Friday, December 19, 2008

Why Study the Endgame? III

... when there's so much of it

I'm sure we've all picked up a textbook and promised ourselves we'll rigorously work our way through it, and packed it in after three or four diagrams....
So said, EJH in the comments box to the most recent post in this series. True that, I thought when I read it. True for me anyway.

A couple of days ago in the comments to a completely different post Will made reference to the GM Ram. If we took that book's concept of essential positions, but switched in our own objective of accumulating the endgame knowledge a chess amateur with limited study time might reasonably be expected to acquire, where would we be?

I suppose it must be worth knowing that (and why) White wins this ...

but that this is only a draw (ditto) ...

but what else is there?

OK, this is really just a 'how long is a piece of string?' question. I know it all depends on your definition of 'chess amateur', 'limited study time' and 'reasonably be expected to acquire' ... but what is your answer? That's what I want to know.

As ever, all contributions to the comments box gratefully received.

Why Study the Endgame?

... when you never get one

... a puzzle


Will said...

GM ram has quite a few endgames positions and the author advocates spending alot of time analysing for both sides. I guess the point is not to re-create the position during a game but to see how to win (or draw) a similar position.

The diagram you give is won by Nimzo's bridge building technique and I believe is in My System, here it is technique that is important.

Further linking this to the post about the chessbase article, sitting analysing these positions (the Kotov method as the author called it) is supposed to train different facets of chess at once. Compared to sitting trying aborb an endgame tome this seems a less painful way of learning about the endgame to me.

Indeed I seem to generally remember positions that I have played far better than those from books.

ejh said...

God yes. Particularly if you play them through again after the game. Playing endgmaes in correspondence chess also teaches you an awful lot.

ejh said...


but that this is only a draw (ditto)...

It is, but are you confident that you could draw it under pressure in a crucial game with a quickplay finish?

Because that's when you're going to need that knowledge.

Dan S. said...

My main problem with studying the endgame is that I forget most of it within months.

The two positions you provide are pretty much the only rook ending knowledge I have retained. There's also something with keeping the opposing king on f7 and g7 when you're trying queen your a-pawn that I could probably reconstruct given five minutes, but not in a blitz finish.

By the way, neither technique has actually come up in one of my tournament games, although it has come in handy when spectating adjacent boards.

Anonymous said...

I had pretty much the second diagram against Peter Large in a George Goodwin QP many years ago with a couple of minutes on my clock. Despite being graded 200 I didn't know it and deservedly lost.


ejh said...

Mmm. It's not so easy, is it? Unless you're sure.

Is Angus reading? I'm sure (though not sure) I remember him showing me how to draw it after having it in a Czech tournament nearly three years ago.

Anonymous said...

Bridge technique is much older than Nimzo. Attributed to Lucena but apparently not in his book of 1497.

Anonymous said...

Pretty comprehensiv coverage of both here, explaining what to avoid in the 2nd position (Philidors):

Jonathan B said...

but what else do we need to know? Any offers?

Well know and remember - as Dan points out.

Jonathan B said...


but are you confident that you could draw it under pressure in a crucial game with a quickplay finish?

If I had the move - absolutely. If not, then I'd be less confident.

Anonymous said...

Justin, Yes, I remember having the Philidor ending at the Czech tournament. I just about knew what to do.

In answer to Jonathan's question: What else needs to be known? Well, off the top of my head and to get things going, here's some basic endings it's useful to have knowledge of:
- one or two pieces against a bare king
- key squares, corresponding squares, the opposition and triangulation in pawn endings
- queen vs. pawn on the 7th
- bishops of same colour with pawns
- bishops of opposite colours with pawns
- bishop + pawns vs. knight + pawns
- rook and pawn (general principles).

I'm sure there's lots more.


ejh said...

Incidentally, I may have mentioned this before but I've had a number of games in my lfie where players ranked a little below 150, in defensible positions, have deliberately exchanged off into endings that turn out to be completely lost because they had a bad bishop.

I'm not talking about juniors: I'm talking about experienced players who must have known for most of their lives that you don't really want a bad bishop but have nevertheless deliberately chosen to play that ending, because they thought that their bishop would defend the pawns.

What I'm saying is, there's no point knowing the basic principles if you play as if they didn't exist when it come sdown to it!

(Note: I do of course understand that you can sometimes hold an ending with a bad bishop and I've occasionally chosen to do so or to try to do so myself if it's been the best option available or if I've looked at the position and said yes, I know it's worse but the opponent cannot break through. But I'm not talking about that, on the whole. I'm talking about playing as if you'd never heard the idea.)