Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Amatuer to IM: Why the Endgame?

This week's preview of Amateur to IM continues with Jonathan's explanation of why the endgame enjoys special coverage in his book.

Why the Endgame? 
Why did I choose the endgame for the subject of this book? Why will it improve the reader’s chess?

The simple answer is that I am convinced a careful study of the endgame sparked the biggest leap forward in my own game. Can it really be that the endgame is more important than other phases of the game?

I would say that it is more a question of balance than of one phase being more worthy of our study time than another. Let us sketch the portrait of a modern player to illustrate the typical imbalance:

  • With the wealth of opening literature, and the ease of access to the latest Grandmaster games on computer databases, it is no great task to build up a high-level opening repertoire. Time consuming perhaps, but the path to take is not a difficult one.
  • Indeed, I have listened to Grandmasters lament the unfairness of this. Gone are the days when the ‘weaker’ player can be routinely dispatched in the opening.
  • Combined with the knowledge of standard schemes in the middlegame - linked to their opening repertoire (which is relatively easy to attain, by playing through master games in the relevant openings) - we have painted the picture of quite a formidable foe.

All of this is perfectly reasonable, and I encourage the reader to spend time doing exactly these things.

We have, however, a clear motivation here for focusing (at least some) of our chess energy on the endgame:

  • Our opponents will typically have a clear weakness in this area.
  • We want to fortify our game with a strong endgame foundation; otherwise we will be throwing away many good positions (and points!).
Of course, we must expect a certain amount of crossover between the phases of the game. Knowledge of endgames is useful when studying the openings; often modern opening theory is so deep that it transposes directly into endgames.

All of this not new advice; in fact, most players know this already. Why then is the endgame such a neglected phase of the game?

There is no question it is more difficult to study than, say, the opening. Most endgame works, typically featuring general rules and many theoretical positions, are rather too dull to study. By the time we get the theoretical position we memorized, many years may have passed and we have forgotten the details. Computers often offer little help. I found this very evident when analyzing the opposite-colored bishop endgame Aronian-Bacrot in ‘Endgame Exploration 2’.

We are all guilty of mimicking the world’s strongest players to some degree, and it is true that they work considerably on openings. The reason is that they are already proficient in theoretical and technical endgames. Occasionally this is not the case and, as we do a few times throughout this book, we can enjoy the feeling that we know something an elite player did not!

Jonathan deep in thought, waiting for his opponent's first move

For ordering details, please contact your regular chess supplier or head for the Mongoose Press website.

No comments: