Which area of the game is most important for study?

kindaspongey wrote (~3 hours ago): "In this thread, did anyone advocate that beginners not start with endgames?"
SmyslovFan wrote (~1 hour ago): "... He threw this particular rhetorical question earlier and I pointed out that Yusupov's first chapter is on mating motifs. He then questioned whether Yusupov really meant for the first chapter to be read first!"
kindaspongey wrote (~16 days ago):
SmyslovFan wrote:
kindaspongey wrote:
...... Anyway, in this thread, has anyone said to not teach endgames first?

Actually, you did, in post #8. You probably didn't realize it because you were quoting Artur Yusupov without having read his book. Yusupov's first chapter of his first book is not on endgames, but on Mating Motifs. 

Did Yusupov (or anyone in this thread) say that his order was the only reasonable choice?

("... To make the book entertaining and varied, I have mixed up these different areas, ..." - GM Artur Yusupov)


SmyslovFan wrote:

@kindaspongey is just throwing rhetorical bombs. He doesn't actually expect answers. ...


kindaspongey wrote (~11 days ago):

... About a day ago, someone wrote: "... I have seen discussion about learning end games first ... However, whats the point of knowing that if you never make it to the end game. What about if you don't know much about opening theory and you always get #ed in 10 moves? ..."


My reaction: "In another thread, about three days ago, IM pfren made some comments that sounded sensible to me:

'... I suggest starting from the endgame, because:

1. What you learn is forever.

2. You will learn to calculate accurately- miscalculations are not allowed in the endgame.

3. The fewer the pieces, the easier to form a good stategy. ...'

It sounds very plausible to me that endgames are a good way to start the training of one's mind for chess-style thinking. Also, even if one does little more than blunder around for most of the game, the blundering may sometimes go your way and it can be pretty annoying if one reaches a king-and-rook against king ending without knowing how to finish off the opponent. A fair number of introductory books discuss some endings near the beginning.

That said, a person may well have already started chess study and I see no reason to believe that it was a fatal mistake if one started with something else. No matter what, a lot is likely to go wrong in one's early games. Another thing about beginner books is that many of them try to explain a little bit of everything. If one already has Silman's Complete Endgame Course, it would make sense to do some reading from it in the near future. On the other hand, Silman himself indicated that one need not undertake to read the whole thing right away.

'... if you have just learned to play, all you need to study is the section designed for beginners (Part One). After mastering the material there, put [Silman's Complete Endgame Course] away and spend your time studying tactics and a few strategic concepts, ...' - IM Jeremy Silmam (2007)"


kindaspongey wrote:

... "... in chess, just like in any complex creative practice, there are no universal solutions, no universal rules that work in any situation - because the situations in which chess trainers work vary enormously. ...

... I am skeptical about any attempt to introduce a rigid methodology, rigid rules telling us what to do and how and in what order to do this or that. What should one begin with? Openings or endgames? Should he play open or closed openings, should he concentrate on main lines or 'subsidiary' variations? What is more important: a tactical mastery or a positional one?

Opinions of respected specialists, grandmasters and world champions differ greatly. Some claim that chess is 95% tactics, while others hold that the basis of chess is positional play. We should not take such statements seriously, they are worthless and only disorient people because each one reflects only a single facet of the problem. ... any unambiguous answer like 'we do this or that' will be a wrong one. The truth lies in skillful combination of the opposite approaches, in search for an optimal proportion between them. And this proportion is individual for every particular case. ..." - IM Mark Dvoretsky (~2003)


kindaspongey wrote:

... By the way, what is the rating of Username333? At this point, does it make sense to debate what Username333 should have "done first"?



When you have more tools, you can be more versatile on the board. Think of your chess skills like a tool box. If you only have a hammer, you just fix everything with a hammer. It's not always the best, but it's all you have. End games suck the most to study for most people, either due to perceptions it is boring or difficult, so I am guessing it is very important. I have rarely heard anyone say they just studied the end game for three hours. It's probably the element the weak player is lacking the most. 


