The author has written what he believes to be an original book on the endgame, using a play on words for the title based on the historic battle of Hastings in 1066 which involved William the Conqueror. *****
Ray Cannon, a familiar frequenter of chess tournaments in London and elsewhere, has condensed his copious knowledge into an enjoyably instructive compendium of endgame positions. In tune with the Victorian notion of learning via fun, the reader cannot help but absorb the endgame stratagems that recur in the examples given and emerge as a better player without any conscious effort.
The endgame is a prime arena for the emergence of error through lack of practice, and even elite grandmasters can miss the unsuspected anti-intuitive resource that would have secured the rescue draw or shock win. I would go so far as to say this book would benefit master-standard players. Studying it has all the value of learning one’s times tables but without the repetitive drudgery! The end result is the same: increased knowledge.
My good friend Ray Cannon, who was, for many years, an invaluable part of the coaching team at Richmond Junior Club, has written a book which will be useful for all club standard players.
With faster time limits and online play now the norm, endings play a vital part in 21st century chess. A good knowledge of endgame theory and tactics is a fundamental requirement for all serious players.
From the author’s introduction:
Positions in this book have been taken from various sources including my collection of newspaper cuttings that go back to the 1970’s, books, magazines, websites and even from games I had witnessed personally at tournaments. Many have been modified for reasons of clarity and a few I have composed myself. Most of the positions have annotated solutions unless the moves are self-explanatory.
The 1066 diagram positions can be played out against a computer or an opponent but they are best solved using a chess set. You are invited to write down your choice of move for each position on the pages provided before looking up the answers. On the other hand, you may simply prefer to enjoy the instructive content of this book by dipping in and out of its pages.
Endgames may give the appearance of being easy but even the world’s best players misplay them from time to time and some of these missed opportunities from practical play are included among the 1066 stratagems.
The majority of the puzzles are elementary but there are a few that are quite difficult. When solving them, you will detect familiar methods of play. Knowledge of these is often referred to as pattern recognition and this is an important component of learning and improving at chess.
So what you get is 1066 endgame puzzles, or stratagems as Ray prefers to call them. It’s White’s move in positions 1 to 728, and Black’s move in positions 729 to 1066. In each position you’re told whether you’re trying to win or draw, and you know that there’s only one move to achieve your aim.
A few fairly random examples chosen simply by turning to a random page will show you what to expect. I’ll give the answers at the end of the review.
Q482 is a neat draw: White to play.
Q497 is of practical value. Endings with R + f&h pawns against R are very often drawn. How can White win here?
Q533, halfway through the book, has more pieces on the board (too many for an endgame?) and demonstrates the need to know your mating patterns. White to play and win again.
If you enjoyed these puzzles, you’ll certainly enjoy the rest of the book. If you think your students will enjoy these puzzles, you’ll also want to buy this book.
It’s self-published via Amazon so the production qualities are not quite up to the standard you’d expect from leading chess book publishers. However, the diagrams and text are both clear.
Ray has chosen to print the ‘Black to play’ puzzles with the 8th rank at the bottom of the board: not what I or most authors would have chosen but I can see why he did it. There’s a slight problem, though, in that the diagrams are without coordinates, which can make things slightly confusing in positions with few pawns on the board. (The diagrams in the answers to the ‘Black to play’ do have coordinates, though.) I understand the next edition will use diagrams with coordinates throughout.
You might also prefer to write your answers under the diagrams rather than in the pages provided for this purpose at the beginning of the book. I’d also have welcomed an index by material so that I could quickly locate, for example, pawn endings or rook endings.
These are just personal preferences, though. The quality of material is excellent (all positions have been thoroughly engine checked) and Ray Cannon should be congratulated for his efforts in producing a highly instructive puzzle book.
A basic knowledge of endgame theory is assumed, so I would consider the book ideal for anyone rated between about 1500 and 2000, although some of the puzzles will be challenging for stronger players.
Richard James, Twickenham, 17th September 2021
Q482: 1. f7+ Qxf7 2. Bb3 Qxb3 is stalemate. Or 1… Kxf7 2. Bh5+. In just two moves we have a fork, a skewer, a pin and a stalemate.
Q497: 1. Rg5+ Kxg5 (or 1… Kxh6 2. Rg8) 2. h7 Re1+ 3. Kd6 Rd1+ 4. Ke7 Rh1 5. f8Q wins (as long as you know how to win with queen against rook!)
Q533: 1. Re8+ Rxe8 2. Nf6 Ra7 3. Rxa7 Re7 4. Rxe7 a1Q 5. Rh7# – an Arabian Mate!
The Daunting Domain of Queen Endgames Explained! Knowing the abilities and limitations of the powerful queen is very valuable for mastering the secrets of the royal game, and this can be studied best in the endgame.
Queen endgames are very difficult, if only for purely mathematical reasons the queen is the most mobile piece in chess, and the amount of possible options is incomparably higher than in any other type of endgames.
This book follows a dual philosophy as in the three previous works by the same authors: Understanding Rook Endgames, Understanding Minor Piece Endgames and Understanding Rook vs. Minor Piece Endgames. The 7-piece endings are dealt with in great detail. They are often so complex that pre-tablebase analysis almost always contains errors. Many new discoveries are revealed here. But to really understand the fight of a queen against a queen or minor pieces with rooks, these theoretical positions are of course not enough. So subchapters on the principles of each material configuration have been added.
All in all, this fantastic book is already on my (very short) “must study” list for chessplayers of different levels, including the top ten! I want to thank the authors for the courage which is required just to start working on such a complex topic, as well as for the very high quality of their work, which will endure for decades to come and will be very useful for many future generations of chessplayers. The foreword is by Vladimir Kramnik,14th World Chess Champion”
This titanic technical endgame tome is a Magnum Opus with a forward by former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik. The complexity of queen endings is obvious as the queen is the most mobile piece and the number of variations becomes vast after only a few ply. This is probably the reason that this is the first work to cover queen endings in great depth. The complexity of these endgames is shown by a famous game from Vladimir Kramnik’s World Championship match versus Peter Leko in 2004. The first game of that match reached this position:
White played 44.Qf4?? which loses as demonstrated by Kramnik in the game and is covered in this book 44…g5! 45.Qf6 h6! winning, the point being that 46.Qxh6 loses the queen to 46…R8a6! After 45…h6 White cannot prevent Black from manoeuvring his rooks to win the kingside pawns. The natural move is 44.hxg6 exchanging pawns to reduce material which was thought, at the time, to draw. In fact Black stills retains winning chances. As the position has eight men the result is still not known definitively – this shows the richness of such endgames.
This publication also covers endgames that have had little coverage in the past such as Two Rooks + Pawn v Queen.
Most first quick skim of the book did concern me slightly as I noticed some diagrams followed by 100+ moves with no annotations. On a deeper perusal, I realised that these examples are included as “longest wins” for certain material combinations. This emulates John Nunn’s longest wins in “Secrets of Pawnless Endings”. There is plenty of well annotated material within practical games to bring out key ideas, for example the techniques to break down fortresses are examined in detail.
The book has ten main chapters traditionally based on piece configuration:
Chapter 1 Queen vs. Pawn
Chapter 2 Queen vs. Queen
Chapter 3 Queen vs. Rook
Chapter 4 Queen vs. Rook and Knight
Chapter 5 Queen vs. Rook and Bishop
Chapter 6 Queen vs. Two Rooks
Chapter 7 Queen vs. Rook and Two Minor Pieces
Chapter 8 Queen and Minor Piece vs. Queen (and Minor Piece)
Chapter 9 Queen and Rook vs. Queen and Rook
Chapter 10 Queen vs. Minor Pieces
Each chapter ends with some fruitful exercises to check if you were paying attention. The solutions are given near the end of the book.
Chapter 1 Queen vs. Pawn
This chapter obviously concentrates on the cases where the pawn is on the seventh rank. Here is the end of a Troitzky study:
1.Ke6!! and whichever way Black’s king goes, White moves into his shadow drawing: 1…Kf4+ 2.Kf7! draws or 1…Kd4+ 2.Kd7 draws
This next position looks arcane but the reviewer has has this position twice in blitz, once as the attacking side and once as the defending side: in both cases the defence was accurate to hold the draw.
White cannot win despite the proximity of his king. White can try 1.Qd5+ 1…Ke1!! is the only move to draw, 1…Ke2 loses to 2.Qa2! Kd1 3.Kd4! c1Q 4.Kd3 mating. White can also try 1.Qa2 Kc3!! is the only move to draw, 1…Kd1 2.Kd4! c1=Q 3.Kd3 mating.
This chapter goes on to cover many types of position with far advanced pawns against a queen.
Chapter 2 Queen versus Queen
Naturally the authors start with the notoriously difficult ending Queen and Pawn vs. Queen: their comment is “This can be very deep and tricky if the defending king can’t get in front of the pawn.” Certainly an understatement as many strong GMs have gone down in drawn endings. A whole volume could be dedicated to this fascinating endgame.
The authors systematically cover the rook’s pawn, knight’s pawn, bishop’s pawn and centre pawns. Some useful general rules are given for each pawn:
“Rook Pawn – In this case, the drawing zone for the defending king is usually quite large when the pawn is not far advanced, as the rook pawn does not provide good shelter. But the zone gets smaller as the pawn advances, and the main drawing zone is in the corner farthest from the queening square.”
A didactic example from Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 is given:
Black’s king is badly placed restricting his own queen, so he should run to the a1-corner as fast as he can. 59…Kc5!? 60.h5 Qe8+ 61.Kh6 Kd5?! 61…Kb4 going closer to the drawing zone is more logical 62.Kg5 Qg8+ 63.Kf4 Qb8+ 64.Kg4
64…Qb4+! An excellent move preserving the draw., 64…Qa7? loses to 65.Qf4!! cutting the Black king off from the a1-drawing zone and winning in the long run. It looks as though Black’s king might get near the pawn, but that is an illusion: he just restricts his own queen’s movements. 65.Kg5 Qd2+ 66.Kg6 Kc4 67.h6 Qg2+ 68.Kf7 Qb7+ 69.Kg8 Qb8+ 70.Qf8 Qg3+ 71.Kh8 Qe5+ 72.Qg7 Qe4 73.h7
This a typical position from this ending, white has pushed the pawn to the seventh rank with his king hiding in the corner in front of the pawn. This is a tablebase draw but this has been known for many decades before the advent of tablebases.
73…Kd3?? loses, a bad mistake from a 2700 GM. 73…Kb3! draws but accuracy is still required. 74.Qf7+ (74.Kg8 Qe8+ 75. Qf8 Qg6+ 76.Kh8 Kc2=) 74…Kb2
This is the type of position that Black is aiming for. The authors explain why it is drawn with a pithy comment: “and White can’t win as the king must move too far from the pawn to move into a countercheck position.” For example: 75.Kg7 Qg4+ 76.Qg6 Qd7+ 77.Kh6 Qd2+ 78.Qg5 Qd6+ 79.Kh5
Another excellent explanation from the authors: “White’s king wants to go to h1 or h2 to make counterchecks possible, but the pieces are then too far apart” (and un-coordinated) e.g. 79…Qd1+ 80.Qg4 Qh1+ 81.Kg6 Qc6+ 82.Kg5 Qd5+ 83.Qf5 Qg2+ 84.Kh4
74.Qd7+ Ke2?! (74…Kc2 lasts longer but does not save the game anymore: buy the book to find out how White wins) 75.Kg8 White is going to shuffle his king along to the adjacent file to Black’s king to setup a crosscheck: 75…Qg6+ 76.Kf8 Qh6+ 77.Qg7 Qf4+ 78.Qf7
78…Qh6+ Notice how Black’s choice of checks are severely restricted because of his king’s placement 79.Ke7 Qh4+ 80.Ke8 Qa4+ 81.Kf8! Now we can see again why Black’s king is badly placed: Black has no good checks.
A very important ending to study and learn from a World Champion.
Muller & Konoval give an example of good defence with the king in the drawing zone where the defending side does not let the draw slip at any point:
Piket played 57.Qe8+ and drew: buy the book to see the excellent defensive effort.
Here is an old game where modern tablebases really show how difficult these endgames are:
White played 80.Qc1? The amazing 80.Qh1!! is the only move to draw, for example 80…Qd7 81.Qf3+ Ke8 82.Qa8+ Ke7 83.Qh8! Qd6+ 84.Ka7!
Drawing, a beautiful geometric display of the queen’s power with the white queen moving around all the corners in a few moves. 80…Qe5! 81. Qb1
81…Qf6+? (A mistake improving White’s king for free particularly as White’s checks are restricted because of potential cross checks, the natural 81…h2! wins, e.g.: 82.Qb7+ Kf6 83.Qf3+ Ke7 84.Qb7+ Kd8 85.Qa8+ Kd7 86.Qb7+? Qc7 and white has no good check, so he loses) 82.Ka7! and white drew with excellent defence 82…Kg7 83.Qg1+ Kh7 84.Qe3 Qa1+ 85.Kb8 Qb2+ 86.Ka7 Qg2 87.Qd3+ 87…Kh8 Although White’s king is in the drawing zone, Black’s king is on a neighbouring rank making counterchecks possible, so white played 88.Ka6! (88.Qe3 also draws)
88…h2 89.Qd8+ Kh7 90.Qc7+! Staying on the h2-pawn so Black cannot interpose the queen, and White drew 14 moves later by repetition.
If the defending king can get in front or very near the pawn, it should do so:
63.Kd3! h5 64.Ke2! now the draw is easy as white does not fear a queen exchange.
