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Chess World Online Chess Forum - Secrets of Pawn Endings

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  Secrets of Pawn Endings


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United Kingdom
Sat Mar 11 2006 12:26AM | edited: 12:38:32 | MsgID: 3780546

I present my review of the following book:

Secrets of Pawn Endings
By Karsten Muller, Frank Lamprecht, Publisher:Everyman Chess

So from my experience, the question most asked by players trying to improve their game seems to be either "how can I improve my ability to calculate?" or "which book will have the biggest effect on my game?"

To answer both these questions I present this book. Without wishing to overstate, in my opinion, this is the single most valuable book you will add to your collection. Which is quite a bold statement so I'll try explain why!

First the minor details, from the link on my homepage Amazon tells me the current price is about £13 ($16), it's 288 pages long, contains approximately 800 positions (400 of which are puzzles) the puzzles have difficulty indicators and the solutions are very concise!

The chapters are:

1. King and Pawn(s) vs King
2. King and Pawn vs King and Pawn
3. Race of the Passes Pawns
4. Small number of Pawns
5. Unique Features of the Rook's Pawn
6. Fortresses, Stalemates and Underpromotion
7. Pawns on One Wing
8. Passed Pawns
9. Breakthrough
10.Pawns on Both Wings
11.Fight for Tempi and Manoeuvres
12.Corresponding Squares
13.Thinking Methods to Find the Right Move
14.Complicated Cases
16.[Additional] Exercises.

So as you can see, there's a lot of things covered. But why do I hold it so highly? First I'm going to quote a rather fine fellow:

"At first sight such endings should be quite simple. All the complexity caused by knights, bishops and rooks has disappeared, and queens only put in an appearance in a small number of cases. Yet, oddly, this results in a paradox. It is certainly true that the number of legal moves is less than in a typical middlegame position, and so both computers and humans find it easier to look further into the position. However, this is a double edged sword; many king pawn endings are capable of concrete evaluation, so the shades of assessment used for midlegame positions tend to evaporate. No longer can one get away with "slight advantage for white", or an "unclear". Instead, the player has to continue his work until he can state "win", "loss", or "draw. To reach such a conclusion may require exceptionally deep analysis, and prove more troublesome than evaluating a middlegame position." - GM John Nunn, from the foreword.

That really is the crux of the matter! This book does not allow you to bluff your way to a general hazy conclusion, nor does it give you and easy ride, what it does is make you look at positions and think through all moves you see, no matter how crazy they seem at first... consider this position:

Analyse position

White to move wins, black to move draws... can you see why? If not, what would happen if this position or one similar appeared in a game you'd spent 6 hours duelling over...?

The main point I'm trying to get across is this is a book that will force you (if you devote your attention to it and don't rush to the solution too quickly) to look deeper into these positions than you'll think is possible, thus improving your general calculation abilities (the main restriction to calculation in any position is not seeing all the available moves).

The second thing that this book does is teach you all about pawn endings! You may then say "I don't get many pawn endings in my games, so why do I need this?" Point is that through knowing pawn endings your general endgame skills will improve (all minor piece endgames are extensions of pawn endgames!) but also, it'll give you the opportunity to recognise "this pawn endgame is won, so it's okay to exchange my bishop for that knight, or my rook for that bishop".

Therefore I recommend this book with only one reservation, it's tough going in some places (the complicated cases really are that!!), and the later chapters do require a lot of thought and work but the upside to this work is 3 fold:

1. You'll be able to calculate better in all areas of your game.
2. Your general endgame skill will increase
3. You'll discover some of the beauty that exists in what appears a simple element of this game

If I were starting my chess life again today, this would be the very first book I'd buy, with no exception... can there be a stronger recommendation?

Feedback welcome from all

Best wishes