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Very Hot Topic (More than 25 Replies) Endgame Improvement (Read 36520 times)
brabo
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Re: Endgame Improvement
Reply #45 - 06/25/14 at 10:52:19
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Jupp, the position which you show is still a middlegame for me (with or without exchanging the rooks). In fact I am sure you can look to any endgame-book and you won't find a position even a bit resembling to what you are showing. So I don't believe that via studying endgames that you will make the right decision in such kind of position.

B.t.w. with the open white king and blacks heavy pieces still on the board how can one think that white is ever better.
  
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Jupp53
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Re: Endgame Improvement
Reply #44 - 06/25/14 at 10:33:01
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It's not about a holy grail.

When I started with a trainer he first told me how to think and asked me to train tactics. Now he repeating that tactics each day is the daily fitness of a chess player and in each game he tells me something about my holey endgame knowledge.

Take the following position. White is nearly 2200. Black is about 1950.

* * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * *
*

It's black to move. Both players thought white is better and black played 1... RXR? with an about equal position. After 1... Rb8 it's black having the better chances. At least this mistake came from a lack of basic endgame knowledge (and experience, because having avoided always positions with unequal material) about the endgame Rook + 2Pawns vs. 2 bishops.

If I were happy with my level of play I would continue as before and staying there. But so I know studying endgames has to be my next step.
  

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Dum spiro spero. Smiley
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baeron
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Re: Endgame Improvement
Reply #43 - 06/25/14 at 09:24:56
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Ah, at long last a topic I'm fully qualified to comment on, if only for the fact that both my national and international rating is just a few points below 2100.

I only know very, very little about endgames. Yes, I've played through Philidor, Lucena, Vancura et al at some point in my "career", but I've forgotten it all almost instantly. I could probably not mate with KNB, certainly not within 50 moves. I've "read" Shereshevsky, tried to solve some of Müller's exercises every now and then, but basically I have no clue. But then again, I do not have a clue about openings, strategy and tactics either. My calculation is wretched, I drop pieces left right and center. I am most definitely not a hacker. I commit positional mistakes that make grandmasters faint, at times my pieces threaten me with a strike, unless I start treating them better. And yet, I somehow managed to keep my level around 2050-2100 for the last 15-20 years. And this is only thanks to my opponents, whose holes in their game are obviously just as big as mine.
Yes, I do get outplayed in the endgame every now and then. But miraculously, I even sometimes win in the endgame. And yes, I do sometimes drop a half point on account of not remembering a technical position (I can recall a case of R+f+h vs R). But this happens exceedingly rare. The vast majority of my games are decided in the middlegame, even if some games then spill over in a not very exciting endgame.
Now, you tell me that it's easier to play the middlegame while knowing what to look for in endings. That's true. But, it'd also be easier to play the middle game while knowing where the pieces belong, what pawn strutures to aim for or avoid, how to secure outposts, which pieces to exchange and so on. And preferrably not dropping a piece in the process.
When I land in an endgame I just try to get by as good as I can, i.e. play "normal" chess, trying to understand what my opponent wants, what I may want, how to get there. Sure, studying  the endgame deeply would yield results. But studying pawn structures, common plans, combinations and - yes, there I said it - even openings might just about yield as much.
So basically I agree to some extent with JohnG: every serious study of chess is beneficial. But at 2100, it is not immediately logical to me that endings - especially technical ones that I forget within two days - are the (one) holy grail to improvement.
  
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chk
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Re: Endgame Improvement
Reply #42 - 06/25/14 at 08:47:16
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Agree with Bibs, I think you can do almost anything you like and reach the same goal (say the 2100 mark) through various different routes (e.g. I know many people that have not really studied any openings and still play at that level). So if the question is strictly if you could do it without endgame study, then yes most probably you could do it.

Then if we want to address this subject from the practical point of view, it usually pays more to study first the areas where there lie your weaknesses.
Maybe off-topic but a fun to read and in a way enlightening book for me was Khmelnitsky's Chess Exam (you take the exam and it pinpoints your strenghts & weaknesses, plus some advice on how to work on them).
  

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Bibs
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Re: Endgame Improvement
Reply #41 - 06/25/14 at 04:22:22
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JohnG wrote on 06/25/14 at 01:09:16:
I agree that:
  • Endgame study is more beneficial to one's game than e.g. watching TV.
  • Some of the benefits of studying theoretical positions manifest themselves in non-theoretical positions.
  • Endgame study can be fun.


But with all that understood I am interested in another question: will not knowing these endgames act as a deal-breaker? Will someone who is otherwise quite strong fail to make, say, 2100 because he does not know these positions? You provide some very good arguments in the abstract, but my experience is that many players do indeed reach 2100 without knowing a Lucena from a Philidor (hmm arguing reason vs. experience with Descartes Roll Eyes ). I also know players rated well below 2000 who know a good range of theoretical endings. Of course, these players would be worse off not knowing the endgames with all else equal, but they would be much better off having invested the same time in studying tactics and game collections.