Sometimes the defending king has to keep both options open: here is a brilliant example:
Black looks to be in trouble as his king is a long way from the drawing zone and will interfere with his queen. However Nakamura found 60…Ke5!! 61.Kg7 Qc6! Keeping Black’s options open 62.h6
After 62.Qg6 Qb7+ 63.Kh8 Qa8+ 64.Qg8 Qc6 65.Qg5+ Black changes plans and runs to the drawing zone as White’s king is badly placed in front of the pawn, he just has time to do this 65…Kd4!! 66.Qg7+ Kc4 67.h6 Kb3 68.h7 Ka2=
67.Qg6 (67.h7 Qh5 68.Qg7+ Ke6! draws as Black’s king cramps White’s pieces.) 67…Qf8+ 68.Kh7 Qf3 69.Qg7+ Ke6 70.Kg8 Qh5 71.h7 Qe8+ 72.Qf8 Qg6+ 73.Kh8 Qf7 drawn
Knight Pawn – “With a knight pawn, play is similar to a rook pawn, but the winning chances are better as the pawn provides better shelter. There is still a drawing zone in the far corner.”
The play is complex and there are many subtleties with slight differences being crucial as we shall see below.
Here is a superb example of drawing technique from Negi-Postny Helsingor 2009:
Where does Black put his king? 63…Kf1! (63…Kd2? loses in 91 moves as the king is cut off from the drawing zone!) 64.b5 Qc7+ 65.Kd5 Qb7+ 66.Qc6 Qf7+ 67.Kd6 Qf4+ 68.Kd7 Qf7+ 69.Kc8 Qf8+ 70.Kb7 Qe7+ 71.Qc7 Qe4+ 72.Ka6 Qa4+ 73.Qa5 Qc4 74.Qa1+ Kg2
Black’s king has reached the drawing zone. It is still very easy to go wrong.
75.Qb2+ Kh1 76.Qh8+ Kg1 77.Qg7+ Kh1 78.Qb7+ Kh2 79.Qc6 Qa2+ 80.Kb7 Kg1 81.Qc1+ Kf2 82.Qc5+ Kf1 83.b6 Postny comments :The pawn has reached the 6th rank already, although it is still a draw theoretically. For the defensive side it’s very easy to go astray, but, somehow I managed to give the right checks. 83…Qg2+ 84.Ka6 Qa8+ 85.Kb5 A crucial position, Black’s king is temporarily out of the drawing zone and cannot go back immediately.
85…Qe8+! The only move to draw 86.Ka5 Qe1+ 87.Ka6 Qa1+ 88.Qa5
Postny comments again: For a moment I thought that I was losing. The queen covered the a3 square, and Kb7-a7 followed by the pawn advance just one move before the fifty move rule seems inevitable. But… 129…Kh1! 130.Ka7 Qf2!! This stalemate trick saves the game. 131.Qe4+ Kg1 132.Kb7 Qf7+ 133.Kc6 Draw due to the fifty move rule. ½-½
The next example shows how difficult this ending really is:
Black’s king is not yet in the drawing zone. Black played the obvious check 77…Qe7+? which loses 77…Qe3! (77..Qc5? loses to 78.Qd3!) does draw, e.g. 78.Ka8 Kh3 79.b7 Qe4 80.Ka7 Qd4+ 81.Qb6 Qa1+ 82.Qa6 Qd4+ 83.Ka8 Qe4
This is drawn despite Black’s king not being in the drawing zone but it is close enough! 84.Qa2!? cutting the Black king off from the drawing zone (by analogy with the line below) does not win here.
Back to the game 78.b7 Qe3+ 79.Ka8 Qe4
80.Qb5? 80.Qa3!! cutting the king off from the drawing zone wins, followed by moving White’s king down to the same rank as Black’s king which is similar to the line below 80…Qf3? (80…Kg3! draws) 81.Qb4+ Kh3 82.Qc5?! Qe4
83.Qc3+? Sloppy, improving Black’s king for free and the queen is much better placed on c5; it was time to move the White king down to the rank that Black’s king is on: 83.Ka7! wins, e.g. 83…Qa4+ 84.Kb6 Qb3+ 85.Ka6 Qa4+ 86.Qa5 Qc4+ 87.Qb5 Qe6+ 88.Ka5 Qa2+ 89.Kb6 Qf2+ 90.Qc5 Qb2+ 91.Ka6 Qe2+ 92.Ka5 Qa2+ 93.Kb5 Qe2+ 94.Qc4 Qb2+ 95.Qb4 Qe5+ 96.Ka4 Qe8+ 97.Ka3
A key position and a common problem for the defending side, which check should I make? Black choose the wrong check and lost. 89…Qg6+? The authors offer some general advice here: “As Black’s king is on a light square, it was better to operate on dark squares”: 89…Qf6+! Drawing 90.Qd6 Qc3+ 91.Kd7 Qg7+ 92.Qe7 Qd4+ 93.Ke8 White is trying to bring his king across to the same file as Black’s king. Qh8+ 94.Qf8 Qe5+
95.Kf7 loses the pawn to a fork 95…Qd5+ drawing instantly
Back to the game, after 89…Qg6+? 90.Qd6 Qe8+?!
91.Qd7?! (91. Kb6! Qe3+ 92. Kc7 Qa7 Kc8 wins quickly, now we see why Black’s queen should operate on the dark squares) 91…Qg6+
92. Kd5? White could have centralised the queen and effected a memorable manoeuvre to win 92.Qd6! Qc2+ 93.Kd7 Qh7+ 94.Qe7 Qd3+ 95.Ke8 Qg6+ 96. Kf8 Qf5+ 97.Kg8 Qd5+ 98.Kh8 Qh5+ 99.Qh7 winning
Notice that this winning motif is effectively the same idea as the king manoeuvre down the a-file and b-files rotated ninety degrees!
In the game: 92…Qd3+ 93.Ke6 Qg6+ 94.Ke5 Qg5+ 95.Ke4 Qg6+! 96.Ke5 Qg5+ 97.Kd6
97…Qf6+? The final mistake allowing White to improve his queen. 97…Qf4+ 98.Kc6 Qa4+ 99.Kc7 Qa5+ 100.Kc8 Qc5+ draws 98.Qe6! 98…Qd8+?! 99.Kc6 Qh8 100.Qa2+ Kf1 101.Qb1+ and queens the pawn, White won 4 moves later.
Here is a pretty study showing a neat idea:
How does White break the pin to get his pawn home?
Amazingly this idea occurred in a game and White missed the neat win, but won anyway.
This is completely different. If the defending king can’t get in front of the pawn or at least very near the pawn, the attacker usually wins as there is no drawing zone in the far corner. This is best pawn for the superior side.
White played 65.Qe5+? (A bad mistake from a 2500 player, 65.Qc3+ draws as Black’s queen is poorly placed.) 65…Qe4! Black gives up his h-pawn to centralise his queen and get his f-pawn going 66.Qxh5 f5 White has restored material equality but is now lost as the centralised Black queen is dominant and the f-pawn is much more dangerous than White’s a-pawn. 67.Qh3+ Kd2 68.Qh2+ Kc3 69.Kb5 f4 70.Qh8+ Kb3 71.Qf8 f3 72.Qf7+ Kxa3 Black has eliminated the a-pawn which wasn’t strictly necessary. The win is simple from here as Black’s queen is so well placed.
73.Qf8+ Kb2 74.Qf6+ Kc2 75.Ka6?! Accelerating the loss. When the kings are close to each other on files or ranks, the stronger side should always be on the look out for a sequence to exchange queens.
75…Qd5?! (Black could have exchanged queens with 75…Qd3+! 76.Kb7 Qb3+ 77.Ka8 Qa3+ 78.Kb7 Qb2+) 76,Qf4 Kd3 77.Qg3 Qc4+ 78.Ka7 Qc5+ 79.Ka8 Qd5+ 80.Ka7 Ke2 81.Qg4 Kd3 82.Qg3
89.Kb7 Qg7+ 0-1 in view of 90.Kb8 Qf8+ 91.Kb7 Qf7+ 92.Kb6 f1Q
A central pawn
This is similar to the bishop’s pawn, but the winning chances are slightly less. There is no drawing zone for the defending king in the far corner:
There is no chance for a draw here with the central pawn as Black cannot be prevented from advancing the pawn to the queening square: it just requires patience, care and a lot of moves.
Black played 68…Qa1+ (the natural 68…Qf5 unpinning the pawn is better.)
Black played well, not letting the win slip at any point until this position at move 110:
Black played 110…Kf4?? which throws the win away as white has a brilliant draw utilising the fact that the pawn is unprotected by the queen and the star cross perpetual check. Better was 110…Qb3 protecting the pawn and preparing cover for the king on the queenside viz.: 111.Qh2+ Ke4 112.Qg2+ Kd3 113.Qg6+ Kd2 114.Qg5 Qc4 115.Ka8 Qd4 116.Kb7 Kc3 117.Qg3 Qd3 winning
The reviewer makes this observation:
Notice how Black’s king has migrated over to the file adjacent to White’s king ready to setup cross checks in a few moves. This cannot be prevented wherever White’s king is on the board with two exceptions:
The weaker side can draw if the defending king gets in front of the pawn
or reaches a small drawing zone on the short side of the pawn.
The only other drawing mechanism is to setup the star cross perpetual check or a variant of it which is shown below.
111.Qh2+! Reaching a very important position as White can draw
111…Kg4 112.Qg1+Kf4 113.Qh2+ Ke4
114.Qg2+?? [114.Qh1+!! Kd4 115.Qa1+ Kd3 116.Qd1+ Ke4 117.Qh1+ Ke5 118.Qh5+ Kf5 (118…Kd6 or Ke6 loses the pawn to 119.Qh6+) 119.Qh5+ drawing] 114…Kd4 115.Qb2+ Kd3 Black breaks the perpetual sequence and wins as White’s queen has lost her checking distance
125.Qh2+? (Centralising with 125.Qe5 was a tougher defence) 125…Kf1 126.Qc2 e2 127.Qc4 Kg2 128.Qg8+ Qg3 129.Qd5+Kg1
Exploiting White king position 0-1
The central pawn does have a small drawing zone for the defending side which is on the short side of the pawn:
This is a theoretical draw as White’s king restricts Black’s king manoeuvres, but White must defend perfectly:
91.Kb3? losing as White’s king can be kicked out of the drawing zone. 91,Qc4 holds for example 91…Qb6+ 92.Ka2 Qa5+ 93.Kb2 Qe5+ 94.Kb1 Qa1+ 95.Kb2 Qe3 96.Qc1+ Ke2 97.Qc4=
White’s king covers the queenside and the White queen can hassle Black on the kingside. If Black’s king strays too far on the kingside, Black cannot block a queen check as White will simply exchange queens drawing owing to the proximity of his king to the pawn.
The game continued 91…Qb6+ 92.Kc4 Qa6+ (92…Qc7+ is better 93.Kb3 Qc3+ 94.Ka2 Qa5+ 95.Kb2 Qb5+ 96.Ka3 Kc3 wins) 93.Kb3?! Qb5+ 94.Ka2 Kc3 95.Qe1+ Kc2 0-1 (96.Qf2 d2)
The book covers numerous positions with more pawns.
Here is a celebrated game Kasparov v The World Internet 1999.
Although Black is a pawn up, White is playing for the win as his g-pawn is the most advanced pawn. The seven piece tablebase confirms this position is a draw but Black is on the edge of losing and most defend perfectly. The game continued 51…b5?! (51,,,Ka1! holds) 52.Kf6+ Kb2? (The final mistake 52…Ka1 was necessary) 53.Qh2+ Ka1 54.Qf4! b4 55.Qxb4 Black is lost as the d-pawn is a hindrance as it obstructs Black’s queen and offers cover to White’s king. Without the d-pawn the position is drawn as show earlier in this review.
The ROW did not last much longer and resigned on move 62.
Chapter 3 Queen v Rook
The basic Queen v Rook endgame is covered sufficiently. The authors show how to break the third rank defence:
The authors observe: “The third rank defence is very difficult to break down if you do not know how, because it requires at least one counter-intuitive move to achieve that. John Nunn suggests the following method:”
1.Qf4! (1.Qg7 does not make progress because of 1…Ke8 2.Qc7 Rh6 3.Ke5 Rg6 and the starting position has been mirrored) 1…Kd7 2.Qa4+! Kc7 3.Qa7+ Forcing Black into the third rank defence 3…Rb7 4.Qc5+ Kb8 5.Kd6 Rg7 6.Qb4+ Rb7 7.Qe4 Rb6+ 8.Kc5 Ka7 9.Qd4 Rb7 10.Kc6+ Ka8 11.Qd5 Kb8 12.Qa5 and Philidor’s position is reached.
The book covers a multitude of Queen vs Rook + Pawn(s) positions where there are many fortresses worth knowing and even in the situations where the queen wins, many wins are quite long and complicated. Here is an example of a simple draw.
Here White can simply move his rook back and forth between two safe squares e3 & g3.
An additional pawn for Black on g4 makes no difference viz:
This is clearly drawn as well. However, make a subtle change to the position and place White’s king on e2, then the queen wins:
White played the incomprehensible 89.g6? allowing the simple 89…Rxg6 drawing 89.Qh1! wins as follows: 89…Rg6 90.Qa8 Re6 91.Qa3+ Ke8 92.Kg4 Rg6 93.Kh5 Re6 94.Qb4 zugzwang
Black has no good move. One key point is 94…Rg6 95.Qe4+ Kf8 (95…Re6 96.Qxe6 fxe6 97.Kh6 winning) 96.Qxg6 winning
With a further advanced bishop’s pawn, it is no longer a fortress as the attacking king can encircle the weaker side’s position:
The winning process falls into three phases and zugzwang is the main weapon to achieve these steps:
First the king has to cross the e-file
1.Kf2 Qc7 2.Kg2 Qc2+ 3.Kg1 (3.Kg3 Qd2 4.Rg4 Ke5 5.Re4+ Kd5 and the first phase is complete) 3…Qd2 4.Kf1 Qh2 5.Re2Qg3 6.Rg2 Qh3 7.Kf2 Ke5 8.Rg4 Kd5
Here the rook and knight have a temporary blockade of two passed pawns. A pawn sacrifice disrupts the coordination of Black’s pieces: 69.g5!? Nxg5?! (69…Rg6 is tougher) 70.Qg4? (A rare mistake from the former World Champion 70.Qg3! breaks the blockade 70…Rg6 71.Qe5+ Kf7 72.d6 wins; 70…Kh6 71.Qh4+ Kg6 72.d6 wins) 70…Rg6 71.Kb4 Nf7 72,Qd4+ drawn
Here a blockade could have been broken by clever manoeuvring:
This looks desperate for white who looks to be close to zugzwang. Black continued 52…Kg4? allowing White to escape
53.Re3! Qd2 54.Rg3+! Kh4 55.Rf3 mutual zugzwang and white held on for a draw
Queen vs Rook + Knight + Pawn
It is hard to believe that White can lose to here. White played 110.Qe2? which does lose and he lost quickly missing a draw when Black erred. (110.Qb7 holds along with 4 other moves) 110…Rf6+ does win for Black. Buy the book to find out how.
Chapter 5 Queen versus Rook and Bishop
It is hard to believe that White can win this position as the f7 square is covered by both rook and bishop and all Black’s pieces are safe and coordinated. White failed to win this game in practice; he tried for 16 moves and gave up. However, White can force the pawn through or win a piece in 43 moves. This is a good example where computer generation of tablebases has really enhanced the understanding of the endgame and found sophisticated winning manoeuvres in positions like these. The key piece in this type of position is the attacker’s king.
Chapter 6 Queen vs Two Rooks
The authors summarise this material imbalance thus “The rooks are slightly superior materially speaking, but this does not make them favourites automatically. It is very important, if they can get static control and their king can hide. The queen on the other hand often wants to start dynamics to overload the rooks and destroy their coordination and harmony.”
The ending of two Rooks + P v Q is covered in some depth, the theory of which is completely new to the reviewer and probably new to the reader.
The most important factor is whether the attacking king can find hiding places. This often depends on where the defending king is. It has some similarities with queen and pawn vs queen endings:
With a rook’s pawn, generally if White’s king is away from the action (near the pawn), the game is drawn, but it is not so easy to give a main drawing zone which was possible in the queen and rook’s pawn or knight’s pawn versus queen case, but d7 seems to be a a good square but it does not always draw.
Matters are very complex and the wins are often very long as this game shows:
If the reader has played through this ending, it was remarkably simple to win.
With a central pawn, there is no fortress on the short side for the defending king:
This is winning after 1.Kd7 Qg7+ 2.e7
In general, the queen can draw when the defending king is well placed and the attacker cannot coordinate and safeguard the king. This can be very complicated and not easy to calculate:
White’s king is trapped on the edge but White can just hold: 71.Qb6+ Kf7 72.Kg4 R5f4+ 73.Kg5 Rf6 74.Qb1 Rg3+ 75.Kh4 Rg2 75.Kh4 Rg2
76.Qb3+ and lost quickly 76.Qh7+! draws 76…Kf8 77.Qh8+ Rg8 78.Qh5 e5 79.Kh3 Rg7 80.Qh4 Kf7 81.Qc4+ Re6 82.Qc7+ Re7 83.Qc4+ Kf6 84.Qc6+ Re6 85.Qf3+ =
Here is a game from the early Fischer. His opponent played 90..Kd6? and Fischer defended perfectly to draw.
Black could have hunted down the White king as follows: 90…Rc3 91.Kg4 Ra4+ 92.Kh5 Rc5+ 93.Kh6 Rh4+ 94.Kg6 Rg4+ 95.Kh6 Rgg5
96.Qa2 Ke8 97.Qa8+ Kf7 98.Qa2+ Rcd5
After 99.Qf2+ Rgf5 winning as 100…Rh5+ follows
General case with more pawns
In general the rooks want static control and the queen dynamic. It is extremely important for the rooks to coordinate. Examples of positions where the two rooks are better are shown below.
The reviewer gives some typical positions with a quick assessment: buy the book to go through the analysis.
In this position below the rooks have full board control. White wins easily.
In the position below the rooks are coordinated and white’s weak isolated pawns are easy pickings for the rooks. Black won quickly.
In the next position, white has just played 43.Re1 threatening Ree7, Black has to weaken his pawns to prevent the immediate loss of the f7-pawn. This is enough for white to win.
The queen needs targets to start dynamic play. Good for the queen are weak pawns, an exposed king, uncoordinated rooks and of course dangerous friendly passed pawns.
Queen + two connected passed pawns usually beat two rooks. The defensive setup with the rooks doubled up against the more advanced pawn can be difficult to break down. The position below is winning but takes nearly 50 moves against best defence!
The position below is winning for the queen as the rooks are uncoordinated and the queen has a dangerous passed c-pawn.
In this position the passed pawn dominates the rooks but Black is still holding out. The key to winning this game is to open a second front on the queenside to widen the bridgehead for the queen. Hence 48.c4!
In the next position Black has a small material advantage with two connected passed pawns. The easiest way to win is to open a second front on the queenside and create fresh White pawn weaknesses, hence 35…a5!
In the next example, there is rough material equality but the queen is winning here as White’s rooks are uncoordinated, his king is exposed and he has lots of weak pawns.
Chapter 7 – Queen versus Rook and Two Minor Pieces
Surprisingly the author does not cover the endgame with no pawns as R+B+N v Q is drawn but is difficult to hold.
The pieces seek static control. In the position below, Black is winning but needs squares for his pieces, hence 34…g5!? After 35.fxg5 Bxg5 Black is winning as White’s pawns are going to drop off in the long run.
In the next example, the position is static with the pieces controlling everything. The queen has no targets and White’s king is safe. White will slowly and surely improve his pieces and pick off Black’s pawns.
In the next example, the queen has passed pawns, but they are all separated and effectively isolated, so Black’s well coordinated pieces can just collect the apple harvest after 34…Rb4!
The queen loves dynamic play with an exposed enemy king.
A good example is below where queen and 3 pawns fight a rook and two bishops with an exposed king. After 24.Qe6 Black is struggling to coordinate and finish development. Black put up stiff resistance but the defensive task proved too much and White won.
In the next game, a queen and two connected passed pawns supported by the king face an uncoordinated rook, bishop and knight. The queen wins effortlessly.
Chapter 8 Queen an Minor Piece vs Queen (and Minor Piece)
This topic is covered well with sections on:
Queen + Knight v Queen
Queen + Knight + Pawns v Queen + Pawns
Queen + Bishop v queen
Queen + Bishop + Pawns v Queen + pawns
Queen + Knight endings
Queen + Bishop (same colour) endings
Queen + Bishop (opposite colour) endings
Queen + Knight v Queen + bishop endings
This is particularly good chapter.
Chapter 9 Queen + Rook v Queen + Rook
This piece combination is a really a mixture of middlegame and endgame themes. King safety is paramount. In this game White’s king is safe whereas Black’s king is looking potentially vulnerable.
Fischer played the incisive 33.a4!! to open up files for his rook. If 33…b4 34.Rh5!
There is another Fischer game below. White had to play 35.Rf3. However after 35.Qf8+? Kh5 Black’s king entered the fray with decisive effect. After 36.g4+ Kh4 37.Qxf6+ Kxh3 it was all over.
Chapter 10 Queen vs. Minor pieces
The interesting endgames of queen v 2 minor pieces with no pawns are covered.
The endgame of queen v two knights with pawns is covered showing typical winning methods:
Overloading the knights which can only defend a limited front
Some successful fortresses are also demonstrated.
The endgame of queen v two bishops with pawns is also covered. Positions with mutual passed pawns are shown demonstrating the power of the queen. Some fortresses are shown of course.
The endgame of queen v knight and bishop with pawns is also covered. Positions with fortresses are covered with methods of breaching them covered.
Queen versus three minor pieces is by far the most interesting endgame covered with this rough material equality.
In this sort of position where the pieces are uncoordinated, the queen wins:
If the pieces are coordinated and their king is safe, they have good winning chances.
White misfired with 53.b5? (53.Qxb7 holds a draw) 53…Nd4! wins as the pieces gain static control. Eventually all the queenside pawns were exchanged and Black won on the kingside.
If the minor pieces have control even with a pawn apiece, the pieces have winning chances:
Black played 50…Qc1+? and lost the pawn and the game. 50…Qg1 just holds!
The next position is one of dynamic equality:
30…Bc6! 31.Qxa7 Nc5=
Chapter 11 is a pot pourri of fascinating positions that do not belong elsewhere in the book.
Chapter 12 covers some endgame studies. Every endgame book should include some studies to enhance the readers’ imaginations.
The book ends with comprehensive solutions to the exercises set in each chapter.
In summary, this is an excellent book which requires a lot of time to absorb. Some sections are much easier to absorb than others, for example the sections on two rooks v queen in the general case with many pawns is excellent and would be useful for club players and above. The chapter on queen and minor piece v queen and minor piece with many pawns is also superb. The more difficult sections such as queen and pawn v queen are definitely worth studying and are fascinating in themselves.
FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 11th August 2021
“Goethe once wrote, “Everything is both simpler than we can imagine, and more complicated than we can conceive.” He could well have had chess endgames in mind. Endgames have fewer pieces on the board than middlegames but this does not necessarily make them “easier” to play or understand.
Tactical expertise is, understandably, generally associated with middlegame (and sometimes opening) positions. However, tactics are also crucial in endgames – a point that is sometimes overlooked. Even some quite simple looking pawn endgames can feature complex tactical ideas. Tactics in endgames also tend to be very different to middlegame tactics.
As well as the familiar themes of pins, skewers and forks, endgames also feature unique concepts that rarely occur in middlegames such as pawn breakthroughs, manoeuvring for zugzwang and active use of the king as an aggressive unit.
In this book the highly experienced chess author and coach Cyrus Lakdawala guides the reader through the complexities of endgame tactical play. Lakdawala assembles positions that are most effective to improve tactical ability. Work your way through this book and you will undoubtedly see the results in your own games.”
end of blurb…
“Cyrus Lakdawala is an International Master, a former National Open and American Open Champion, and a six-time State Champion. He has been teaching chess for over 30 years, and coaches some of the top junior players in the U.S.”
The reviewer is a fan of this type of book which is a really good endgame puzzle/training tome: this title does not disappoint. The examples are a pleasing mixture of endgames from high level games; composed studies and a final chapter consisting of composed mate in two problems.
In the introduction, the author addresses the common objection to studies and problems “they are artificial and also too difficult”. He recalls a piece of advice from GM Bill Lombardy: “You don’t have to solve them. Just try for a few minutes and then look up the answer.” This is the point, the act of attempting to solve the study/problem followed by a close study of the answer will improve your analytic ability and enlarge your toolbox of recognised patterns. A lot of studies have very memorable moves/themes which once seen are never forgotten.
The reviewer can recall a particular knight and pawn endgame where I jeopardised an easy draw by missing a study like move (lack of imagination in cruise mode) but redeemed myself by scrambling a study like draw (desperation but only found because my imagination had been improved by studying studies).
Cyrus goes on to discuss training techniques to improve students’ calculation skills, tactical awareness and tactical/strategic imagination: he and the vast majority of trainers regard studies as an essential tool to aid the development of endgame mastery.
In the main seven chapters, I like the way the author breaks down the more difficult studies to aid a student/reader to solve them: it’s almost like a brain dump of his assessment/analysis process as he goes about solving the problem.
The over the board endgames include many games from masters of the endgame such as Botvinnik, Capablanca, Karpov, Smyslov, and Tal. Tal may not be immediately recognised by some as a maestro of the endgame, but his calculation skills and imagination were second to none and this made him a superb endgame player.
The studies include giants such as Afek, Grigoriev, Mitrofanov, Pogosyants, Réti, Troitzky.
The book is divided into eight chapters, the first two sections are kind of introductory followed by five chapters with different piece combinations. The final section is a set of mate in two problems.
The reviewer will showcase three or four positions from each chapter to give the reader a taster.
Here are some interesting positions from Chapter One – Deadly Simplicity.
This position is from the game Chigorin v Tarrasch Ostend 1905. White looks to be in terrible trouble here as black’s king is going to outflank white’s king and win material.
White played the resigned 50.gxf6 and lost shortly. However, white does have a dastardly defence which once seen is always remembered. 50.Kg4!! Ke4 51.g6! Now white creates a stalemate defence or he can create a future passed pawn. 51…hxg6 (51…h6 52.Kh5! and the f-pawn cannot be captured as it is stalemate!)
52.fxg6 f5+ 53.Kg5 f4 54.h5 f3 55.h6
55…gxh6+ 56.Kh6 f2 57.g7 f1Q 58.g8Q drawn
Next I shall show a lovely study which looks deceptively simple!
