Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Finding my way

Finding my way in the endgame jungle takes me an enormous amount of time.
To give an example: previous year it took me 6 weeks to find out where to start.
I would expect there were lots of books out there that could help me to cut down on this time consuming process. A book that saves me 6 weeks research by just telling me where to start and why.
But I haven't found any appropriate books yet.
SOPE is a good reference work, but it does little to cut down on the efforts.

Especially the habit to treat the exceptions without giving the general principles is wide spread among endgame authors. In such cases I have to work my way back.
First I have to realize that the given example is an exception.
Then I have to analyze it. After that I have to generalize it. Then I can formulate the general idea behind it, often only to find something trivial that could be explained to me in a few well chosen sentences.
This process costs me days, every time again.
Take for instance the pathetic case in the following diagram:

diagram 1

White to move
If it is for showing the beauty of endgame compositions it is great of course.
But to use it in a book that is supposed to learn me the basics of pawn endgames it is simply bizar. It took me hours to solve, and another few hours to find out that I'm not going to get this on the board within a lifetime.
I just don't get the stupidity of the authors to waste my time with such nonsensical cases.
You can compare it with struggling to learn the basics of arithmatic and that they throw in a few integral equations "to show you the beauty of mathematics."
BTW to save your time the answer is 1. Kg7!!@#$%

Because I have no feeling for endgames, I have to investigate everything.
Only after this research I can say if it was worth the effort.
In most of the cases it is not.
But I'm obliged to continue the research, because no author tells me the shortcuts.

Other authors only tell me possible shortcuts, like the Lucena position for instance, without relating it to the whole. So I learn tids and bits without a relating framework. Hence I cannot tell if it is important what they are trying to tell me.
With a big chance to learn something I will probably not use within a lifetime.
Like K+B+N vs K for instance.

To find the right direction I have read a lot of books the past year. To very little avail.

John Watson - Secrets of modern chess strategy.
I don't know what is secret about a written book. He makes a painstaking effort to proof that in modern chess general rules often are broken in specific positions by mere calculation. It's a good book, it doesn't improve my chess though.

John Nunn - Understanding chess move by move.
I don't see a way to apply the things I learn here in my own games. It's a good book, it doesn't improve my chess though.

Yasser Seirawan - Winning chess strategies. Most positional subjects he treats are already common knowledge. He has a few interesting chapters on pawn play, which I already incorporated in my play. Improved my chess a little indeed.

Max Euwe - Theoretical and practical endgames. Makes all the errors of endgame books I allready mentioned. I use it as reference. Sort of.

John Nunn - Secrets of rook endings. Excellent reference work. But a lot has to be done before it helps my endgame play. And I mean a lot.

Alexander Kotov - Think like a grandmaster. Good that someone tries to write from a different angle.
It's a good book, it doesn't improve my chess though.

Baburin - winning pawn structures. I haven't formed an opinion yet.

Capablanca - Chess fundamentals. I read only a few pages, but I'm already enthousiast. Finally someone who separates the important from the irrelevant!
I had read a lot ABOUT him, and based on that I actually had drawn the conclusion that he was of no use to me.
Wrong! He has a very comprehensible way of writing. And I look forward to read more from him. I wouldn't be surprised if it would boost my chess.


Titel of chapter
Chapter 1Kp vs K4
Chapter 2Kp vs Kp4
Chapter 3Race of the passed pawns
Chapter 4
Small number of pawns
Chapter 5
Unique features rook's pawn
Chapter 6
Fortresses, stalemates, underpromotion

I'm busy with chapter 4 from SOPE now.


  1. Have you looked at Grandmaster Secrets: Endings by Andrew Soltis? I really liked it, specifically because it gives you the basics that you will need to know over the board and ignores the rest. I thought it gave me a pretty good understanding of the basics of endgame planning.

  2. Tempo, Sorry to crosspost, but is Sifr Howling Belly returning? Drop me a line.

  3. I can't stand it when introductory books focus more on exceptions than the general principles.

  4. Jeremy Silman is about to put out an endgame book as well.

  5. a great book, difficult to find is
    Pawn endings by Y.Averbakh and I maizelis.For the record I have it.

    Tempo you took already a combined problem which is more difficult to understand. Play the proposed sequence through the computer and look to the possible defences. Soon you will understand why what. For the record 1Kf7 is also a win.

  6. Montse, 1.Kf7 is not correct:
    1.Kf7 Kd5 and surprisingly a reciprocal zugzwang arises.

  7. Tempo,

    Fritz cannot stop the winning steps.
    1.Kg7 [1.Kf7 Kd5 2.Kf6 c5 3.Ke7 c4 4.Kd7 Ke5 5.Kc6 Ke4 6.Kc5 and Fritz resigns] 1...Kd5 2.Kf6 c5 3.Ke7 Ke5 4.Kd7 Kd5 5.Kc7 c4 6.Kb6 Kd6 7.Kb5 Kd5 8.e4+ Kxe4 9.Kxc4 1–0

    the idea is to bring the King to the b-file and attack the blacks c-pawn from behind. You do this by creating a new threat the support of the passed pawn on the e-file.If he goes directly after C-pawn he will loose the pawn race coz his king is blocking the path.

    Can you show why Kf7 is wrong? According to my reasoning only Kf6 is crucial for Kf7 and Kg7. Ke7 is a draw coz you give black extra tempos.

    And if Kf7 is bad then Fritz @###§!!

  8. Monste,
    1.Kf7? Kd5
    2.Kf6 Kc4!
    [3.Ke6 Kxc3 4.Kd5 Kb4=]
    3.e4 Kxc3
    4.e5 c5
    5.e6 c4
    6.e7 Kd2
    7.e8Q c3=
    So Fritz @#$% indeed.
    The point is that endgame knowledge is not very well incorporated in chess engines. Most (all?) engines fail on this one.
    The bishop's pawn is drawish when the opposite king is still far away.
    The engines just don't look that far ahead.

  9. can you show me the winning sequence? I am baffled.


  10. Winning sequence:
    1.Kg7 Kd5 2.Kf7 taking diagonal opposition
    2. ... Kd6
    [2. ... Kc4 3.e4 Kxc3 4.e5 c5 5.e6
    c4 6.e7 Kd2 7.e8=Q c3 8.Qd8+ Kc1 9.Qg5+ {This check is
    possible now since the white king isn't on f6} Kb1 10.Qg1+ Kb2 11.Qd4 Kb3 12.Ke6 c2 13.Qa1 +-]

    3.Kf6 Kd5 4.Kf5 Kd6 5.c4 Ke7 6.c5 Kf7 7.Ke5 Ke7 8.Kd5 Kd7 9.e3 c6+ 10.Ke5 Ke7 11.e4 Kd7 12.Kf6 Kd8 13.Kf7 Kc7 14.e5 +-
    You see what a nonsense it is to bother a novice with this stuff (how beautiful it may be)