You can get to 2100 without knowing much in detail about anything really. But it does not make it advisable to omit key areas of study. Lucena and Philidor - these are elementary and should be learnt very early.
You will win a number of games by just hacking, as lots of players cannot defend. But if you are hapless at endgames, that will certainly hold you back.
I fail to understand this line of questioning. What remains confusing?

Study the basic endgames.
Study GM games.
Study tactics.
Study some openings.

And you will do better.
  
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JohnG
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Re: Endgame Improvement
Reply #40 - 06/25/14 at 01:09:16
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I agree that:
  • Endgame study is more beneficial to one's game than e.g. watching TV.
  • Some of the benefits of studying theoretical positions manifest themselves in non-theoretical positions.
  • Endgame study can be fun.


But with all that understood I am interested in another question: will not knowing these endgames act as a deal-breaker? Will someone who is otherwise quite strong fail to make, say, 2100 because he does not know these positions? You provide some very good arguments in the abstract, but my experience is that many players do indeed reach 2100 without knowing a Lucena from a Philidor (hmm arguing reason vs. experience with Descartes Roll Eyes ). I also know players rated well below 2000 who know a good range of theoretical endings. Of course, these players would be worse off not knowing the endgames with all else equal, but they would be much better off having invested the same time in studying tactics and game collections.
  

"The move is the idea." -John Watson
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ReneDescartes
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Re: Endgame Improvement
Reply #39 - 06/24/14 at 23:31:32
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OK, I think John is missing the point here.

1) Your entire game, including the opening, becomes much stronger if you understand the implications of the simplifications that could occur.  If you know that simplifying in x way is a draw and simplyifying in y way is a win, you have a very powerful weapon at your disposal. You can steer actively toward certain positions, and if your opponent doesn't know what you're doing, it's almost unfair. I'm sure you can already head toward opposite-color bishop endings to try to a draw. Probably you can sacrifice to achieve a wrong-color bishop vs. rook pawn ending for the same purpose. Well, the more positions you know, the more of this sort of thing you can do. Knowledge is power.

3) Standard endgame positions are not isolated after the fashion of deep theoretical opening positions. That is the beauty of endgame theory--the game evolves toward, not away from, the positions in question. The Lucena position, for example, is not a freak occurrence. If your king is ahead of your pawn and your rook behind it, then you can consciously force many, many rook endings into a Lucena. If you don't know how to play a Lucena, you will be thrashing about aimlessly instead and winning by accident if at all.

4) The methods used in the standard theoretical positions are of use in many other positions. By studying standard positions, you become proficient at deploying the technical resources available in endgames. Body-checking, bridge-building (with the bishop as well), endless rains of checks, corresponding squares in a trebuchet, checking distance of three squares' separation, losing a tempo--such motifs, which you can only get a clear idea of by studying exact technical positions, occur over and over in other positions. Although largely confined to the endgame, they are very much analagous to tactics in their general applicability there. After I studied technical endgames I became much stronger at strategic endgames as well.

5) If your tactical understanding gets too far ahead of your endgame understanding, then your game will suffer as surely as it would the other way around. Endgame study will pay off at least as well as extra tactical study for someone strong who knows relatively little of it. Do you really want your weakness to be inability to finish?

This discussion reminds me of the composer Roger Sessions' comment that the better a composer's classical training and technical skill, the more respect he will have for Bach and for what the composer gained by studying Bach. Endgames are not inessential, period. Capablanca and Tarrasch were not wrong or being snobs when they began their books with the endgame.
  
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Re: Endgame Improvement
Reply #38 - 06/11/14 at 21:53:06
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A couple thoughts:
Many theoretical endgame ideas are simple and can be learned for life in a matter of minutes.  You get a lot of bang for your buck, just like with stock middlegame patterns like the Bxh7 sacrifice, Anastasia's mate, trapping a greedy queen (e.g. Qb6-a3-Qxb2-Na4), stock knight forks (Qxd5-QxQ-Nc7+ or Qc6-Bb5-QxB-Nc7+), etc.

There are stock endgame patterns that I think any 2100 player should have in his/her pocket just like the above stock middlegame/opening patterns.  It seems arbitrary to downgrade their importance because they occur in the "endgame", which is itself an arbitrary category.

Examples of stock endgame patterns that can be learned cold in <15 minutes each: passive back-rank defense works in R vs R+P against a rook or knight pawn; knowing when B + rook-pawn is a draw or win; B vs R draws simply in two of the corners; Q vs P draws with pawn on B7 or R7 if other king far away; using the "square" to determine if a king will catch a runaway pawn; K+P vs K; etc.  Lucena and Philidor are also in this category.

