Publisher: Gambit, Pages 112, Paperback
Popular chess author Steve Giddins presents 101 ideas that are vital to successful endgame play. By absorbing and understanding these concepts and methods, you will ensure that you will spot them when they are possible in your own games.
This is an ideal book to read without using a chess set, as the abundant diagrams guide you through the analysis and illustrate the key points. All types of endings are covered, including both simple technical situations and more complex strategic battles. The tips include both pithy rules of thumb and general thinking methods. The examples are drawn from an immense variety of sources and based on Giddins's experiences as a player, coach and pupil.
Steve Giddins is a FIDE Master from England who plays regularly in international events and has frequently contributed to the British Chess Magazine. This is his fourth book for Gambit. He has gained a reputation as a writer who provides useful, no-nonsense advice on topics of genuine practical importance.
The endgame is probably the most neglected part of chess, especially from the point of view of the average player. There are several reasons for this. In the first place, many players take the superficially logical, but fallacious, view that it is better to study openings, since if one misplays the opening badly enough, one will not even survive into an ending. This may be strictly true, but only of very bad opening play. It does not need too much knowledge to enable one to play the opening reasonably well, and once one has achieved this, there is no good argument for ignoring endgames any longer.
Secondly, many players believe that endings are boring. I firmly believe that this is completely untrue, and, on the contrary, the endgame is the best and most enjoyable part of chess. I hope in this book to show why this is the case.
Thirdly, the traditional three-hour playing sessions in club and league chess have tended to militate against reaching very many endgames, and when one did get one, the chance to play it out was usually lost, due to the intervention of that dread figure, the adjudicator. Thankfully, this is one aspect of local chess which has changed for the better in recent years, and the replacement of adjournments and adjudication by quickplay finishes means that endgame technique is now more important than ever.
In writing this book, I hope to give the average player a good introduction to many important ideas and techniques in endings. The positions given include many basic, theoretical endings, and also a significant number of more complex positions, which illustrate more general points of technique. I hope that this material will not only improve the reader's endgame play per se, but also stimulate further study. The material I can cover in a book of this size is of necessity limited, but there is a wealth of fine books on the endgame, and any player who wishes to study further has no lack of opportunity to do so.
Important Endgame Principles
Many important endgame principles are illustrated in the ensuing examples, but it will be useful here to summarise the main points of endgames:
- Material matters in endgames. This may sound trite, but it is an important point. Whereas in the middlegame, sacrificing material to open lines and activate pieces is a standard device, it is much less common in the endgame. While we shall see that tactics and combinations have their role in the endgame, it is usually only in rook (and some queen) endings that piece activity is more important than an extra pawn or two. So, within reason, it pays to be a miser in the endgame.
- In similar fashion, pawn-weaknesses tend to grow in importance in endings. In the middlegame, it is frequently a good idea to accept an isolated or doubled pawn, in order to activate one's pieces and/or open lines. In the endgame, the simplified positions and (normally) absence of queens tend to make such dynamic play much more difficult to achieve, and consequently static weaknesses tend to be more important.
- We shall see much in this book on the subject of the 'principle of two weaknesses'. One weakness is frequently not enough, and the key to winning many positions is to create a second weakness in the defender's position, so as to stretch the defence to breaking point.
- The other cardinal endgame principle which I shall emphasize time and again is 'do not hurry'. The endgame usually has a somewhat slower and less dynamic tempo than most middlegames, and this means that careful and slow manoeuvring is often the order of the day. Numerous good positions are spoilt by the player rashing things, when a small piece of preliminary care would have eliminated all of the opponent's counterplay.
- Finally, it is important to have the right attitude to the endgame. There is a rather dreadful song, from the Hollywood musical Camelot, called How to Handle a Woman, the crux of the advice being "love her, simply love her". I don't know about women, but this is certainly the right way to approach the endgame. As I said above, the endgame is the best part of chess, containing a wealth of depth and beauty, and the more one studies it, the more apparent this becomes. Regardless of any specific knowledge it may convey, if this book helps the reader to appreciate and develop a love for endgames, it will have done its job.
Rochester, November 2006