Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In search for the ultimate coat hanger

This is about the 8th time that I look at endgames. It seems that the time is finally ripe now.

  • My first attempt to get better at endgames was when I picked up an endgame book by Euwe. Euwe is one of those terrible endgame authors who wanted to give his book a whiff of science, I assume. Which meant that he tried to be complete in his writings. Well, sort of. The result is that his book started with 8 chapters with endgames that you get only once in a lifetime, if you are lucky. An author must protect you from wasting your time. As novice you look for guidance, not for completeness, of course. The idea of an encyclopedia is totally wrong for a novice in endgames.
  • It took me about a half year of daily study to get an idea where to start with endgame study. That I count as my second attempt.
  • The third attempt was based on my discovery that all endgames were judged by the underlying pawnending. So I started with SOPE of Muller and Lamprecht. That seemed to work well for some time untill I collided with the habit of those authors to put in lots of beautiful endgame compositions into their exercises with positions you will not even get once in 10 lifetimes. That is so silly in an endgame book when you are a novice and looking for guidance. I had to stop that spilling of my time in disgust.
  • The fourth attempt was papa Polgars endgame brick which suffered from the same flaw.
  • An endgame CD with 2400 exercises of Convekta: same waste of time
  • Sixth attempt was PCT. Darn you, Gregoriev! Darn you silly endgame authors!
  • My seventh attempt was Lars Bo Hansen's SOCES. Now that was a revelation! Finally a book that guides you in stead of being encyclopedic and wasting my time with beautiful studies! I had to stop that study though since my positional middlegame skills were so poor that I never reached an endgame that wasn't lost anyhow.
Now I have improved sufficient in positional middlegame skills, I picked up the study of Hansen's book again. I really love it! Hopefully I can find the ultimate endgame coathanger to hang all those bits of knowledge on which I have gathered overtime but forget to implement in my games.


  1. Hi,

    8 times a charm..... :)

    Speaking of endgames. Fundamental Chess Endings by Mueller is still the only endgame book I own and read.

    A great encyclopedic book if there ever was one.

    Need help with any endings? Lucena? Back rank defence? Philidor? Cochrane? They're all there in 1 nice little package.

    Ok, so the book is quite a tome. :)

    I've come to the realisation that you don't really need chess books. What you need is dedication and determination to see it through.

    Best of luck!

  2. I've only been playing this game for 54 years - but in the last year two books I wish I'd had way back are:
    Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual
    and Glenn Flear's "Practical Endgame Play - Beyond the Basics".

    Dvoretsky has all the key parts highlighted - and Glenn Flear covers all those endings with two pieces each.

  3. That's an amazing photograph! Can I ask you for the source?

    re endgames, I wouldn't give up too soon on the functional use of beauty, i.e. the idea that we can learn something useful from very unlikely studies. I don't think I'd have found the draw in this endgame for instance had I not been reading Levitt & Friedgood's 'Secrets of Spectacular Chess' at the time for instance.

  4. Tom,

    It's not about functional use, it's just that integral calculations come too early when you have still problems with adding and subtraction. It's not efficient.

  5. Tanc,
    what you need is asking the right questions. You can't get answers without questions. It (me) takes some time to ripe.

  6. Anon,
    I sure will have a look at those, allthough I'm quite happy with Hansen's book, for the moment. Thanks.

  7. I wonder how your internal conversation goes when being in a game? Especially in endgames. How hard are you kicking yourself in those? Are you ever positive speaking to yourself in endgames?

    The first step is not to have "the knowlegde" but the positive view of knowing you will get the knowlegde"

  8. Tiger,
    interesting question. I can't remember that I ever think about something else than the position during a game.

    Thinking is a rather slow proces, so there really isn't much time left to think about anything else.

  9. I share your pain.

    I always seem to be able to play other players' endgames much better than my own.

    I've sworn to myself that in the next year I am going to work through Silman's Complete Endgame Course. It's thick, but not as dense as FCE.

    Maybe I have such a hard time with learning the endgame (and therefore with endgame instruction) because the endgame always requires exact calculation and general principles, even those like key squares and opposition, are not always that useful.

    (The idea of key squares, when I first saw it, was quite a revelation because it is a more useful idea than simple opposition. Many older manuals don't include the idea of getting to a key square -- I suggest you burn those books.)

    I think I am a pretty intuitive player and that doesn't pay off in the endgame, which requires finding a workable plan and exact calculation in trees with many branches -- possibly two of my biggest weaknesses (I'm much better at finding and calculating positions with few options and forcing variations, even if they're long. Give me a stick, not a bush.)

    Of course it doesn't help that these endgames take place at the end of long battles, when I am at my weakest. I definitely need to stand up, take a deep breath, and then look back at the board, pretending that it is someone else's game -- then I might instantly see the correct plan.

    My plan is to work through Silman, set up the exercise positions on the computer and play them out, and use FCE and "100 Endgames You Must Know" by de la Villa as supplemental information.

  10. Excellent. Like Tanc, I only own and read one endgame book: Silman's Complete Endgame Course. I do understand people's squabbles about the "section-by-rating" organisation, and I wouldn't recommend Silman as an endgame encyclopedia, but besides Silman's writing style (which I enjoy) and his clear explanations, the book has taught me to study one subject thoroughly and forcing myself to reread and reread and reread chapters rather than deluding myself that I've mastered a particular endgame. And that's a valuable lesson in itself.

  11. Robinson,
    I ordered a copy of Silman's book. My problem lies in the transition of the middlegame into the endgame. There is a gap in my knowledge that seems to be difficult to adress. Probably because the diversity of the positions to begin with.

  12. Blue,
    yeah, 7 times. But as Tanc said, 8 times is a charm:)

  13. I would think the transition problem becomes of not understanding endgames deeply enough. For me at least after dense endgame training revelations appear during the games where I actually understand where I am heading at. Two of my favourite games became such a favourites after such an incidence.

  14. Just to be clear, I was referring to the coathanger monkey picture in my off color comment, not your chess explorations. :)