage you can do to the larger pawn structure before the kings march over to contest the decoy pawn.

() Try to use a bishop as an anchor to hold a draw in a bishop-pawn ending where you are down in material or position.

Below is what Hawkins has to say about opposite-colored bishops and The Anchor. I really like his book.

----------

(p. 131)
Lesson 8
Dropping Down the Anchor

Lesson Aims

> Understand the nature and psychology of opposite-colored bishop end-
games.

> Master the concept of the anchor.

> Be able to recognize situations where an anchor isn't possible.

> Understand the themes of Zugzwang and sacrifice, and why they can be effec-
tive in this class of endgame.

Counterplay, anyone?

One feature of oppposite-colored
bishop endgames is that generally the
players have their roles well defined: one
plays the attacker, the other plays the de-
fender. The attacker tries to promote his
passed pawns, or at least use them to de-
cisively win material. The defender tries
to blockade and create a situation where
progress is impossible. Sometimes there
will be no attacker or defender, when the
position and material is roughly equal,
but these cases are simple draws and un-
interesting to us.
The fair fight, with both sides push-
ing pawns and using their kings in an ag-
gressive role, is a rarity. These endgames
are not to do with sharp fights and prac-
tical chances, they are to do with much
more concrete matters: can the passed
pawn be supported? Can the king infil-
trate? And, of course, whether the posi-
tion is winning or drawing.
Intuitively, the idea of counterplay
is attractive; indeed, in many positions
seeking counterplay and avoiding pas-
sivity is a standard measure. Opposite-
colored bishop endgames work in a dif-
ferent way. For instance, consider this
position:
(p. 132)
Hammer - Deszczynski,
Najdorf Memorial
Warsaw, 2010

8/2b5/8/5p2/2B3k1/P2K4/1P6/8 w - -

White to play

Black's 'counterplay' only serves to
misplace his king rather badly, and cre-
ates a lost position for him. Even in the
best-case scenario, in which Black wins
White's bishop for his f-pawn, Black's
king will remain well out of the action. The
result will be a contest between White's
king and two pawns (which by this stage
will be well advanced) and Black's bishop
--a battle which the bishop cannot hope
to win. Black would gladly jettison his f-
pawn to bring his king to a purely defen-
sive position on the queenside.

(p. 133)
Drawing scenario--The anchor

The only way to make a draw without
the need for any calculation (or worry) is
to reach a situation where the defending
king blockades the passed pawns, and the
defending bishop is able to anchor the re-
mainder of the position. The role of the
anchor is to prevent any breakthrough
resulting in additional passed pawns.

Take the following example:

Halkias - Williams,
Reykjavik Open, 2011

8/3bP3/3k2p1/KP3p1p/5P1B/7P/4p1P1/8 b - -

Black to play

In this position, after a long defense,
Black finally had the opportunity to
simplify the position by exchanging e-
pawns.

1...e1=B+!?

1...e1=Q+ would also have sufficed!
(p. 134)
Black correctly releases the e-pawn
to reduce White to a single passed pawn.
As we have just seen, using the e2-pawn
for counterplay would be misguided as a
king march to support this pawn would
allow White to win very easily.

2. Bxd1 Kxe7

3. Ka6 Kd8

4. Kb6

4. Bc3 Kc8 5. Be5 trying to hinder
the black king is possible, but the king is
already where it needs to be on c8. Black
can transfer the bishop to the h1-a8 di-
agonal and both king and bishop control
the square b7.

4...Kc8

5. Bc3 Be6

6. Kc6

2k5/8/2K1b1p1/1P3p1p/5P2/2B4P/6P1/8 b - -

Preventing the black bishop from
occupying the h1-a8 diagonal imme-
diately, but the bishop finds another
route...

6...Bc4

7. b6 Ba6

8. Kd6 Bb7

Black does not intend to blockade
the white b-pawn with his bishop, but
rather to force the white kingside pawns
to move to create an anchor square on
g4 for the bishop.

9. g3 Bg2

10. h4

2k5/8/1P1K2p1/5p1p/5P1P/2B3P1/6b1/8 b - -

Now the draw is clear. The black
bishop will anchor the kingside from g4
and the black king will blockade the b-
pawn from b7.

10...Kb7

11. Bd4 Bf3

12. Ke6 Bg4

13. Kf6 Kc6

14. Kxg6 Kb7
(p. 135)
8/1k6/1P4K1/5p1p/3B1PbP/6P1/8/8 w - -

The position is a dead draw as the
Bg4 prevents the creation of a second
passed pawn.

When an anchor isn't an anchor

In the next two games we will see two
scenarios where what appears to be an
anchor turns out to be a leaky fortress.

Hidden breakthrough

The bishop must prevent any break-
through on the side of the board it is an-
choring.

Miralles - Prie
French Championship
Schiltigheim, 1982

8/2Pk4/8/8/4pB2/4P1Kp/5PbP/8 w - -

White to play

Here we have what appears to be the
same situation as before. The black king
halts the passer on c7, and the black
bishop anchors the kingside.

Without the f2-pawn, the draw would
be unquestionable, but its presence al-
lows the surprising resource:

72. f3!

The only possible way to change the
position, but an effective one.

72...exf3

On 72...Bxf3 there comes 73. Kxh3
and White obtains a passed h-pawn. This
would win very easily as White would sim-
ply send the king to g5 and then march
the h-pawn forward. The best defense is
72...Bf1, which we will examine in the
notes at the end of the chapter since it
has some interesting points.

73. Kf2! Kc8

74. e4

Winning--with a specific plan of
keeping the Bg2 trapped. Playing in a
normal way with 74. Bg3 followed by
advancing the king would allow Black
the pawn sacrifice f3-f2 to release his
bishop and play would then be similar to
that resulting from 72...Bf1.

74...Kd7

And now the simplest win seems to
be 75. Bd6 followed by pushing the e-
(p. 136)
pawn to e8, although in the game White
played 75. Bg3.

2x1x3/2Pk4/3B4/8/4P3/5p1p/5Kbp/8 w - -

Any defense other than the rock solid
anchor defense and things become much
less reliable. Calculation and knowledge
of motifs are essential and often even the
best players in the world get it wrong. I
considered trying to categorize these
methods but I decided it is easier to un-
derstand by analyzing examples to see
the typical paterns and practice making
the calculations.

Hawkins, Jonathan. 2012. Amateur to IM: Proven Ideas and Training Methods. New Highlands, MA: Mongoose Press.

SeniorPatzer

Thanks Louis for compiling and writing these principles. 

TwoMove

I really like Hawkins book too, so far only chapter not particularly enjoyed was one on Carlsbad structure. That was maybe because had information he supplied from other places.

yureesystem

Interesting list.

Jenot

(9) this is indeed often true: place your pawns on the opposite color of your bishop.

Often, but not always. 9 is often good in endgames with bishops of the same color. (principle of "good bishop/bad bishop like in the middlegame). With opposite colored bishops you might have to play differently.

The_next_champion

All are golden rules if u understand.. themm..

DogOnTheRoad
Louis-Holtzhausen wrote:

Well yes, principles are not always true - only most of the time.

But like some guy said - you have to understand the principles before you can know when to break them

My regards for this.