White to play and win.
The obvious approach to black’s pawn such as 1.Kf4? or 1. Ke5? fails to 1…Kc4 2.Kg5 Kd3 3.Kxg6 Ke4 and black gobbles the f-pawn to draw. 1.Kd5? looks tempting to shoulder barge the black king, however 1…Kb4! draws 2.Ke5 (2.f4 Kc3! draws is a major point) Kc4 3.Kf6 Kd4 4.Kxg6 Ke4 draws.
1.Kd4!! is the only way preventing the side approach, now 1…Kb4 (1…Kc6 2.Ke5 Kd7 3.Kf6 wins) 2.f4! The key point 2..Kb3 3.Ke5 Kc4 4.Kf6 wins
A really instructive problem and very game like.
The next study is white to play and win. I remember being shown this study as a kid and solving it.
1.Re8+ !! (1…Kg7 2.f6+ wins black’s rook) 1…Kxe8 2.g7 Rg8 3.f6 Zugzwang 3…Rf8 4.exf8Q+ Kxf8 5.Kd7 Kg8 6.Ke7 and wins the f-pawn and the game.
Chapter 2 – Recognizing Patterns
What is happening here with white to play? White can draw easily with 1.Rxe7 or 1.gxf7. Can white do better?
1.f6 looks interesting with the idea of 1…Rxe8 2.gxf7
Surely white is winning with 3.fxg7 to follow after black moves his rook. But analyse further! 2…Rd8!! wins as after 3.fxg7 Ke7!+ wins both pawns and the game. Cyrus had set this position as an exercise for some students, most of whom complained bitterly when they fell into the trap. The author responded that he did not specify a “white to play and win” position, he just gave them a position to analyse, just like a game! A great learning experience.
Here is a didactic opposite coloured bishop endgame.
How does white make progress here? 51.Be7 allows Kc7 blocking the king’s path into black’s position. 51.Bb8! does the trick and black resigned 1-0. If 51…Kxb8 52.Kd6 Kc8 53.Kxe6! Kd8 54.Kf6 Kd7 55.Kg7 Ke7 56.Kxh7 Kf7 57.e6+ decoying the black king, winning after 58.Kg7 and 59.h7
Here is some Troitzky magic: white to play and draw.
White looks to be in desperate straits as the black’s outside passed h-pawn looks to be the decisive factor.
1.Kb6! threatening 2.a6 1…Kc8 2.a6 Kb8 3.a7+! Ka8 4.Kc7! h5 5.Kxd6 h4 6.Kxd7 h3 7.e5 h2 8.e6 h1Q 9.e7 Qd5+ This looks lost for white as an e-pawn on the seventh normally loses against a queen 10.Kc7! Qe6 11.Kd8 Qd6+ 12.Kc8! Qxe7 stalemate
Chapter 3 – King And Pawn Endgames
Here is an important idea that does occur in practice. Alexei Shirov lost a game to this idea.
This position looks to be drawn after a move like 1.Rg1 a1=Q as white wins both pawns but black’s king gets back in time to secure the draw. However white has an elegant idea to win: 1.Ra1! Kxa1 Forced as 1…Kb3 2.Kc1 Ka3 3.Kc2 wins the a-pawn and the game easily 2.Kc2 Zugzwang 2…g5 3.hxg5 h4 4.g6 h3 5.g7 h2 6.g8Q h1Q 7.Qg7#
Here is a famous finish to a game demonstrating the potential power of a breakthrough and Reti’s theme with king paths.
White looks to be lost as after 1.Kf6 c4 2.bxc4 bxc4 3.Ke5 c3! 4.bxc3 a4 the black pawn promotes. 1.Kg6!! threatening h5 forces 1…Kxh42. Kf5 Kg3 3.Ke4 Kf2 4.Kd5 Ke3!
5.Kxc5 Kd3 6.Kxb5 Kc2 7.Kxa5 Kxb3 draw (A really instructive endgame lesson – kings do not have to take the most obvious path.)
Some Vasily Smyslov magic next.
White had had a vastly superior (winning) rook ending and decided to enter this king and pawn ending which he assessed as easily winning for white as he has a potential passed outside h-pawn and his king can enter via c4. Smyslov shattered that illusion with 46…g4!! 47.h4 (47.hxg4 does not help as the potential passed pawn has disappeared and black’s king now can enter white’s position via g5 leading to a draw.) 47…c5 48.Ke2 Kh7! 49.Kd3 Kh6 waiting
50. c3 (white’s intended 50.Kc4 loses to the breakthrough move 50…f5! 51.exf5 e4! 52.c3 a5! zugzwang and the e-pawn promotes) 50…a5 51.cxb4 axb4 drawn (A brilliant escape for the endgame master)
Chapter 4 – Rook Endgames
A famous study but worth reproducing called Lasker’s manoeuvre/steps/ladder. This has occurred in practice in GM games.
Here is some more Troitzky magic which is very game like.
Black appears to be ok as his h-pawn should be enough to draw.
1.e5! fxe5+ (1…h3 2.exf6 wins as the black king will exposed to a decisive rook check) 2.Ke4! h3 3.Rh8! Rxa7 4.Rh6+ Ke7 5.Rh7+ securing the rook and the game. A very common idea in rook and pawn endgames.
Here is the end of a game Judit Polgar v Nigel Short Monte Carlo 1993.
This is instructive: 61.h6+! Kf7 (61…Kxh6 62.Kf6 wins threatening mate and the rook) 62.g5!! fxg5 63.Rd8! and black cannot stop the h-pawn without giving up the rook, 1-0 in a few moves after a few spite checks.
Chapter 5 – Queen Endgames
Queen endgames are notoriously tricky and complex.
Here is an entertaining study.
White looks to be in trouble as 1.Qe3!! is met by 1…f4 forcing promotion, but look further: 2.Qf2! d1=Q 3.Kc3!! zugzwang 3…f3 4.Qe3+ Kb1 5.Qb6+ Kc1 6.Qb2#
Here is an amusing study. How does white win here?
After 1.Qxg8+ Kxg8 white can play 2.h7+ which only leads to stalemate or 2.hxg7 and although white wins the a-pawn, black’s king reaches the a8 corner in time to draw.
Here is an amusing finish from a game Adams-Dimitrov.
Black played 68…e3?? no doubt looking forward to a win over his illustrious opponent. Adams reply soon disabused him: 69.Qh3+! 69…Qxh3 stalemate (Lesson: the queen is powerful, always be on the look-out for mating and stalemating ideas)
Chapter 6 – Minor Piece Endgames
Here is a study by the great Grigoriev which shows a bad bishop endgame, but how does white breakthrough?
1.g4 creating a passed h-pawn does not win as white has no entry point for his king. So the only idea to win must be Bxh5 but white must prepare this move without allowing black’s bishop to get out of its cage.
1.Bf3 Bb7 2.Ke3! (2.Ke4? would allow black’s bishop to improve its posting 2…Bc8 and draws) Ba8 3.Ke4! Bb7 4.Kf4 Ba8 5.Bxh5! (Now black’s bishop is on its worst possible square) Kxh5 6.g4+ Kxh4 (6…Kh6 7.g5Kg7 8.h5 Bb7 9.h6+ Kf7 10.gxf6 Kxf6 11.h7! Kg7 12.Ke5 Kxh7 13.Kd6 winning) 7.g5 fxg5+ 8. Ke4! (8.Ke5 also wins but takes much longer) Kh5 (8…g4 9.f6 g3 10.Kf3! Kh3 11.f7 g2 12.f8Q g1Q 13.Qh8#) 9.Ke5! g4 10.f6 g3 11.f7 g2 12.f8Q g1Q 13.Qh8+ Kg4 14.Qg7+ winning the queen
Here is more Smyslov magic:
How does white breakthrough? Black looks to have a fortress.
59…g5!! 60.fxg5 d4+! 61.exd4 Kg3 (The position below demonstrates the very important “one diagonal” principle in opposite coloured bishop endings. Black’s bishop fulfils two roles on one diagonal: protecting his own b3-pawn whilst simultaneously preventing the advance of white’s passed pawns.)
62.Ba3 Kxh4 63.Kd3 Kxg5 64.Ke4 h4 65.Kf3 Bd5+ 0-1 Black wins the bishop which has to give itself up for the h-pawn and then simply captures white’s pawns winning easily.
Chapter 7 All Other Piece Combinations
Tal – Trifunovic
Palma de Mallorca (5) 1966
Tal had to seal in this position and he played the best move beginning a ten move combination.
Here is a jointly composed study with one of the composers being Leopold Mitrofanov of Qg5!! fame. If the reader doesn’t know what I am on about, then look it up for a real treat – arguably one of the greatest studies ever.
1.Be4+ Kg3 2.Bf3! Kxf3 3.f7 Bd6+ 4.Kxd6 d1Q+ 5.Kc7!! Qxc2+ 6.Kd7 drawing (Black’s king is one square too far from the winning zone.)
Here is a superb study by Yochanan Afek.
1.b7 Qc6 2.Bd7! Qxd7 3.Rxe4+ (These checks avoid black’s stalemate defences, I will leave the reader to work them out) Ka5 4.Re5+ Kb6! (4…Ka6? 5.b8N+ wins) 5.b8Q+ Ka6
White is threatened with mate and has no checks. 6.Rb5!! Qxb5 7.Qa7#
Chapter 8 Composed Mates In Two
Here is a problem – white to play and mate in two moves.
1.Qf1! There are four different mates. I shall leave the reader to figure them out.
In summary, an excellent endgame coaching/training manual to improve your analytic powers with some instructive, beautiful and entertaining games, studies and problems.
FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 27th July 2021
John Nunn has written around thirty books on chess, many of these being some of the finest published in any language : Secrets of Pawnless Endings (1994, Batsford) for example, is easily a candidate for the all time list. John is a director of Gambit Publications Ltd. together with Murray Chandler and Graham Burgess.
From the rear cover :
“Everyone knows they should work on their endgame play. So many hard-earned advantages are squandered in ‘simple’ endings… But it’s tough finding a way to study endings that doesn’t send you to sleep and that helps you actually remember and apply what you have learnt.
“While endgame theory books are helpful, active participation by the reader is a great aid to learning. I hope that this book of endgame exercises will encourage readers to put their brains in high gear, both to test themselves and to learn more about the endgame. I have spent several months selecting the 444 exercises in this book from what was initially a much larger collection.” – John Nunn
All major types of endgame are covered, together with a wide-ranging chapter on endgame tactics. Examples are drawn from recent practice or from little-known studies. The emphasis is on understanding and applying endgame principles and rules of thumb. You will learn by experience, but always backed up by Nunn’s expert guidance to ensure that the lessons you take away from the book are correct and useful.”
To get some idea of the book Gambit (via Amazon) provide a “Look Inside” at their Kindle edition.
As you would expect with Gambit, the notation is English short form algebraic using figurines for pieces. A previous criticism (ibid) has been addressed in that each diagram has a W or B “whose move it is” indicator. The diagrams do not have coordinates but this is not likely to be a problem for most.
Here on YouTube John Nunn gives the reader an introduction to the book :
So, what did we think?
This is another superb endgame book by John Nunn. This excellent tome is titled as an exercise book, so the reader will gain most by attempting to solve the puzzles, but there is no compulsion to do this: the book can also be treated as a practical endgame manual.
Most of the positions are from recent actual play and show typical positions that occur in practice and therefore show practical problems and mistakes even by very strong players. In many positions, John Nunn selects two or three obvious candidate moves and asks the reader to choose one. I like this approach as it reflects a real game and the pressure to choose between candidates.
There are some theoretical positions which are shown in many endgame primers. Some studies are included which always expand the reader’s mind by showing the beautiful rich tapestry of chess and should increase the reader’s imagination in practical play.
Each of the first nine chapters has an introductory piece over two pages which is short and pithy introducing some main principles for the forthcoming chapter: for example in the king and pawn ending section, key ideas are presented including:
Assessing transitions into Q+P endings
This is followed by the exercises which vary in difficulty from 1-5. This degree of hardness is indicated by a number of stars. Level 1 is solvable by a club player; level 5 will give a Grandmaster a good workout.
Most of the chapters have a special harder exercises section.
The two biggest chapters are king and pawn endings, and rook and pawn endings which reflect their importance and relative occurrence. Many endings reduce down to bare king and pawn endings which most be understood to play the endgame at a half decent level. Rook and pawn endings are the most common as the rooks tend to be developed last: excellence in these endings is a sure sign of a strong player.
The reviewer will show a flavour of positions from the first nine chapters with varying difficulty levels.
Chapter 1 – King and Pawn Endings
This first position below in the book is a level 1 exercise and an illustration of triangulation.
Black to move here has to move his king losing the d-pawn and the game quickly. But it is white to move and white wins by executing a fundamental manoeuvre as follows:
1.Ke2 Ke6 (1…Kc6 2.Kd2 is no different) 2. Kd2! Kd5 3.Kd3 and now black has the move and is in zugzwang. White has moved his king in a triangle whereas black could only move his king between two squares (because the c5 pawn restricts his manoeuvres).
Shown below is a harder example (level 3) of triangulation.
