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Endgame study are always the fun part of chess. As a chess player, you spend all your time studying openings and middle games to get an advantage over your opponent and then, when it comes down to it, they just wind up in basic endgames. But there is no reason to be worried about this! There’s plenty that you can do with some careful study- in this article
- You’ll learn what a simple endgame is
- You will learn why they should be part of your training
- You’ll learn new ways of thinking about chess strategy
- You will learn the best way to learn endgames
- You might even find yourself winning more games!
If you’re just starting out in chess, chess endgame studies might be one of the least interesting parts of the game. However, learning basic chess endings, understanding the typical plans in them and practicing in a practical game, will help you to become a stronger player.
I’ve included some endgame videos at the end of the post too.
The Endgame is Signalled & Starts by Fewer Pieces Left on the Board.
A common endgame is the final phase of the game, where few pieces exist on the board. While it’s difficult to give an exact number, 4 pieces per side(excluding pawns) should be a good indication of the start of basic endings.
In most practical games, endgames involve the following combination of pieces –
- Rook + Bishop and Knight vs Rook + 2 Bishops
- Bishop vs Knights (Minor piece endgame)
- Queen + bishop vs Queen + Knight
- Rook vs bishop + knight (rook vs minor piece endgame)
- Rook vs rook + pawn (rook endgames)
- King and pawn endgames etc
As you play actual games and gain more experience, you will intuitively begin to understand when an endgame has started and the sequence of moves required, whether you are faced with a rook endgame or pawn endings.
Learning How to Play the Endgame Will Improve Your Chess in 3 Ways
Endgame will help you to become a strong player. Here’s what Jose Raul Capablanca, the 3rd World Chess Champion had to say about studying endings –
“In order to improve your game, you must study the endgame before everything else, for whereas the endings can be studied and mastered by themselves, the middle game and the opening must be studied in relation to the endgame.”
You have to be able to identify the quickest route to checkmate in the endgame. The most common flaw of any average chess player is not recognizing the potential for a mate in 2 or 3 moves. Although that is mating pattern recognition which is another area of chess study.
But in any case, Mating, or avoiding mate and forcing stalemate are other parts of the endgame.
Being able to confidently play in the endgame will improve your overall understanding of chess, improve your win rate and increase your rating too!
So let’s take a look in detail at the 3 reasons to Study chess endgames.
1. Endgame Study Helps Advantage Conversion
Imagine you have a material advantage of 2 pawns after you play sublime chess in the opening and middlegame. But for that, your opponent has managed to exchange a lot of pieces and you now have to convert the advantage in the endgame.
Here it becomes important to know how to finish off the game with the right endgame technique.
Fail to do so and your opponent might slip away with half a point or even turn the tables to beat you.
Identifying your advantage and being able to convert it with the material advantage you hold, is simply a matter of continuing the pressure on your opponent, not losing tempo, and keeping an eye out for any tricks they may have up their sleeve.
2. Endgame Study Reduces Dependability on Opening and Middlegame Phases
At the beginner level, a lot of players spend time memorizing their openings and solve tons of tactics.
As a result, these players become overly reliant on opening traps and middlegame tactics.
Often beginners will have played a superb opening and attacking middlegame to enter the endgame with huge material advantage and little need for caution.
However, what happens when the opening and middle game has not been so hot, now you can not depend on how those phases were played and have to excel at the end game.
Therefore in order to reduce the dependability on openings and middlegame, you should study endgames so that you are prepared for entering with your back against the wall.
3. Endgame Study Improves your chess understanding
Endgames are rich in possibilities despite there being a limited number of pieces on the board.
Some endings like the king and pawn, often look so simple but finding the best continuation is as tough as finding a needle in a haystack.
It requires one to calculate and know the underlying concept. Miss either of them and it’s very difficult to find the best continuation.
Practical endgames require deep strategy, calculation and sometimes even a cunning psychological ploy! All of this exposes your mind to the rich elements of the game. This improves your chess understanding.
Studying Endgames Should be a Part of Learning Chess as a Beginner
It is important for those just learning chess and improving their tactical knowledge to be acquainted with endgame theory, and study some basic principles.
Whilst there are centuries of theoretical writing on the subject, you should start out with some of the basic elements.
Checkmating with a single queen.
To checkmate with a single queen, the enemy king must be forced to the edge of the board. In support of the queen, your King assists in blocking escape routes as the queen moves in for checkmate.
Understanding how to use both pieces together in what looks a huge board, you will b able to quickly back the enemy king into an inescapable position.
Checkmating with a single rook.
Creating a checkmate with just King and Rook against a King is more complex than with a Queen as the enemy king can attack the rook in away they can’t a queen. The King and Rook need to work closely together once again to trap the enemy king. Watch out for stalemate here
Knowing basic king and pawn endgames like opposition
King and pawn endgames can be very entertaining as one side looks to promote the pawn to a more powerful piece. Most often a queen.
When in this position, the key element is whether the remaining pawn can reach the 8th rank without being caught by the enemy king.
Having a solid grasp of the above-mentioned topics will help in converting a huge material advantage into victory or knowing when to resign in chess.
When it comes to learning endgame strategy, new chess players must be familiar with the basic principles. It includes king centralization, activating pieces in the endgame, finding weak pawns and targeting them etc.
However, spending too much time studying advanced endgames like how to win with 2 bishops against a knight and king, how to play in opposite-colored bishop endgames etc isn’t recommended at this level. That’s because a lot of beginner games won’t go till the ending, where these advanced concepts will be applicable.
Studying Masters Endgames is the Best Way to Learn
One of the most important ways to study endgames is by studying the games of World champions who were good at it. This includes studying the games of Jose Raul Capablanca, Anatoly Karpov, Mikhail Botvinnik, Vladimir Kramnik etc.
Yes, you can also study games of the World Champion Magnus Carlsen, but they might be a little advanced at the beginner level. The guy is not of this world when it comes to chess.
Another tip is to solve a lot of positions from endgame books, like the Dvoretsky Endgame Manual on Amazon. It’s a huge book, but it’s considered a must read for any chess player who wants to develop their theoretical endgame knowledge.
At the top level, where opening preparation is similar and middlegames are evenly fought, players look to gain a small advantage in the endgame and try to convert it into victory.
They not only know the strategies and plans in the final phase of the game, but they also know the most important theoretical endings by heart.
To accumulate all this massive knowledge it took them time and years. Most of them started when they were beginners which helped them improve their chess understanding.
I hope through this article, you were able to understand what an endgame is, why you should study it and what is the best way to learn it.
Contrary to popular opinion, endgames are an intriguing part of the game.
For a lot of world champions, it was this phase of the game they were attracted to the most. Don’t neglect this part of the game as its richness will help you understand chess much better.