Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Finally le finale

The post with chess maxims is added to my sidebar.

Sometime ago I have dabbled around for 6 months with daily study of the endgame. I always had the feeling that it was not effective what I did. I had no overview over the area. The books I studied could only help me with the details of the study, but none of them gave an overview over the whole area. To work your way bottom up to a topdown overview isn't easy at all in such vast area. I'm not blessed with an innate feeling for the endgame. Or as I use to say it "I must have a great feeling for the endgame since I make always the wrong move, while statistically I should make a good move every now and then."

If you have no overview, you don't know what is important and what not. So you buy a book in good fate that the author will lead you by hand. Not.
The most endgame books are a mixture between a reference work and a book with endgame compositions. And they don't tell you at which moment they are what.

Working your way thru a reference work is like reading an encyclopedia. You never reach the "Z". And most things you read you will never encounter in real life.
For the compositions part: compositions are meant to show you the beauty of the game. To add them in a study book is as weird as adding differential equations to a mathbook about adding and subtracting. Without telling you that it are differential equations.

If I spill my time, I like to do that on my own initiative. If I do 70,000 problems at CTS, I know beforehand that I probably spill my time. But since it is an area that is not trotten by anyone before, I can accept that. Because afterwards I can exclude a whole bunch of speculative theories. That is what makes it worthwhile.
But when my time is spilled by the author of an endgame book, I'm not so forgiving. To make it quite clear: it generally aren't bad books. But the lack of pedagogic insight of the authors make them a spill of time and money for the endgame novice.

And so I abandoned the study of the endgame a few months ago.
The details I learned in that 6 months are probably forgotten. Since I couldn't give it a place in an overall framework. My games show an enormous gap between play and what I have studied. When pondering about my preparation for my next tournament over 3 weeks, I realized that I had to fill that gap though. One way or another.

So I decided to think for myself. Hence I gathered all the endgame maxims I could find, in order to blend them together and to distill a strategy out of it. In doing so I flipped thru the pages of my 16 endgame books. And so I stumbled on the interesting book of Shereshevsky, "Endgame Strategy". I have never read it before but the introduction seems to indicate that it might be what I'm looking for. Here are a few words from the introduction:

"In 1976 I happened to be the second of IM Mark Dvoretsky during the USSR Championship 1st league in Minsk. Dvoretsky adjourned his game with grandmaster Taimanov in a superior position. In one of the lines of analysis a rook ending with f- and h-pawns was reached. Dvoretsky referred to a book on rook endings, and began studying the appropriate chapter. I was surprised: after all, Dvoretsky is a great expert on the endgame. To my question he replied that he knew the basic principles of playing such endings, but did not even attempt to remember lenghty concrete analyses. Later during the tournament we frequently discussed the question of how to study the endgame. Dvoretsky considers it essential to know the classics, to analyze complicated practical rather than theoretical endings, and to find general rules and principles of play in complex endings. And in theoretical endings it is sufficient to know whether the ending is won or drawn, and to have a rough impression of the plan of play."

I'm going to read the book and let you know if it fulfills its promise.

My visualisation exercises are going well. I see about 70% of the board before my minds eye. What is most important, it is light and stable. Which means it doesn't fade away overtime. Maybe visualisation skills can play a role in calculating long variations in endgame play. That would be nice.


  1. "And so I stumbled on the interesting book of Shereshevsky, "Endgame Strategy". I have never read it before but the introduction seems to indicate that it might be what I'm looking for." I hate to admit that I often stumble on chess books in my library that I never read and am surprised with the helpful info I see there. I am interested in what you find in this book.

    I think it must be difficult to write an endgame book that speaks to basic principles because there are position specific principles often depending on which file the pawns are on and which pieces are in play. I have Purdy's on the endgame which lists 47 rules of the endgame. Do you have this? It is a really a collection of his magazine articles assembled after his death. Some of these rules are somewhat trite Rule 32: Pawn a queen if you can. Some are less obvious: Rule 23 :Before even beginning to think of making a passed pawn,get all your pieces into as good positions as possible.

    You would find this book falls into the category of a loose collection of articles, compostions and specific positions.
    let me know if you have this book, If you would like I can put together purdys rules in an email to you.

  2. Tak,
    I have worked my way thru the first two chapters and until now it lives quite up to my expectations and hope.

    The author proves that is possible indeed to find the general line of thought in an endgame position.

    For instance your rule nr 23 is explained in a chapter called "Do not hurry". In most endings tactics play a minor role. Hence it are not the variations that rule, like in the middlegame, but the plans. It are long term advantages that dictate the play. This is the place where the pawnstructure plays a major role indeed. Since it are the pawns that limit the pieces and dictate where to attack in order to queen. And it are the pawns that are the weaknesses to look for. If you have a pawn majority on one wing, that is the place to attack. Rule 23 says "don't hurry, place your pieces on the best positions first before you advance the pawns, because the long lasting advantage will not disappear overnight."

    The book does an excellent job in explaining the obvious. But it only becomes obvious after you leave the confusion of the variations behind. The usual endgame book lays the emphasis on the variations.

  3. BTW,
    I don't have Pury's book, but I belief I have sufficient material to work with. Thx for the offer.

  4. The most tricky thing to me is this: "And in theoretical endings it is sufficient to know whether the ending is won or drawn, [...]". In my (very limited) attempts of endgame study, I encountered many positions where I was unable to come up with the correct move because I went for a win in a drawn position. The plans for drawing an endgame are often very different from winning techniques, which is why I believe it is very important to learn to distinguish between drawn and winning situations. But I have no idea on how to do that.

  5. Sciurus,
    it seems to me now, but since I'm in a state of revelation I suspect I'm not quite accountable for my advice:), that there is a gap between the end of the middlegame and the theoretical ending. This gap I like to call the complex practical endgame. I suspect that from the total area of ending during a game, about 95% can be called complex practical endgameplay, while only 5% or less will make up the theoretical end.

    This books gives advice about those 95%. How bad can it be, after playing a complex practical ending well and you end up in the Lucena while you have no idea how to play it? You will get a draw and a big grin from your opponent and his mates, and when you come home you look it up in a reference work, bang your head against the wall and you will forget it never again.

    My take is that it is more logical to give your attention to those 95% of the ending. No serious player will make the same mistake twice in a theoretical ending anyhow.

    And I'm outrageous that it took me 6 months and 15 books to suspect there was such area ├╝berhaupt.

  6. Tempo - you're it.

    Let me know if you don't want to do the survey.

  7. endgame strategy is perhaps my single most favorite chess book, a great work of art and chess beauty, and it is IT.

    in the next year, with other work in front of it, afterwards it is my best intent to read it, and is, for this moment, set aside behind other work.

    thank you for these very best sort of posts, and deeply appreciated, temposchlucker.

    warmest, dk