Of course, it is easy to attack a straw man.  Obviously almost everyone should ignore complicated endgame theory: e.g., mating with two knights against a pawn or the niceties of R+BP+RP vs. R (all I know is to put the defending rook in the far back corner and play harassing checks).  Learning stock endgame patterns/ideas is no different than learning stock middlegame patterns/ideas-- why would it be?

I would start with Pandolfini's Endgame Course for theoretical endgames (i.e., the Fireside book, not the tan "Workshop" book for Russell which I do not recommend).  Other worthy books that (I believe) helped me are Averbakh's Essential Endgame Knowledge and the endgame chapter in Tarrasch's green "Chess" book. 

This post strictly deals with theoretical or technical knowledge rather than EG strategy.  Just my opinion.  Fortunately i am not a "strong player" so my opinion should be worth a lot! Grin
  

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JohnG
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Re: Endgame Improvement
Reply #37 - 06/11/14 at 21:15:29
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fling wrote on 06/11/14 at 19:58:27:
Well, I would say that with what you just posted, the only thing essential to study would be part of the rules, e.g. having the cell-phone off, how the pieces move etc. Or what else do you consider essential?


Some understanding of tactics and strategy.
  

"The move is the idea." -John Watson
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Re: Endgame Improvement
Reply #36 - 06/11/14 at 19:58:27
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Well, I would say that with what you just posted, the only thing essential to study would be part of the rules, e.g. having the cell-phone off, how the pieces move etc. Or what else do you consider essential?
  
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Re: Endgame Improvement
Reply #35 - 06/11/14 at 19:20:44
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It may be that I'm doing a poor job of articulating my position, but in any case I think people are misunderstanding me. I agree that studying endgames yields tangible benefits. I agree that you will lose rating points if you don't study them. The same can be said of all forms of chess study. I am making a distinction between things that it is beneficial to study and things that it is essential to study. 99% of endgame theory falls into the former rather than the latter category in my opinion.

There are plenty of 2100 players who know little or nothing about endgame theory. There really is no such thing as a 2100 player who knows nothing about tactics. That is my only point.

  

"The move is the idea." -John Watson
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Re: Endgame Improvement
Reply #34 - 06/11/14 at 15:40:12
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I have to disagree as well

I'm a 2100 player and honestly don't remember the last time I had to show that I knew KQ vs K or KR v K. Maybe it could be argued that these are only essential at a lower level Smiley If Carlsen forgot how to mate with K+R (absurd as the idea is) no-one would ever know.

As for K+P endings, Lucena, Philidor and other basic techniques - if I didn't know these I can think of many recent games where I could potentially have lost rating.
  

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Re: Endgame Improvement
Reply #33 - 06/11/14 at 15:37:40
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When I was rated 1899, I played in a five round tournament. At the end of four rounds, three players had 4 points and one had 3.5 points. The players with perfect scores were rated ~2250, ~1950, and myself. I was paired against the master while the other "A" player was paired against the master with 3.5 points (I think there that's how the colors worked out).

Both games went into the endgame, and amazingly, both games saw the lower rated player reach the winning side of a Lucena position. I knew how to perform it while the other A player did not. I ended up winning the tournament outright because of that single bit of knowledge.

I know, the chances of such a thing happening are extremely small, but it did happen. The story was written about in the state chess news magazine (they had such things back then).

My rating went from 1899 to 2001 in a single event.

So yes, learning specifics such as the Lucena position can have direct, tangible benefits. Not knowing that information cost at least one A player financially and in terms of ratings. I know that my endgame knowledge has saved many lost games and won games that would otherwise have been drawn. Many times, I aim for endgames that my opponents were not aware were won or drawn before we reached them.
  
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Re: Endgame Improvement
Reply #32 - 06/11/14 at 15:15:50
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I certainly wasn't saying that endgame study would have no effect of improving one's game. You will benefit from any time you spend studying concrete positions or games in a serious way. However, there is a difference between some form of study being beneficial and it being essential. For example, I cannot imagine a 2100 player having the tactical ability of a 1400 player. By the time you are that weak with tactics (routinely missing simple knight forks and such) you simply aren't going to be 2100. My point is just that almost no knowledge of theoretical endgames is quite that essential. Knowing K+Q vs. K and K+R vs. K is probably absolutely necessary. Knowledge of theoretical endgames beyond those will be beneficial, and acquiring it can be quite a lot of fun, but I don't believe that anything more is essential. In other words, not knowing K+P vs. K, Lucena, or Philidor will not act as a deal-breaker for reaching 2100.
  

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Re: Endgame Improvement
Reply #31 - 06/11/14 at 08:08:38
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Also adds confidence in other areas of the game, e.g. playing attacks or gambits or playing it safe, etc. knowing that you get another shot in the endgame if things go wrong.

Lastly, you may also reconsider playing some openings discarded in the past because of an annoying endgamish line (e.g. 'exchange variation' in various openings).
  

"I play honestly and I play to win. If I lose, I take my medicine." - Bobby
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