Tuesday, September 22, 2009

End game Study

Just some PatzerSo you're old faithful pal, The Weak Square, has decided to embark on a year long chess endgame study. I am not moving to some Buddhist convent to search for the deeper meaning of life in the form of the chess end game. Although if Mr. Weak Square's boss keeps pissing him off that is a possibility.

No, what I intend is to spend a year take the end game more seriously through methodical patient study.

"In order to improve your game, you must study the endgame before everything else, for whereas the the endings can be studied and mastered by themselves, the middle game and the opening must be studied in relation to the endgame." -Capablanca

Now, the guy who said that was just some patzer from Cuba. He probably didn't know a thing about endgames. Nonetheless, it seems like a reasonable philosophy. Fact: most people suck at end games. I don't just mean like "oh I'm not real good at end games" kind of suck. I mean most people suck at end games the way Kanye West sucks at life. The way Monica Lewinski sucks at well... I'm sure she's a bad end game player too. Hey don't get offended! I'm included in this list too. Honestly. I'm terrible at end games. You think I'm kidding? I put this position in the computer the other day to try to practice the winning side of it.

White to move and find a way to get himself checkmated in 2. I dare you to try to solve this. How can white POSSIBLY walk right into a mate in 2? Well I promise you that I managed to find the "correct" continuation to solve this problem. (1. Rb5+ Kf4 2. Kh3 Rh1#)

So as you can see, my end game study is off to somewhat of a rocky start. Mated in 2 while I'm two pawns up. Brilliant.

Just in my own short chess career I have learned a simple truth about end games. End game techniques do not equate to end game skill. What I mean to say is even when I was rated 1200 and just started playing in the club I could tell you exactly what opposition was, how to win a with a King and pawn versus a King. In one of my first games as a club member I won with a queen versus an enemy pawn on the 7th rank because I knew the end game technique. What does that mean? Nothing. I was still a terrible end game player (and still am). The point is if I may use an analogy; knowing how to drive a nail with a hammer is far better than not knowing. However, just because you know the technique for driving a nail in a hammer does not make you an effective carpenter. It merely puts you closer to being a carpenter. Or in other words, one could never be a carpenter without first knowing how to drive a nail into wood. Many end game books teach you the tools you will first need. I foolishly believed once I mastered several of those tools I was automatically an awesome end game player. FALSE.

To close out this article a little anecdote. A year ago I would typically walk around with my chest puffed out talking about how great I was at the end game because I know how to play the Philidor position. At the state championship last year I haphazardly went straight into a Rook and pawn end game against this guy because I felt like I could beat my opponent in an end game. I lost, in retrospect, after making several horrible blunders late. I was showing the game a few months later to our state champion and my friend Philipp Lamby. He was giving me his thoughts on the game in our skittles room at chess club. Before the end of the game several people had gathered around to listen to his analysis of the game. Towards the end, after I had thrown away an advantage with 3 pawns for each side left on the board. Philipp calmly said, "yeah you threw away the advantage but at least this is still a draw." Then I reached up and said, "yeah but then I made this move."

Philipp threw his hands up on his forehead and in his distinguishable German accent said, "Oh man! Do you have any end game books at home?" The entire room started roaring in laughter. Poetic justice I suppose. Pride cometh before the fall as they say. In addition to my regular contributions to this blog I will keep the readers astutely updated on my end game progress.



  1. This should be very interesting to follow! Please give a review of books or software as you finish them. Anyone else have any recommendations? Look forward to your follow ups!

  2. Bobby, I asked Alexandra Kosteniuk the best endgame books for a class player to become a serious endgame player and she recommended "100 End games you must know" by Jesus da Villa and "Dvortskey's End game manual."