Saturday, November 28, 2009

Towards the endgame

What is the difference between the middlegame and the endgame that makes it so difficult to get a good endgame when having an auspicious middlegame?

In the middlegame the highest goal is to get active. The pawns decide which piece is active and which is not. It remained always a bit vague of what the activity actually consists. In the endgame the activity must be transformed into the achievement of concrete goals. The problem I have is that I'm insufficient concrete in the formulation of my endgame goals.

In the endgame there is for the first time enough space on the board to actually penetrate into hostile territory and to attack pawns from behind. During the middlegame you can only threat to penetrate but usually it is not going to happen when there are still too many pieces on the board.

Logically it must be all about pawns. However mate with pieces in the endgame is not uncommon it is very difficult to show any common tendencies in that. So I better dismiss that subject for the moment completely. That means that it is all about promoting pawns and hunting pawns down as targets.

At the same time it is about piece activity which again has a relation with the pawns. As in the middlegame, the pawns decide which piece is active.

What are the elements in the pawnstructure that make the difference?

The passer.
A passer immediately inflicts the enemy forces with defensive obligations. But often there isn't a passer right away when starting the endgame. In that case the possibility to create a passer acts as a substitute. What are the possibilities in this area?
  • A local pawn majority. Trade all the pawns and a passer is what remains.
  • One holds two. Which is a way to emulate a local pawn majority while the total amounts of pawns are equal.
  • Breakthrough. Both sides get a passer but the most advanced wins.
If you can't create a passer in a save way the next thing to do is to create and attack targets. A target is a pawn that can't be covered by its brother. Since you can only shoot sitting ducks the first thing to do is to fix a target so it sits still. Then attack it!

In the endgame there is more space so there is a chance to actually penetrate into the hostile territory and to attack the pawns from behind. Here it is about squares and lines and to extinguish defenders of the invasion route.


  1. Have you ever played Chinese Chess (Xiangqi)? In some ways, it is close to the endgame as you describe. Since there are only pawns on alternating files, it's ready made for piece incursions.

    Even so, since each player has 4 pieces that move like Rooks, there aren't enough open files for all of them!

  2. Reading this post I do get the feeling that it does seem to imply that good positions are created. I tend to believe that this is more or less a false assumption. We only achieve an advantage if the opponent allows makes mistakes (or "creates" weaknesses).

    There is a strong case to be made however for the assumption that it is possible to create imbalances, and with them the targets that can be attacked.

    My feeling is that if one tries to understand endgame play, it is better to talk about imbalances than about advantages.