Chess Endings

This may sound unbelievable, but before I drew that bishop+knight game, I had considered studying the bishop+knight mate about a week ago, and then thought ‘why bother?’ since I so rarely get it. I just finished studying the technique from Batsford Chess Endings (you really need this ending like the way they do it, toughest replies with alternatives, best technique. Had I decided to, I would have studied the same thing and had 5 minutes to carry it out in that game). I think I could do it, it’s a 36 move problem, but if you have it ‘nailed’, that should be enough, or even plenty of time.

It took me 4 tries before I could mate Crafty before the 50 move rule or out of time. Then I was able to do it twice in a row with 37 moves, and 1:46 left out of 5 minutes on my clock the last time. There are a lot of wasted moves initially because the knight, bishop and king start at practically 3 different corners of the board, and I end up having to chase his king from 2 bad corners as I get my pieces rounded up and he is chasing them around, while starting near enough a bad corner to run to. Just imagine if I had done that at the club, no would probably would have acted surprised even though quite a few people were watching it. They just expect the knowledge to be there at my level, and now I realize that it is actually my best bet for garnering wins.

I’m more interested in studying endings from this point. The BCE is a really good book, not anywhere near as dry as I had once thought. Some of these endgame maneuvers are a lot more interesting than finding the cheapo in some opening in an online game. Even with the openings that I play, I’d sort of rather study them than to see if I can run into some quick traps on the internet.

The other thing is “Who really ‘plays’ endings online?” OTB, sure it’s possible to get blown away in the opening for one reason or another, but I am finding that that is less the case. More often OTB games turn into that rook and pawn affair, trying to get the draw versus two knights, etc. OTB, people really do plan on playing you down to the nubs in and endgame, pressuring you on the clock in a long game, and generally holding out for as long as possible using every wile in the book. What happens when that quick attack fades into just a material advantage? That is when the superior technique comes to the forefront.

I came for the combinations, but stayed for the endings.


5 thoughts on “Chess Endings

  1. Just finished my first try at mate with the two bishops. Took me 34 moves and 4:06.

    You guys have your CT-Art scores and such; I’ll take my endgame scores! 🙂

    Second attempt 27 moves and 4:15; book example is 20 moves.
    Third attempt 34+ moves, no mate, and overstepped the 5 minutes. Part I missed was the last trick where he is in the corner, getting him there has been easy.
    Fourth attempt 22 moves and 2:45 total time taken.
    Alright, just investigated an alternative which loses in half the moves. This is a pathetically easy win for me now.

    The key thing to realize here is that there is no time to work this out over the board, and the opponent is probably blitzing as well by this point. You have to simply spit out the answer with little to no thought required. That’s the difference between club play time controls and 40/2 SD/1 traditional tournament time-controls – this thought was forefront on my mind during the game.

    The other thing is that last time we played (again, using his clock) he asked me if I wanted the 5 second time-delay. I said yes, so he switched it. He had it on no delay and didn’t seem all that happy about adding the delay. This time I do not believe there was a delay because all of the moves in that 5 minute endgame were from 5 to maybe 15 seconds for the longest move, but most were about 3 or 4 seconds. People assume that everyone wants a time-delay, assume such things at your peril!

    That is why I think people are crazy when they are discussing middle-game best moves where they had only a couple minutes left on the clock. Unless you are comfortable losing on time vs. that opponent, or are more worried about improving your play than the result, then I consider it to be utter nonsense to let that happen.

    This is the thing I learned, you can have bishop, knight and pawn vs. rook, but you could still lose or draw on time. You don’t even get to that ending until you first promote the pawn which he then sacrifices his rook for! And some of you want to discuss possible mates with a couple minutes left – by then, it’s _got_ to be mate.

    I know what a lot of people are probably subconsciously thinking: Bobby Fischer (Tal, etc, insert famous name here) doesn’t DO endings!”

    Skimming through Essential Endings for Advanced Players, I see that an extra pawn doesn’t always win in knight or knight vs. bishop ending, depending on things such as pawn structure. I didn’t know that. Sort of always assumed the win, but then that’s because my end-games have mostly been online.

    The rest may be a matter of a technique among grandmasters, but club players won’t let you off easy, and you still have to avoid losing on time.

  2. You are on the right way – I am at this point too.
    It just came to my mind that maybe instead of opposing endings to openings, it’s better to see one common thing – knowing them can give you an edge and kind of partially guarantee good result. I mean if even in 1-2 games out of 5 you get superior position after the opening or are in the endgame that you know how to win – it gives you at least 0.5-1 point more. You know how important this difference can be. At least this way it would be easier for me to convince myself to learn endings .
    Every good GM plays endings well – or he/she studied them or it’s just a great natural talent, like Capablanca or recently Carlsen – the boy plays them amazingly – when he had a time to study it?
    Yesterday I was in the bad shape and blew several games. Nothing new, except there were a few endgames – 2 R+Ps vs B+Ps and one N+Ps vs Ps. I was better or equal initially, but lost all 3. Of course, bad shape … but did I know how to play them right, would I win being in a good shape? Not sure.

  3. As long as we are playing the same openings in a tournament, I think we have that part covered. I’ve even switched to a ‘Kasparov’ variation in the Scotch, tried another similar subvariation, but it’s like the difference is not a big deal because it’s already like another line in the same opening, the main line, just with a tweak. We can play that stuff with feel. I’ve seen everything in the French, pretty much, and even won at least once in those positions with either color.

    When the game slows down, the microscopic positional and material advantages become more important. The BCE book looks the best so far, and most reader friendly.

    I just beat a 1774 player on FICS and I know what I did wrong, it was obvious and I wouldn’t do it in a tournament, but I still won even though he had the winning attack, he just didn’t come close to pulling it off (I find it’s not even a strain whatsoever to play that successful counter-attack). In another game, I made a silly mistake to another 1859 sort of player that was completely obvious. Again, no correlation to OTB play.

    OTB, you are just going to have to take advantage of their bad ideas, try to implement some good ones of your own, and accumulate those advantages by using better technique than your opponent.

    I should be thinking ‘patient chess’, and not ‘blow ’em away like Fischer did!’ Most plans are not executed to the desired effect, and then it comes down to who can find the better technique from a position of broken dreams.

    The only opening that I can see getting really dicey is the open Sicilian, and I want to play Bc4 with f5 push against non-Bg7 defense. Against Bg7, I play the standard attack with Bh6 and h4-h5.

  4. Unlike openings where you can study 1.e4 openings or 1…c5 as black to e4,endgames are not studied in the same way.
    In openings you are learning moves and lines that may/will come up in game after game,until you can play them in your sleep.
    But with endings/endgames you learn concepts that can be applied to different parts of the board.

    If you learn a line in the Ruy Lopez thats what you learnt a line in the Ruy lopez,you can shuffle the move order around but it is still that line.

    In endings things are not so clear cut rather than lines of moves you develop a feel for the position.
    Plus the number of endings you have to know is varst.

    A non-titled russian player told me a few years back that in chess schools children are drilled in endgame concepts,so in a game they look at the board and more or less know if it is a win or draw,rather than have to work it all out.

    But it is good to hear of a non dry engame book,i will look into BCE.

  5. Great points, Chessx!

    Now that I have looked at some of these Sicilian book variations, the more I think I should go back to the c3 Sicilian (Alapin). At least there I get a quality middle-game and it’s virtually guaranteed to go to the endgame, unlike a lot of different open-sicilian variations, if your opponent really was “good” enough to follow theory.

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