About 5 days ago, in another thread,


someone wrote, "Johnathan Hawkins wrote a book published in 2012 titled Amateur to IM. In it he writes that he is convinced a careful study of the endgame sparked his biggest leap forward in rating. ..."

In the book, IM Jonathan Hawkins went on to write:

"Can it really be that the endgame is more important than other phases of the game?

I would say that it is more a question of balance than of one phase being more worthy of our study time than another. Let us sketch the portrait of a modern player to illustrate the typical imbalance:

> ... it is no great task to build up a high-level opening repertoire. Time consuming perhaps, but the path to take is not a difficult one. ...

> Combined with the knowledge of standard schemes in the middlegame - linked to their opening repertoire (which is relatively easy to attain, by playing through master games in the relevant openings) - we have painted the picture of quite a formidable foe.

All of this is perfectly reasonable, and I encourage the reader to spend time doing exactly these things.

We have, however, a clear motivation here for focusing (at least some) of our chess energy on the endgame ..." - Amateur to IM

DeirdreSkye wrote:
dannyhume wrote:
It may be of use to share HOW folks think one should study rather than WHAT one should study. For studying positions in a book, whether tactical, endgame, or strategic: do you go through many of these positions fairly quickly (seeing more patterns and nuances) or do you go slowly and deliberately (working on calculation and analysis)? At what point is going too slowly going to lead to diminishing returns? (For instance, it may not be beneficial to keep someone at a kindergarten math level or have them work on one small music piece until they get everything absolutely perfect). One statement that I have heard someone say that makes sense is: “the eyes see what the brain knows”... a low level player can calculate to their heart’s content or brain’s fatigue, but they still won’t see much.


This whole thing about going through positions fairly quickly is really a huge nonsense. There is no point seeing 10 positions and understand none. It is far better to work hard on one and understand it perfectly.

I said that endgames are good calculating exercise. Here is how you do it.

Let's assume you try to study endgames from Smyslov's book.One of the first positions is the following.


Despite it's simplicity the position must be evaluated first positionaly and tactically. White is clearly better but why?The plus pawn is not the reason , his better king is the reason and the fact that black's rook is stuck on 8th rank guarding the checkmate.The backrank trapped king is an important pattern to understand and it occurs in many forms. In this case it allows white to win by exploiting the fact that rook and king have to stay at the same rank.
 Smyslov gives the following line.
1...Rc8 2.Rb7 Ra8 3.Rg7+ Kf8 4.Rh7! Kg8 5.f7+ and white is winning.
You try to calclulate this line without moving the pieces. Once the line ends you try to see 2 or 3 more moves. Write them down.
Now try to analyse this line.
Black plays 1...Rc8 , does it matter if he plays something else?What else can he play?The rook can't leave the 8th rank so it doesn't really change anything if it moves in any square.This might seem unimportant but understanding what to omit from your calculations is actually very important.Novices often lose time trying to analyse things that they don't need to analyse.In Black's next move again you can omit all Black's options since they don't really change something but in Black's 3 rd move you have a viable alternative. Black can play 3...Kh8. Can you see what happens? Can you demonstrate a win? Write down the moves. Then play the moves on the board and check your solutions.
This is what you must do with any topic you study. Focus on what the author tries to explain , try to understand the moves ,suggest your moves and try to analyse them following the author's explanations and guidelines. Learn to prioritise and omit what is irrelevant.There is no point to analyse the opening choices or positions that are open ended and players could choose anything from a wide variety of moves and plans, you are not an oracle. You must learn to detect the critical positions and the critical decisions(and just evaluating which the critical positions are is already an important skill). 


       This needs constant practice.Many positions but a lot of hard work in each and every one of them.

I would add to this wonderful post that it is useful to drill these ideas once you have gained the understanding, because when you enter an endgame you often won't be in one of the positions you've studied so knowing how to build a bridge in the lucena or cutting off the king from the sixth rank in the philidor won't help if you can't envision how to reach those positions.




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