To the casual observer this position looks to be drawn as both kings are tied up watching the opponent’s connected passed pawns. White’s pawns are further advanced and he can win with a subtle manoeuvre as follows:
Kg4! White must prevent d5 and d4, 1…Kf6 (The toughest defence. 1…d5 loses to 2.Kg5 see below) 2.Kg3! d5 (2…Kg7 3.Kf4 d5 3.Kg5 transposes) 3. Kf4 Zugzwang, black must give way 3…Kg7 4.Kg5 e3 5.h6+ Kg8 6. Kf6 e2 7.h7+ Kh8 8.Kf7 e1=Q 9.g7+ Kxh7 10.g8=Q+ Kh6 11.Qg6#
In the basic king and pawn endgame below, the author informs the reader that black has only one move to draw.
This position illustrates not only the opposition but also consideration of the opponent’s pawn breaks. White has two winning ideas:
Achieve the position of Ke5 v Ke7 with black to move
Get in the h5 break when black cannot capture and follow up with Kg7 or Kh7 drawing
Black played 1…Kd6? guarding against the first idea but not the second. White won with 2.Kg4 Ke6 3.h5 gxh5+ 4.Kxh5 Kf7 5.Kh6 seizing the critical squares, winning.
To this end only 1…Kf7! draws viz: 2.Ke5 Ke7 seizing the opposition or 2. Kg4 Kf7 meeting 3.h5 with 3…gxh5+ 4.Kxh5 Kg7 drawing
The next example shows an example of the distant opposition at work.
White only has one move to draw: 1.Kh2! (Seizing the distant opposition three squares apart, 1.Kg2? Ke2 2.Kg3 Ke3 3.Kg4 Kf2 4.Kh4 Kf3 5.Kg5 Kg3 wins) 1…Kd3 2.Kh3! Kd4 3.Kh4! Ke4 4.Kg4 Ke3 5.Kg3 Ke2 6.Kg2 Kd2 7.Kh2 holding the draw. White’s king has access to all the squares on the h-file, which why this defence works.
This next struggle (at level 3) shows the importance of reserve tempi and how crucial it is to manage them precisely. This is of course coupled with exact calculation. Neither side wants to move their king as to do so loses the game. Nunn gives the reader an amusing choice between 1…a4, 1…b5 and 1…e4 stating that one loses, one draws and one wins.
This is highly instructive as black played the worst move, but white let him escape with a draw!
Black wins with 1…b5! gaining space and ensuring that white runs out of pawn moves first. 2.b3 c5 3.c4 (3.f3 a4!) 3…bxc4 4.bxc4 a4 5.a3 e4 winning the h-pawn 6.Kg3 Kxh5 7.Kf4 Kg6 8.Ke5 Kg5 9.Kd5 Kf4 10.Kxc5 Kf3 11.Kd5 Kxf2 12.c5 e3 13.c6 e2 14.c7 e1=Q 15.c8=Q Qd2+ 16Ke5 f4 with a winning Q ending for black
It is very instructive to look at the other two moves that Nunn suggests: it is all down to exact calculation which is why king and pawn endings are so interesting and difficult!
I shall finish the king and pawn examples with a level 5 difficulty example.
How does white draw here? White played 1.Kd5? and lost.
1.c5! b5! (1…bxc5? loses as 2.b5 axb5 3.a5 wins as black cannot catch the a-pawn and his own pawns are too slow. 2.axb5 axb5 White has a protected passed pawn but most play some accurate moves to draw. 3. Kd5!! (3.Kf3? loses to the triangulation technique of the second example above viz: 3…h5 4.Kg3 Kf5 5.Kf3 h4 6.Kg2 g4 7.Kf2 g3+ 8.Kf3 Ke5 9.Kg2 Ke6! 10.Kf3 Kf5 11.Kg2 Kg4 12.c6 h3+ 13.Kg1 Kf3 14.c7 h2+ 15.Kh1 Kf2 16.c8=Q g2+ mates) 3…g4 (3…h5 4.Kd6 h4 5.c6 h3 6.c7 h2 7.c8=Q h1=Q 8. Qe6+ Kg7 9.Qd7+ is a perpetual) 4.Ke4!! A brilliant switchback 4…h5 5.Kf4 Ke6 6.Kg3 Ke5 7.Kh4! Now white oscillates between h4 and g3 drawing, black cannot play his king to g5 as the white c-pawn promotes. The Kd5, Ke4 manoeuvre forced black to advance his pawns in a sub optimal manner allowing white a blockade. A very instructive ending.
Chapter 2 covers knight endings. The reviewer will give a couple of examples. The type of position below does occur in practice quite often: the stronger side may have won a knight on the queenside by promoting an outside passed passed pawn. How does white win?
Black is threatening Kf5 followed by Kg4 drawing.
White must play 1.Nd4! Kg5 (threatening Kg4 followed by h4) 2.Ke6! (The obvious 2.Ke5? throws the win away 2…Kg4 3.Nf5 Kg5 zugzwang 4.Ke6 Kg6 zugzwang) 2…Kg4 (2…h4+ 3.Nf3+ wins) 3.Nf5! Kg5 4.Ke5! Zugzwang 4…Kg4 4.Kf6 Kf3 5.Kg5 winning the pawn and the game. This is a very common theme in knight endgames as a knight cannot lose a tempo.
The second knight and pawn example is harder.
White played 1.Kd5 which only draws. It looks logical as it places the king near the kingside ready for a hoped for decisive invasion. However it does not win. Passed pawns must be pushed!
White wins with 1.Kb6! Blocking his own pawn but the king must support the dangerous pawn. 1…Nxg5 2. Kb7 (Keeping the black pieces from their optimal squares. 2.Ka7? Ne6 3.Ne4 Nd4! 4.b6 Nc6+ draws) 2…Ne6 3.Ne4! g5 4.Nf6+ Kd8 5.b6 Nc5+ 6.Ka8! Ke7 7.Ne4! Nd7 8.b7 g4 9.Nc5 wins
Chapter 3 covers bishop endings.
The type of ending below is fairly common and is covered in endgame primer manuals. How does white draw?
The key factor here is the presence of the h-pawn which renders this position a draw with accurate defence, because of the edge of the board and stalemating opportunities. A similar position with pawns on the e,f & g files would be won for black.
White lost this game by playing 1.Bb5? but could have drawn as follows:
1.Kg1! (Or 1.Kh1!) Kg3 2. Bd7! (2.Bd5? loses to 2…f2+ 3.Kf1 Kh2) 2…f2+ 3.Kf1 Kf3 4.Bxg4+ Kxg4 5.Kxf2 with a clear draw
The position below is covered in Basic Chess Endings by Fine and other primers on the endgame. How does black to play draw?
1…Kd5! (Black played 1…Be7? Now white wins with a standard idea. 2.Bd8 Bc3 3.Bh4 Ba5 4.Bg3 and black prevent cannot prevent Bc7 blocking out the bishop and wins) 2. Bd8 Bc3 3.Bh4 Ba5 4.Be1 Bb6 5. Bf2 Ba5 6.Bg3 Kc6 (Just in time to stop Bc7, black draws) =
This chapter also has some excellent examples of opposite coloured bishop endgames which are well worth study. Buy the book to see these.
Chapter 4 covers bishop versus knight endings.
Here is a position that looks desperate for black, so he resigned. But there is a saving resource. His pieces are restricted and near the corner, so….
1…Kh8! (Any knight move allows the f-pawn to advance decisively) draws 2.Kf7 Ng7! 3.Bd4 (3.f6 Nh5 draws) 3…Kh7! draws as 4. Bxg7 is stalemate
The next fight shows how poorly the knight deals with rook pawns.
Black won with 1…Kb5 2.Kf3 Kc4 3.Ke2 Kc3 Keeping the white king away by shouldering – a common theme in all sorts of endings. Even though the pawn has not moved, white cannot draw! 4.Nf4 Kc2 5.Nd5 a5 (Finally the pawn moves) 6.Nc7 a4 7.Nb5 Be5 8.Na3+ (8.Ke3 Kb3 9.Kd3 Kb4 10.Na7 a3 11.Nc6+ Kc5 12.Na5 a2 13.Nb3+ Kb4 14.Kc2 Bf6 is a win by zugzwang – a common occurrence in B+P v N endings) Kb3 9.Nb1 Bc3 10.Kd1 Ba5 11.Kc1 Bb4 0-1 as 12. Kd1 is met by Kb2 winning easily.
Chapter 5 covers Rook Endings.
The position shows a common type of position. Nunn asks the question, which is best 1.Rf8+, 1.Rg8 or 1.Ke5?
The intermediary check gains a tempo which wins: 1.Rf8+! Ke4 Attempting to shoulder barge the white king 2. Rg8! Kf4 3.Kd5 g4 4. Kd4 1-0 as 4…h3 5.Kd3 Kf3 6.Rf8+ Kg2 7.Ke2 Kg1 8.Kf3 g2 9.Kg3 Kh1 10.Rh8+ Kg1 11.Rh2 wins
Which king move should white make in the position below?
White played 1.Ke6? and lost because of 1…Re1+ which is similar to the position above. 1.Kg6 draws as white should keep his king on the same side as Black. 1…Kf3 2.f5 Ke4 3.f6 Rg1+ 4.Kh7 Rf1 5.Kg7 Ke5 6.f7 draws
How does black draw in this common type of position?
1…Re1! 2.f6 (2.Kf6 Kb4! 3.e7 Kc5 4.Kf7 Kd6 draws after 5.f6 Kd7 or 5.e8=Q Rxe8 6.Kxe8 Ke5 draws) 2…Re5!+ (A superb hesitation check which is easy to miss, 2…Rxe6 loses to 3.f7) 3.Kg6 Rxe6 drawing.
One move wins for black in this position. What is it?
1…Rc3+! is the winner. This idea is analysed in “My Sixty Memorable Games” in a Fischer game with Gligorić (with reversed colours). Fischer comments that he spent all night analysing this rook and pawn endgame learning a lot about rook and pawn endgames.
2. Kd2 b5 (now the black rook shields the king from a frontal assault) 3.Rb1+ Rb3 4. Rh1 Ka3 5.Kc2 Rb2+! 6.Kc1 b4 7.Rh8 Rg2 8.Ra8+ Kb3 9.Rb8 Rg1+ 10.Kd2 Rb1! 11.Rb7 Ka2 and white cannot avoid the Lucena position for long.
In the example below, Dr Nunn asks which is better 1…Ke8 or 1…Kg8? This is a fundamental rook and pawn position that everyone should know.
The black king should move to the short side, so the rook can operate on the long side.
Black played 1…Ke8? which loses 2.Ra8+ Kd7 3.Rf8! The key move 3…Rf2 4.Kg7 Rg2+ 5.Kf7 Rf2 6.f6 and the Lucena will soon be reached.
1… Kg8! would have drawn 2. Ra8+ Kh7 3.Ke6 (3.Rf8 Ra1! preparing flank checks on the long side) 3…Kg7! 4. Ra7+ Kf8 5.Kf6 Kg8 repeating =
Should black play 1…Rb6, 1…Ka7, 1…Rh2?
Only 1…Rb6! draws setting up the Vancura position as soon as possible. 2.Kf4 Rc6 3.Kg5 Rc5+ 4.Kg6 Rc6+ 5.Kg7 Rc7+ with a standard Vancura draw. This Vancura draws only works with rook pawns.
Chapter 6 covers Rook and Minor Piece endgames.
I will show three examples of didactic positions.
This is a standard theoretical position with the king in the wrong corner (same colour as the bishop).
White wins by 1.Kf6! (Black is threatening Bb2 followed by Bg7) 1…Be3 2.Kf7 Ba7 3.Ra6 smoking out the bishop 3…Bb8 4.Ra8 Bc7 5.Rc8 Bf4 (5…Bb6 6.Rc3 Kh6 7.Rc6+ wins the bishop) 6.Rc4 Bg5 7.Rc3 1-0 since 7…Kh6 8.Rh3+ wins the bishop
In the next game we have a rook and opposite colour bishop ending where mating ideas are always on the agenda particularly when a king is on the edge of the board.
White won with 1.Kc7! (Threatening the brutal 2.Rb8#) 1…Bb7 2.a6! winning easily as 2…Rxc5+ 3.Rxc5 Bxa6 4. Ra5 wins
The next example shows the notoriously difficult rook and bishop versus rook ending. The reviewer has had this endgame twice in practice and won both times. This type of position is very common in this ending. Black has only one drawing move. What is it?
This second rank defence is good but cannot always be reached. It does not work when the king is in the corner.
Here is a R v B with the defending king near the safe corner, however, this position is still very dangerous for white, who has one drawing move.
White played 1.Bd5? and lost as follows: 1…Rd7 (Black smokes the bishop out again) 2.Bc6 Rc7 3.Bd5 Rd7 4.Bc6 Rd6 5.Bb5 Rb6 6.Be8 Rb8 7.Bg6 Rh8+ winning 1.Kh5 draws since 1…Kf5 2.Kh4 Kf4 3.Kh3 or Kh5 draws
Chapter 7 covers queen endings.
Here I will give a flavour with four endings. Here white has a strong passed pawn but white’s queen is offside. How does black impede its further advance? This type of position occurs quite frequently.
Black played 1…Qc5? (1…Qf3? also loses 2. Qb6 wins) 2.Kg1 Qd4 (or 2…Qc1+ 3.Kg2 winning as black cannot check on the long diagonal) 3.c7 1-0
Black can draw with 1…Qd4! (Harassing white’s king and stopping Qb6) 2.Kg1 Qd1+ 3.Kg2 Qd5+ draws as 4.f3 Qd2+ 5.Kh3 Qc1 draws
The next position shows how dangerous a queen can be: don’t forget she is a potent mating force! Black is a pawn up but white’s next few moves show how immaterial that is.
