Endgame technique - it's in the book

0 | Chess Event Coverage
Endgame technique - let's leave that to the grandmasters. Well... After Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual, new top level excercise material is now available. A review of Gambit's latest: How to Play Chess Endgames.

As I wrote before, there's no doubt that endings can be quite fun. Perhaps even more fun than openings. Still, books on openings will always be sold better than those on endings. Perhaps that's why at ChessVibes we don't pay too much attention to the many opening books, CDs and DVDs that appear every month: the don't really need the attention. But when a nice, thick and high-level book on endings is published, we simply have to mention it!

One of the recent books of the British publisher Gambit is How to Play Chess Endgames, written by Karsten M?ɬºller and Wolfgang Pajeken. GM M?ɬºller is currently one of the biggest endgame experts and co-author of the standard work Fundamental Chess Endings. FM Pajeken is a well-known figure in the German chess scene, as a trainer, organiser and arbiter.

A clear plus point, especially compared to opening books, is that in this case the title does cover its contents. Reading fully studying How to Play Endgames will really learn you how to play endings. This becomes clear after listing a few of the themes in the book: activity, cutting off the king, barriers, the bodycheck, the R?ɬ©ti manoeuvre, (distant) passed pawn, breakthrough, don't hurry, prophylax, Zugzwang, exchanging the right piece, liquidation, thinking in schemes, (two) weaknesses, initative, bishop pair, fortress, domination, and transforming one advantage into another. Note that this is less than half of what the book is about!

My first reaction, when I first glanced at the contents, was something like "I've seen all this somewhere else". For example, I recognized many terms from Shereshevsky's Endgame Strategy (like "don't rush" or the "theory of the two weaknesses") and also several well-known theoretical positions from standard works (M?ɬºller/Lamprecht, Dvoretsky). But a less superficial look made clear that M?ɬºller and Pajeken are treating much more. They also pay attention to the more practical aspect of playing endings, under headers such as "defend actively", "fight to the death", "trusting the opponent" and "play for the gallery".

Two strong aspects of How to Play Endgames can be identified:

1) everything that is closely related to endgame technique, can be found in one book; 2) everything is illustrated by a high number of recent examples.

The book is full of games from the last fifteen years. Of course, also classical examples are used to explain certain concepts (Capablanca-Tartakower, New York 1924 to illustrate activity, Fischer-Petrosian, Buenos Aires 1971 to prove that it's more important what is left on the board, not what disappears) but the authors have managed to collect many recent examples to explain certain principles clear or more clear.

It's also important to mention that every part (theme) is finished with a number of exercises. This way, it's very suitable for training material and/or self study.

I haven't really succeeded in finding important flaws or weaknesses in the book. Again, you have to accept that a number of positions (say, 15 to 20%) can be found in previous publications. But the consuming market is changing all the time of course, and there will be enough chess players who don't possess all these books. Players who've finally decided to change their lifes, and want to start investing time and mony in endgames, can safely buy How to Play Endgames (and won't need much else in the near future).

To finish with, an example from the book that made a strong impression on me. The concept of initiative is difficult to describe and can be illustrated more easily with examples. After you've seen the following game, you will understand it a bit more how Kramnik so often manages to win those slightly better endings.

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