There are many games, even in GM praxis where the stronger side falls into a mating net trying to a avoid a perpetual.
The next game shows the notorious Q + rook’s pawn v Q ending.
Here black has placed his king onto a very poor square. Black should have put his king in the a1 corner area to draw. Even then, the defending side has to be very accurate. How does white win?
Black’s king is very vulnerable to a cross check. White should move his king towards the 4th rank to exploit black’s king position. So:
1.Qf5! (1.Kg7? only draws, don’t forget a queen can shepherd home a pawn without its king’s help, so white plays his king towards the rank that black’s king is on) 1…Qg2+ 2.Kf6 Qb2+ 3.Kg5 (Black has no more checks) 3…Qh8 4.Qd7+ (4.h7 is quicker) 4…Ka3 (4…Kb3 lasts longer) 5.Qe7+ Ka4 6.h7 Qb8 7.Qd7+ Kb3 8.Qd3+ Ka4 9.Qd4+ wins 1-0
Notice how black’s king position obstructs the scope of his own queen and allows a cross check.
Here is an unusual position which looks hopeless for black as white’s king looks safe and a7 followed by a8=Q looks inevitable. However, black can draw!
1…Kg2! Getting the king out of way to avoid any potential cross checks. 2.a7 Kf3! ( or 2…Kf2) 3.a8=Q Qg8+ 4.c8=Q Qg3+ 5.Qc7 Qg8+ 6.Ka7 Qa2+ 7.Kb6 Qb3+ 8.Kc5 Qc2+! 9.Kd6 Qg6+ 10.Kd5 Qe4+ with a draw by perpetual despite white being a queen and a pawn up!
Chapter 8 is Endings With Queens And Other Pieces
The position below is a fairly common type of position. It looks as though white can double the rooks on the b-pawn and win it followed by ganging up on the kingside pawns winning. Black can prevent this with accurate defence. How?
Black played 1…Qa3? and lost 2.Rfe1 wins as 3.Re2 and 4.Reb2 followed by 5.Rxb4 cannot be prevented. 1…Qd2? also loses to 2.Rb3, but 1..Qc3! holds; white is surprisingly unable to organise his rooks to win the b-pawn. 2. Rfe1 Qd2! 3.Kf1 Qd3+ 4.Kg1 Qd2 5.Red1 Qc2 6.Rdc1 Qd2 and white is not making any progress.
Here is a rampant rook situation. White’s king is stalemated, so he is continually offering his rook with check for stalemate. Quite often there is a king manoeuvre to get out of the checks. How does black win here?
Black played 1…Kf5? 2.Rg5+! Oops, skewering the queen, drawing instantly.
A win was to be had with 1…Kh5 (or 1…Kh6) 2.Rh4+ (2.Rg5+ Qxg5 lifts the stalemate) 2…Kg6 3.Rh6+ (3.Rg4 Qg5 wins) 3…Kf7 4.Rh7+ (4.Rxf6+ Ke7 5. Re6+ Kd8 ends the checks) 4…Ke6 5.Re7+ Kf5 6.Re5+ Qxe5 wins)
Here is a theoretical Q v R+P ending. Nunn puts the poser: which is better 1…Rc2 or 1…Rc8?
The reviewer feels a bit smug as he knew the answer to this one.
Black played 1…Rc2? which is a blunder because white’s king can now cross the c-file: 2.Qb1+! Kc3 3.Kc5 b3 4.Qe1+! Rd2 (4…Kd3+ 5.Kb4 b2 6.Qb1 Kd2 7.Kb3 and he pawn falls) 5.Qc1+ Rc2 6.Qe3+ Kb2 7.Kb4 winning the pawn and the game.
1…Rc8! Draws 2.Qd1+ Ka3! 3.Qd3+ Kb2 4.Qd4+ Ka3 holding the draw
Chapter 9 Endgame Tactics
White played 1.Kf3 allowing 1…Kh4 and black consolidated his advantage to win. What did white miss?
White missed a beautiful draw with 1.Qd8+ Kg4 (1…Kh6 does not help) 2.Qd1+!! Rxd1 stalemate in mid board. Very study like.
The tenth and final chapter is the test chapter.
In summary a really good book to improve the reader’s endgame knowledge and analytical skills.
FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 30th May 2021
Decision Making In Major Piece Endings : Boris Gelfand
From the Publisher’s Foreword:
“This is the fourth book in the Decision Making In Chess series. It was written over the last couple of years. A lot of work has gone into this book and the accompanying volume Technical Decision Making In Chess, which deals with a wider range of technical topics, whereas this book focuses on positions without minor pieces.
It has been four years since the publication of Dynamic Decision Making in Chess and certainly there will be one person out there wondering what happened to us and why the third volume was taking so long to complete. I hope that the content alone of these two books will answer that question.”
From the back cover:
“In Decision Making in Major Piece Endings former World Championship Challenger Boris Gelfand discusses his path to decision making in endgames involving rooks or queens, as well as the neglected “4th phase”. Countless games are decided by good or bad technique in such endgames, so readers are certain to benefit from the insights of a word-class Grandmaster on this vital topic.
Grandmaster Boris Gelfand has been an elite player for over 30 years, winning the World Cup, Olympiad Gold, the Candidates and many other top tournaments. Grandmaster Jacob Aagaard is the only chess writer to have won all the major awards for chess writing. ”
Reaction to previous volumes in the series:
In 2015 Positional Decision Making In Chess won the ECF Book of the Year award.
“The most interesting chess book I have read in the last quarter-century.” Mikhail Shereshevsky on Positional Decision Making in Chess.
This new Quality Chess publication Decision Making In Major Piece Endings uses high quality paper and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text and each major diagram has a “to move” indicator. Where a “to move” indicator is not present, it is obvious which colour is to move from the accompanying moves in a variation.
Each chapter is introduced with a contemporary photograph of a player or players or a tournament scene which launches each chapter in a engaging manner. This is followed by a Diagram Preview page which shows the critical analytical diagrams in the following chapter and invites the reader to practise their analysis and decision making! If you can work out most of the variations you are a world champion.
The introduction of this book makes it clear that this book is not an endgame primer or manual on basic major piece endgames as there are plenty of these theoretical works already in existence. Knowledge of very basic rook and pawn endgames such as the Lucena and Vancura positions is assumed. This book is “about decision making at the board and learning from your games – and those of others. In this book I will discuss topics that have arisen in some of the most interesting games without minor pieces during my career. We will encounter rook endings, queen endgames and games in what Romanovsky called the fourth phase, which is essentially later middlegames/early endings where only major pieces remain.”
The introduction also guides the reader on how to study the endgame: 1. knowledge of basic positions and their key variations and ideas must be known; 2. improving deep analytical skills; 3. development of intuition. This book concentrates on improving items 2 & 3 above. The author suggests how to best use the book by first analysing the endgames without a chess engine and/or tablebases to prevent lazy thinking by relying too heavily on engine assessments without understanding.
Despite the fact that the introduction claims that this book is not an endgame primer, there are a couple of excellent chapters on theoretical endgames. They are covered from a practical point of view and Gelfand draws out the key defensive ideas by concentrating on patterns and key positions. More on these chapters later. There are other basic endgame positions interspersed in other chapters which are reached from long variations but are nevertheless didactic as the theoretical endgames are shown in context within the whole endgame and the reader is clearly shown how these positions can be reached in practice.
Here is an critical position from the game Julian Hodgson – Boris Gelfand played at Groningen 1996. Both players misevaluated this ending as they both thought that black was easily winning. At the time, endgame theory agreed with them. Modern tablebases give this as a clear draw as black cannot hide his king from the checks with accurate defensive play from white.
The game continued 86.Qe8+? The losing mistake. The black king escapes the checks by stepping in front of the pawns. 86.Qe6!, the most natural waiting move was still drawing. (86.Qd7! also draws). 86…Qf8 87. Qe2+ g4 88. Qe5+ Kh6 89. Qe6+ Kg5 90. Qe5+ Qf5 91.Qg7+ Kf4 92. Qc7+ Qe5 93. Qf7+ with a draw. 86… Kg4 87. Qe6+ Qf5 88.Qc4+ Kg3 89. Qc7+ Qf4 0-1
The author makes the point that if white had known that the endgame was a draw, and knew a few general ideas, he would have probably drawn the game. But when you think it is lost, psychologically it is impossible to hold it, particularly in an increment finish. A lot of the top players do not think in terms of lost or not: they concentrate on looking for ideas (to make life difficult for the opponent).
Chapter 1 – The Importance of Analysis
The title of the chapter is self explanatory and Gelfand stresses the need to study complicated endgames in depth and understand all the nuances. There are some superb examples of brilliant analysis. Here is one such position where Gelfand did not discover the right idea until 2018:
It is black to play, clearly 60…d1=Q 61. Rxd1 Kxd1 62. Kf3 is not good enough to win. Black to play can win with 60…Rc4!! 61. Rb1 Rc1 62. Rb2 Rf1!! cutting the king off from the e-file (62…Ke3? 63. Rxd2 Kxd2 64.Kf4 draws shouldering the black king) 63. Kg4 Ke3 64. Rxd2 Kxd2 65. Kg5 Ke3 wins as black’s king is now available to hunt the pawns down.
Chapter 2 Do Not Hurry
The “Do not hurry” concept is a key concept that I first encountered in Shereshevsky’s classic Endgame Strategy. In the position below, this principle can be demonstrated aptly.
Converting this position is covered in detail with a key discussion on exchanges which is enlightening.
This rook ending could have occurred and black’s winning’s manoeuvre is instructive:
63…Rc5 64. Rc7 Rc3+ 65. Kf2 Rc4 66.Kg3 Now the black rook has been optimally placed, it is time to improve the king to the maximum, while keeping the best possible pawn structure, which is to keep the pawn on g7 and play …f6, so that White does not have Rc8 followed by c6-c7. If the pawn would be on g6 in that position, Rg8 would eventually come and save a draw. The best black would achieve is f- and h- pawns, but not in favourable circumstances. With the pawn on g7, …Rxc7 will always come as a response to Rg8 and black wins trivially. 66…Kf6 67.Kh3 Kg6 68.Kg3 f6 And black wins after either 69.Kh3 Kh6! followed by the advance of the g-pawn, or 69.Rc8 Kf5! and the advance of the king.
Chapter 3 – Three Surprisingly Complicated Rook Endgames
This is a variation from an interesting rook and pawn endgame Boris Gelfand – Lars Bo Hansen Wijk aan Zee 1993:
White wins with the instructive 64.Rc7!! preparing to cut black’s king off along the fifth rank 64…Rh1 65.Rc5! and if 65…Kd6 66.Rc6+, white can then simply queen the b pawn winning black’s rook whilst black’s king is unable to support his own pawn.
Here is another common type of position taken from a variation in the game Gelfand-Vladimir Kramnik Zurich 2017. White is clearly much better as his king supports his pawn and black’s king is not in the game. But how does white win?
The answer is simple once you see it. 48.Rc3!! Kf6 49. Rc2! and wins
Chapter 4 Two Defensive Methods in Rook Endings
This chapter is one of the theoretical chapters which covers rook and four against three all on one side and rook against three connected passed pawns. This section is well constructed with coverage of all the major positions and ideas in the 4 v 3 ending.
Some famous games are included which must be present in every treatise on rook endings. Here is one such ending from: Mikhail Botvinnik v Miguel Najdorf Moscow 1956:
White is winning here because he can create a passed e-pawn and he has fixed the pawn structure with h5 leaving an entry point for the king on g6. The game continued 61…Kf7 62. Ra5 Rc7 63. Rd5 Ra7 64. e5 fxe5 65. fxe5 Ke7 66.e6 Ra4 67. g5! providing cover for the king 67…hxg5 68.Rd7+ Kf8 69.Rf7+ Kg8 70.Kg6 g4 71.h6! gxh6 72.e7 Ra8 73.Rf6 There is no defence to Rd6 and Rd8 with mate.
The celebrated endgame Capablanca-Yates Hastings 1930 is of course covered in great detail. The analysis of the famous position is covered in great depth showing the defender’s best defence which is tricky to crack. It is revealing to note that even the great Cuban World Champion let the win slip at one point. I suggest that the reader buys the book to study this superb analysis.
The position below is the celebrated game Piket-Kasparov Internet 2000 because Kasparov misplayed a drawn endgame so badly. We must not be too hard on the former World Champion as it was a rapid game and Kasparov is a superb endgame player.
The game continued: 42.Kh3 Re3 43.Kh4 Kg7?! Black does not have to let the white king into g5. 43…Kh6! 44.Rc7 Re2! 45h3
Now, 45…Rxe5! 46.Rxf7 Re4 47.g4 Rxf4! forces a quick draw.
The game continued: 44.Kg5 Re1? (The final mistake: black can hold with 44…Ra3 45.Rc7 Ra5 and white is stymied) 45.Rc7 Re2 46.Re7 Ra2 The following variation is the key to why white is winning: 46…Re1
47.e6! Rxe6 48.Rxe6 fxe6 49.h3 Despite material equality, black is lost as he is in zugzwang. 49…Kf7 50.Kh6 Kf6 51.g4 h4 52.g5+ Kf5 53.Kg7 Kxf4 54.Kxg6 e5 55.Kf6 e4 56.g6 e3 57.g7 e2 58.g8=Q e1=Q 59.Qg4+ Ke3 60.Qe6+ exchanging queens and winning
In the game, black lost in a similar manner to Botvinnik-Najdorf:
47.f5! gxf5 48.e6 h4 49.Rxf7+ Kg8 50. Kf6 1-0
The final two positions in this chapter concern Rook v 3 connected passed pawns.
White to move wins with 1.Rf8, black to move draws only with 1…Kg7! preventing the rook from moving behind the base of the chain.
Similarly in the mirror position, white to move wins with 1.Rh8, black to move draws with 1…Kg7!
The core of the book (chapters 5 to 8) is a series of four chapters deeply analysing three rook and pawn endgames of Gelfand’s against world class opposition. The games are shown in their entirety which is the modern way to study endgames in relation to the opening and middlegame.
This position from a variation in the game Gelfand-Kasimdzhanov from Baku 2014 caught my eye. Black to play – what should he do? 59…Kf5!! The obvious move is to push the pawns with 59…g4. Let’s see what happens: 60.Rc6! f5 61.Rxa6 Kg5 62.Rb6 h3 63.Kg3 f4+ 64.Kh2 Kf4 65.Rh6+ Kg5
66.Rh8! Kf5 67. Rg8! Black is in zugzwang and loses all the pawns.
60.Rc6 a5 61. Rc5+ Kg6 62.Rxa5 f5 and black prevents the rook from reaching f8. This is obvious when one has knowledge of the basic endgame rook v 3 connected pawns shown above! The author has shown an excellent example of knowing your basics being applied to a real live game.
Chapter 9 Queen Endings with a g- or h- pawn
This is one of the reviewer’s favourite chapters as it combines endgame theory with practical examples showing that even strong GMs do not know how to defend these endings correctly. Even when players know where to put their defending king, choosing the correct check to draw is not obvious!
Here is a position from Gelfand-Jobava from Dortmund 2006.
The reviewer loves this endgame.
This king and pawn ending is clearly drawn but white is pressing with a more advanced king. White played 50.h4 setting a subtle trap. 50…h5?? losing, incredible to believe but it is true. 50…Kd7 draws, for example 51.g4 f6+ 52.Kd5 e6+ 53.Kc5 h6 54. e5 fxe5 55.fxe5 Kc7 seizing the opposition and drawing 51.f5! f6+ 52.Ke6 gxf5
Now white played 53. e5!! which had been completed missed by black (automatic recapture syndrome) fxe5 54.Kxe5 Kd7 55.Kxf5 Kd6 56.Kg5 Ke5 57.Kxh5 Kf4
Now white can enter a winning queen endgame with 58.Kg6!
White did not play the endgame perfectly, and after many adventures this position was reached at move 87. Black is drawing here if he places his king in the drawing zone which is the far corner diagonally opposite where the g pawn is hoping to queen i.e. a1.
87… Ka5? was played which loses. I am surprised that a strong GM moved his king the wrong way. 87…Ka3 draws but the draw is not simple. 88.g7 and now black can draw with an accurate sequence of moves that are not obvious. 87… Qe5+ (the obvious 87… Qg3+ loses in 41 moves) 89.Kg6 Qe6+ 90.Kh7 reaching the drawn position below.
90…Qf5+ 91.Kg8 Qf4! (only move) draws, 90…Qh3+ 91.Kg8 Qf5! (91…Qe6+ loses) also draws
The game continued 88.g7 Qe5+ 89.Kg6 Qe6+ 90.Kh7 Qf5+ 91.Kg8 Ka4 92. Qh1 Qc8+ 93. Kh7 Qf5+ 94. Kh8 Qe5 reaching the position below:
Now 95.Qh3! wins cutting off he black king from the drawing zone. Gelfand won the game easily after another 18 moves. The best defence involves white winning by transitioning through the two diagrams below exploiting black’s king position to misplace the black queen. Absolutely fascinating stuff.
Chapter 10 – Multiple Queens
This section is entertaining with some really exciting and amusing positions. Here is one such position:
This looks like a fairly standard queen and pawn ending. Black is a pawn down but is to play and played the obvious capture 55…Qxb2? which is simply too slow. 55…b4! was the drawing move. White has two tries: 56.axb4 is the only real winning attempt but falls short: 56…Qxb2 57. Qh7+ Ke6 58. Qxh6 a3 59. Qg6 a2 60.h6 a1=Q 61.h7 Qe2! forcing white to take a perpetual. Or 56. Qh7+ Ke6 57. Qxh6 Qxe4+ 58. Kh2 Qe2 with sufficient counterplay against the white king to draw. The game continued: 56.Qh7+ Ke6 57. Qxh6 b4 58. Qg6 bxa3 59. h6 a2 60. h7 a1=Q reaching the position below.
61. Qf5+? Driving the king towards safety: 61.h8=Q wins instantly, with a quick mate.) Kd6 62. h8=Q Kc5! 63. Qf8+ Kc4 64. Qe6+ Kd3 65. Qfxf6 Qd4 66.Qf3+ Kd2 67. Qh6+ Kc2 68.Qc6+ (the computer prefers 68.Qe2+ Kc3 69.Qc6+ Kb4 70. Qb7+ Ka3 71. Qe7+ Kb3 72. Qf7+ Kb4 73.g4 and white is winning) Kb1 69. g4 Qab2 70.g5 a3 71. g6 a2 72. g7 a1=Q 73. g8=Q Qaa3 74. Qgg3 ? (74. Qcf6 keeps the advantage) reaching this position:
This is the beautiful but sad moment of the game. Black played 74…Qxf3+? and went on to lose quickly. 74…Qdxf2+!! draws by sacrificing all three queens for stalemate, for example 75. Qfxf2 Qxg3+ 76. Kxg3 Qc3+ 77. Qxc3 stalemate. Fantastic! Who says there is no humour in chess ?
Chapter 11 – Full Circle
This chapter covers the famous game Botvinnik-Minev Amsterdam 1954 which goes into a celebrated Q + g pawn v Q ending which Botvinnik won from a drawn position. As Boris Gelfand points out, once we know that an article written by Paul Keres in the 1947-1949 Soviet Yearbook recommended that black place the king on a4, black’s moves become completely understandable.
56.Qg4+ Ka5? This is still a draw but modern knowledge recommends Ka3 heading towards the opposite corner. 57.Qxe6 Qh8+ 58.Kg6 Qc3 59.g4 Qd2 60.g5 Qd4? Centralisation looks good, but in fact loses. 60…Ka4! was best, several other moves also draw.
Now 61. Qf5+? allowing black to draw. 61. Kh7! Qh4+ 62.Qh6 followed by g6, the black king is too far from the a1 corner 61…Ka4 62. Kh5 Qh8+ 63. Kg4 Qh1? The final mistake, after this Botvinnik wins with no slip-ups. Buy the book to find out how. 63…Ka3! was correct.
Chapter 12 – Conversion in the 4th Phase
This chapter covers a complex Q and double rook late middlegame which reveals the complexities of such positions. The game clearly shows that a sustained initiative is so potent.
This is a critical position from the game Gelfand-Edouard. Black is under the cosh but can defend with 35…Qxe5! 36. Qxa7 Rg6! 35.Qb7 Rxg3+! 36.fxg3 Qe3+! 37. Kh2 Qh6+ with a perpetual check.
The penultimate chapter is a series of studies which are elegant and instructive. There is a particularly beautiful study by Darko Hlebec. Buy the book to appreciate the beauty of chess.
The final chapter is a series of rook exercises which are extremely didactic. If you can solve all of these, you are a World Champion.
I heartily recommend this superb book on major piece endgames which is a labour of love and hard work. It combines practical examples with coverage of basic endgame positions.
FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 16th November 2020
Keith Arkell is an English grandmaster active on the national and international scene for more than forty years and very much still going strong.
Arkell’s Endings is his second book and this is the first book (as opposed to DVD) from Ginger GM
Arkell’s Odyssey was published in 2012 by Keverel Chess Books; hugely popular and in high demand on abebooks, Amazon, eBay and other reselling platforms.
From the rear cover of Endings we have the following publishers blurb :
“With chess booming online and time controls becoming ever faster, mastery of the endgame has never been so important. A few positions can be memorised; most rely on feel. How would you go about converting an extra pawn in a rook endgame and would you have any idea how to even try to win bishop and knight against knight and pawn? In Arkell’s Endings, acclaimed endgame expert Keith Arkell guides you through some of his finest games – and grinds. Making good use of clear explanation, not a wealth of variations, he should convince even the most ardent of opening theoreticians and attacking experts that endgames can be enjoyable, as well as beautiful on occasion.
Not only will readers enhance their intuition in the final stages of the game, they will never again write off an endgame as dull or a draw. Along the way, the reader will also learn plenty about the Minority Attack and Arkell’s Scale of Pawns, which may mean you will no longer look favourably on trading an e-pawn for a d-pawn. As becomes clear in Simon Williams’ Afterword, there is so much more to Keith Arkell’s chess prowess than just his endgame mastery. Throughout, his creativity and sheer resourcefulness shine through, with the Ginger GM demonstrating that one should never allow Arkell to advance his g-pawn as Black, or even to attack.
Grandmaster Keith Arkell has been one of Britain’s most prolific players since turning professional in 1980. His rivalry on the weekend circuit with fellow GM Mark Hebden is the stuff of legend, but he has also thrived on the bigger stage. He has finished first as many as 25 times at the Paignton International Congress and in 2008 tied for first in the British Championship at Liverpool’s iconic St George’s Hall. 2014 was another highly successful year, as Arkell became the European Over-50 Champion, following that up with the silver medal at the World Senior Championships.”
Keith has developed a reputation for working hard at the board and not being afraid to grind out a position maybe with a small edge or even no edge at all and just keep on plugging away (Carlsen style). His long time choice of the Smyslov Variation of the Caro-Kann as Black is deal for this approach.
White to play and loose !
To demonstrate that this is a book of note there is a foreword by acknowledged endgame analyst and World Championship Candidate, GM Jonathan Speelman whose expertise on endings and the theory of corresponding squares is respected world-wide. Interestingly enough, JS also selects the Smyslov Caro-Kann as a weapon of choice.
Arkell’s Endings contains 33 games spanning the period from 1983 to the present day against a vast range of player strength and experience.
Keith introduces his games with a preamble / Introduction that sets out his rather unique playing philosophy. Keith describes his “Hierarchy of Pawns” which makes complete sense and yet is rarely (if at all) spelt out in training and coaching literature. Keith sets out his enthusiasm for the Carlsbad (pawn) structure which I learnt much about from Kevin Wicker in his golden nugget of a book, “How to play the Queen’s Gambit Exchange Variation“. This Introduction itself is more instructional than you might at first imagine.
Keith provides each game in full and rarely makes any comment on the opening except when its choice leads to particular kind of endgame structure. The middlegame comments indicate plans and ideas to reach a superior ending and the endgame comments are quite specific.
We are grateful to IM Richard Palliser (in charge of the book’s production) for permission to reproduce game 14 as an excerpt :
Settling down with this book is a real pleasure. It very much feels that Keith is in the room with you explaining his thought processes and giving you confidence in your decision making. Keith’s writing style is much like Keith in person : friendly and affable and not attempting to score any points.
The Afterword itself is of interest since Simon presents three tremendous games of Keith that are not endgame grinds but great tactical slugfests modestly including Williams – Arkell from Torquay, 1998.
The book concludes with a welcome Index of Opponents.
If you are wondering just how many of these games conclude with Keith’s signature Rook + Bishop versus Rook then you will have to buy the book to find out : I hope you will !
This book has been reviewed elsewhere including this one by Ben Graff
Your Jungle Guide to Rook Endings : Efstratios Grivas
“After a bad opening, there is hope for the middle game. After a bad middle game, there is hope for the endgame. But once you are in the endgame, the moment of truth has arrived.” – Edmar Mednis
“Efstratios Grivas (30.03.1966) is a highly experienced chess trainer and chess author. He has been awarded by the International Chess Federation (FIDE) the titles of International Chess Grandmaster, FIDE Senior Trainer, International Chess Arbiter and International Chess Organiser.
His main successes over the board are the Silver Medal Olympiad 1998 (3rd Board), the Gold Medal European Team Championship 1989 (3rd Board) and the 4th Position World Junior Championship U.20 1985. He has also won 5 Balkan Medals (2 Gold – 1 Silver – 2 Bronze) and he was 3 times Winner of the International ‘Acropolis’ Tournament. He has also in his credit the 28 times first position in Greek Individual & Team Championships and he has won various international tournaments as well. He has been awarded five FIDE Medals in the Annual FIDE Awards (Winner of the FIDE Boleslavsky Medal 2009 & 2015 (best author) – Winner of the FIDE Euwe Medal 2011 & 2012 (best junior trainer) – Winner of the FIDE Razuvaev Medal 2014 (Trainers’ education) and has been a professional Lecturer at FIDE Seminars for Training & Certifying Trainers.
He has written more than 100 Books in Arabic, English, Greek, Italian, Spanish & Turkish. Since 2009 he is the Secretary of the FIDE Trainers’ Commission and since 2012 the Director of the FIDE Grivas Chess International Academy (Athens).”
From the rear cover :
“To learn and to play endgames well the chess player must love endgames’ – Lev Psakhis. Different kinds of endgames have specific characteristics and rules. Every serious player must know many typical positions and main principles of all types of endings. That knowledge should help us during the game, but it is not enough to become a good player, not yet. There just too many different endings, some of them with two or more pieces, some are very complex. To be comfortable and play well those complex endings require specific knowledge and specific ways of thinking. We will call it ‘endgame thinking’.
I chose to write a book on advanced rook endings as I simply did not wish to write another book that would be like the many already available. I have done my best to present analysis and articles I have written over the past 10-15 years. Th is work has been presented in my daily coaching sessions, seminars, workshops, etc. The material has helped a lot of trainees to develop into quite strong players gaining international titles and championships. Now, it is your turn to taste and enjoy it!”
As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text and each diagram has a “to move” indicator.
This is a superb book packed full of instructive examples which I cannot praise enough. The book has clearly been extensively researched with Efstratios Grivas showcasing his credentials as a world class trainer.
The book starts off with four well thought out introductory sections: 1. The Endgame which briefly discusses the historical literature and computer evolution of the endgames. In this section, the author introduces his useful boxed SOS Tips which remind the reader of the salient points of a particular lesson or section.
2. The Golden Rules Of the Endgame which every player should know. I like the way that Grivas acknowledges other authors’ contributions to the evolution of our endgame understanding and this is clearly shown here and in Chapter 4 Extra Passed Pawn.
3. Rook Endgame Principles which lists the five main rules of rook endgames which is particularly useful for less experienced players.
4.Evaluation – Plan – Execution which discusses the role of planning followed by an excellent seven point SOS tip box.
Now we come to the meat of the book which is divided into nine chapters:
Chapter 1 – basic knowledge which covers the Lucena, Philidor and Vancura positions and their offshoots. If you only read one chapter of any book on rook endgames, I suggest this one.
Diagram 13 shows that even a future current world champion can blunder in a basic position:
This is a drawn ending as black’s king is on the short side and his rook has sufficient checking distance.
Aronian’s last move was the cunning waiting move 73.Rd7-d6!
The only drawing move here is 73… Kg6! for example, if 74.Rd7 Kg7 75.Kd6+ Kf6 76. e7 Kf7=
Carlsen replied with the “obvious” check 73… Ra7+ and resigned instantly after 74. Ke8. He resigned because of 74… Ra8+ 75.Rd8 Ra6 76.e7
The reviewer can say that he knew this trap from Levenfish & Smyslov and admits to feeling slightly smug!
Chapter 2 is entitled Extraordinary endings and covers three interesting and diverse areas:
Rook and A + H pawns v Rook
Rook vs 3 connected pawns
2 Rooks v R + 3 connected pawns
My preference would have been to restructure this chapter as Rook v Pawns and put the other two sections into later separate chapters. Nevertheless all the material is extremely useful. The ending of Rook v 3 pawns is fairly common and the diagram below shows a typical occurrence:
This is an “optimal drawn position” (Grivas). White must prevent the rook from getting behind the pawns which wins for black.
White played 68.Kb4? which loses, keeping the king on the second or third rank was fine. 68… Rh4+? (68…Rh3 or Rh1 wins) 69. Kb3 Kc5 70. Ka3! Kb6 71. Kb3 Kc5 72. Ka3! Rh3+ 73. Kb2 Kb6 74. Ka2! (only move) Ka5 75. Kb2 Rg3 76. Kc2? (76.Ka2! Kc4 77.c7 Ra3+ 78.Kb2 Rb3+ 79.Ka2 with a perpetual check) Rg4? (76…Kb4 wins 77.Kd2 Rg8! 78.Kd3 Kxa4 79. Kc4 Ka5 8-.Kc5 Rg5+ wins) 77. Kb3 Rb4+ 78. Kc3! Rb1 79. Kc2 Rf1 80. Kb3? (80.Kb2 draws) Ra1! winning
Chapter 3 Same Side is one of the core chapters which deals with pawn up positions when all the pawns are on one side. These positions occur very frequently and are sometimes misplayed by world class players. I like the way the author systematically discusses the different structures with drawing and winning mechanisms and then shows pertintent examples from real games. Diagram 51 discusses the famous endgame Capablanca – Yates Hastings 1930 in great depth which shows that even the great Cuban player made several mistakes after achieving a winning game from a drawn 4 v 3 endgame shown below. A quick flavour of the coverage is given below.
The game continued 38…Rb4, 39.Ra5 Rc4 (39…h5! is the standard move to ease the defence.) 40.g4! squeezing, but black can still hold 40… h6 41. Kg3 Rc1 42. Kg2 Rc4 43. Rd5 Ra4 44. f4 Ra2+ 45. Kg3 Re2 46.Re5 Re1 47. Kf2 Rh1 48. Kg2 Re1 49. h4 Kf6?! (49…f6 is more precise reaching a known drawn position) 50.h5 Re2+ 51. Kf3 Re1 Re1 52. Ra5 Kg7 53. hxg6 Kxg6! (53…fxg6? loses 54. Ra7+ Kg8 55. e4 Rf1+ 56.Ke3 Rg1 57.f5! Rxg4 58.f6 winning with two passed pawns) 54. e4 Rf1+ 55.Kg3 Rg1+ 56. Kh3 Rf1 57. Rf5 reaching the diagram below:
57… Re1? (black must play 57…f6 to draw) 58. e5! Re3+ 59.Kg2! Ra3 60.Rf6+ Kg7 reaching a well lnown won position 61. Rb6? (61.Rd6 wins protecting the king from side checks) Re3? 61…Ra4! leads to a complex draw 62. Rb4? (62. Rb1 still wins but Rb8 does not win) Rc3 reaching the position below:
Chpater 4 Extra Passed Pawn is the second core chapter of the book and is easily the longest and most complex chapter. Despite this, detailed study of this section will reap rich rewards. The theory of these endings has evolved significantly since the books by Fine and Levenfish/Smyslov. Diagram 78 shows a typical position with a extra rook’s pawn with the stronger side having the rook in front of the pawn. This position looks to be an easy draw but beware: it is a draw but the position is complex and the drawing lines are complex! One slip and the game slips away.
Black played a waiting move which is fatal 59…Ke6? (59…Ra4! or 59…g5! draws) White blundered in turn playing 60.Ra8? ( White could have won with a beautiful and instructive variation starting with 60. Kd4! see diagram below):
60…Rxf2 (looks as though it draws, but it does not) 61. Rc7 Ra2 62. a7 Kf5 63. Kc4!! Kg4 64. Kb3! Ra6 65. Rc4+ Kxg3 66. Ra4 Rxa7 67. Rxa7 Kxh4 reaching a key position shown below:
White wins with the amazing 68. Kc3!! (68.Rxf7 only draws 68…Kg3 holds) 68…Kg3 (68…f5 69. Kd3 g5 70.Rf7 f4 71.Rf5!! Kg4 72. Ra5 h4 73. Ke2 wins) 69. Kd3 h4 70. Ke2! wins
After 60. Ra8 the game was eventually won by white after many errors by both sides.
Chapter 5 Shattering covers endings where one side has a positional advantage consisting of the better pawn structure. A typical position is diagram 118 which is from the famous game Flohr – Vidmar Nottingham 1936.
Black rather injudiciously exchanged knights with 29…Nc6? 30. Nxc6 Rc8 31. Rc5? (better is 31.Ke2 bxc6 (31…Rxc6 loses the king and pawn ending after 32.Rxc6 bxc6 33.b4!) 32.Rc5) 31…bxc6? (31…Rxc6! 32. Rxd5 Rc2 probably draws) 32. Ke2! Ke7 33.Kd3 Kd6 34. Ra5! Ra8 35. Kd4 f5 36. b4 reaching the position below:
36…Rb8? and Flohr won a brilliant ending. However as Grivas shows, black could have drawn by executing a better plan on move 36 by defending his weak a6 pawn with his king 36…Kc7! 37. Kc5 Kb7 38. Kd6 Re8 39.Ra3 g5! for example 40.Rc3 f4! 41. exf4 gxf4 42. Rxc6 Rd8+ 43. Kc5 d4 44. Re6 d3 45. Re1 Rg8=
Chapter 6 Isolani covers the handling of rook endings playing against isolated central pawns. Diagram 132 covers the game Szabo Penrose from the European Team Championship in Bath 1973.
This is a superbly handled ending by Szabo who probes carefully and forces resignation within twenty moves – a textbook example with excellent notes by the author.
Chapter 7 Drawn Endings covers the reasons for losing drawn positions which happens to very strong players. An excellent example is diagram 140.
It is hard to believe that a world class player of Gelfand’s standard could lose such a position but Grivas shows how with his usual exemplary commentary.
Chapter 8 Four Rooks is one of the chapters that makes this book stand out – few authors have covered this topic in any depth although Fine in BCE does give some examples. Grivas starts the chapter with five sets of educational SOS tips which the reviewer really likes. Diagram 143 shows a example of good defence in a position that looks diffcult with black’s king trapped on the back rank:
The author conducts an almost flawless defence to hold this difficult position – buy the book to find out how.
The final chapter 9 Various Concepts discusses Lasker’s steps, trapped rooks and the Loman move. If you don’t know about Lasker’s steps or the Loman move – buy the book to learn more!
FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 20th July 2020
Book Details :
Paperback : 400 pages
Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 01 edition (19 May 2020)
John Nunn has written around thirty books on chess and many of these are some of the finest chess books published in any language : Secrets of Pawnless Endings (1994, Batsford) easily is a candidate for the all time list. John is a director of Gambit Publications Ltd. together with Murray Chandler and Graham Burgess.
This workbook is a follow-up to the original (2015) and much liked Chess Endgames for Kids by Karsten Müller :
From the rear cover :
“This is a book for those who have started to play chess and want to know how to win from good positions and survive bad ones.
The endgame is where most games are decided, and knowing all the tricks will dramatically improve your results. Endgame specialist John Nunn has drawn upon his decades of experience to present the ideas that are most important in real games. Step by step he helps you uncover the key points and then add further vital knowledge.
Chess Endgame Workbook for Kids is the third in a new series of books that help players gain chess skills by solving hundreds of carefully chosen exercises. The themes are similar to those in Gambit’s best-selling ‘Chess for Kids’ series, but the focus is on getting hands-on experience. Many positions build on ones given earlier, showing how advanced ideas are normally made up of simpler ones that we can all grasp.
Each chapter deals with a particular type of endgame and features dozens of exercises, with solutions that highlight the key points. For each endgame we are given tips on the themes that are most important and the strategies for both sides. The book ends with a series of test papers that enable you to assess your progress and identify the areas that need further work.
Dr John Nunn is one of the best-respected figures in world chess. He was among the world’s leading grandmasters for nearly twenty years and won four gold medals in chess Olympiads. In 2004, 2007 and 2010, Nunn was crowned World Chess Solving Champion, ahead of many former champions.”
To get some idea Gambit (via Amazon) provide a “Look Inside” at their Kindle edition.
Chess Endgame Workbook for Kids is robustly (!) hardbound in a convenient size such that weights are not need to keep it propped open (unlike some A5 paperbacks) meaning studying with this book is more convenient than with many books. The layout and printing is clear (as you would expect with Gambit) with numerous diagrams at key moments in each, relatively short, game. In essence, players under 18 (for whom this book is intended) will find it easy to dip in out of and it can be used without a board (although BCN and most chess teachers and coaches would always recommend following each game on a “proper” board).
As you would expect with Gambit, the notation is English short form algebraic using figurines for pieces. A previous criticism (ibid) has been addressed in that each diagram has a symbolic “whose move it is” indicator. Each diagram does have coordinates which are very welcome for the younger junior reader.
The book is divided into 8 chapters as follows :
The Lone King
King and Pawn Endings
Minor Piece Endings
Rook and Minor Piece Endings
Each chapter has an introduction to the type of ending examined, followed by a good number (at least 20 – 40 ) of exercises followed by “Tougher Exercises”. Each chapter concludes with Solutions (and excellent explanations) to each exercise.
Here is an example (#39) from Chapter 2 :
“Should White play 1 a5 or 1 Kc6, and what is the result ?”
The solution is at the foot of this review.
Just as for Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids, it was clear when working through the easier set of exercises that the author had thought carefully about their sequence since the reader should (we did for sure !) notice the level of difficulty increasing slowly but surely. The solutions are remote from the puzzles nicely avoiding the “accidentally seeing the solution” issue one gets with lesser books. The solutions themselves are clear and concise and instructional in their own right.
We found chapters 7 & 8 particularly rewarding and Test Papers puts the previous chapters into context. Precise calculation is order of the day rather then intuition.
One negative comment we would make (and we are struggling to make any!) concerns the cover. “Never judge a book by its cover” we are told and you might look at this book cover and think it was suitable for say primary aged children. We would say not but we would suggest it suitable from secondary aged children. We would say strong juniors from 12 upwards would read this book and enjoy it.
As we previously mentioned in our review of Chess Opening Traps for Kids, The title and cover might, perhaps, put off the adult club player market. However, the content is totally suitable for adult club players upto say 180 ECF or 2000 Elo.
In summary, we recommend this book to any junior or adult who wishes to improve their core endgame skills and results. It makes an excellent book for the new year for young players and the young at heart !
39) At the moment White’s g-pawn holds back all three enemy pawns. The winning idea is to stalemate Black’s kings and use zugzwang to force Black to push a pawn : 1 a5! (1 Kc6? Ka7 2 Kd6 doesn’t work because White will not promote with check if Black’s king is not on the back rank; then 2…h5! 3 gxh5 g4 4 h6 g3 5 h7 g2 h8Q g1Q leads to a drawn ending with equal material) 1…Kc8 2 a6 Kb8 3 a7+ Ka8 4 Ka6 (forcing Black to self-destruct on the kingside) 4…h5 5 gxh5 f5 6 h6 f4 7 h7 f3 8 h8Q#.
We focus on the British Chess Scene Past & Present !
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