Learn about Endgames

"We think in generalities, but we live in details."
Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947)


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Chess Endgame Tips

Which endings to go for...

"If as in many games one side has an extra pawn, it is vital to know when to exchange pieces and which pieces in order to win or draw the game. Any ending with Q+P v Q is almost impossible to win - unless you have a huge amount of patience. Many rook + P v rook endings are drawn IF YOU KNOW THE PRINCIPAL TECHNIQUE. Opposite coloured bishops are notoriously hard to win and sometimes 2 pawns advantage is not sufficient. Why? Because the defending bishop can sacrifice itself or control key squares unavailable to the attacking bishop. B+P vs B or N+P vs N are drawn if the peice can sacrifice itself for the last pawn. This is the reason why players are advised to exchange pieces when ahead and pawns when defending. Finally YOU MUST MUST MUST know which K+P v K positions are drawn or won. All other endings stem from this one. One recent game I annotated was a clearly drawn R+3P v R+2P ending until the defender exchanged off into a lost K endgame. Devote a small part of the time you would spend studying openings to endings and see your results improve!! "
 
To go into the ending? or not...

"In the middlegame when the position has developed into a tense struggle it is useful to take a moment and remove all the pieces - leave the kings if you want and compare the pawn structures. Look for weak or isolated pawns, passed pawns, pawn majorities, supported pawns and possible pawn breaks. Who has the more chances, you or your opponent? When you replace the missing pieces, look at who has the most activity and how the pieces work with the pawns - we all know about bad bishops on the same colour squares as many of our pawns, dont we? Try to work out which pieces are strong for you or your opponent and which you would like to exchange - or that he would like to exchange. These thoughts and questions should help to decide whether the ending is favourable - or how to make it so!"
 
Use your time 2

"In the ending we must use this great opportunity of having days to make our move. DO NOT make the obvious move that looks or feels good without looking at the board for a few minutes. Endings are full of surprises - resources and strong winning plans for both sides. Internalise - that is understand and learn - by working hard and taking your time. How do GMs move so quickly? they have spent many years playing slowly and thinking deeply! Playing using wits and intuition is part of the game but even this can be improved by also playing slowly. One of my first chess books told me to ask myself 5 questions before every move. Im sure you can work out what they are and more besides! At first this process will take time but with practice be more efficient and gut feeling will start to be based on internalised knowledge rather than superficial observation! "
 
Opposition

"When the Kings face opposite each other along a file, rank, or diagonal with an odd number of squares between them, the side that has to move his King is said to "lose the Opposition" - and usually the game with it. Generally in a level King and Pawn endgame with Pawns split on both wings, if the side with the more active King wins the Opposition and achieves a timely Pawn break or King invasion against the opponents Pawns, he will win easily. A draw is possible for the trailing side only if he achieves the Opposition and has the right Pawn structure to prevent the stronger side from making progress."
 
Outside Passed Pawns

"Passed Pawns near the edge of the board (termed "outside passed Pawns") are more powerful than central passed Pawns because they deflect the enemy forces, most often the King, off to one side and leave the other side vulnerable. In an otherwise equal game, an outside passed Pawn will often make the difference between what would otherwise be a draw and what is in fact a win for the player with the passer."
 
Deflection of King as Guard

"When you use your King to guard one of your pieces that is attacked by one of your opponents pieces (such as his King), you must be REALLY careful that your opponent does not deflect your King with a well-placed check. If your King has to abandon the piece it is guarding, that piece goes bye-bye!"
 
Pawns on Opposite Color of Bishops

"In endgames with Bishops, its good to keep your Pawns on squares of opposite color of your opponents Bishop. That leaves them invulnerable to the opponents Bishop attack. If your opponents King tries to attack your Pawns on the opposite color squares of your own Bishop, block the King off by attacking with your Bishop the squares NEXT TO your Pawns. This will keep the King at bay."
 
Far-advanced Supported Passed Pawns

"Nothing is a worse bone in the throat for an endgame player than a far-advanced supported passed Pawn. When you see two connected Pawns advancing your way, and only one of your Pawns is blocking them, be careful lest the Pawn on the open file sneaks past your Pawn and then gets support from its rear companion. You will find it next to impossible to dislodge it."
 
Promotion in Rook & Pawn Endgames

"The basic technique for Pawn promotion in a Rook & Pawn endgame is to set up your King and Rook to block the opponents Rook from access to the queening square. This will only avail, however, if the opponents King cannot get in front of your Pawn. To prevent this, you need to use your Rook (and King if possible) to cut off the opponents King from the file or rank on which your Pawn stands. Unless this is possible, your opponent will often draw."
 
Bishop Superiority on Open Board

"In an otherwise even position, on an open board a Bishop is far superior to a Knight because it can traverse the squares much quicker and can also "lose" a move, which the Knight cannot. The best way to win such a position is to restrict the movement of the opponents Knight with your Pawns, Bishop, and even King if possible. If you can get your opponents Knight marooned at the edge of the board and your own Bishop in the center, youve got it made."
 
Avoidance of Trades against Split Passed Pawns

"One reason for avoiding trades (and most definitely NOT offering them) in an endgame when you are down in material is that split passed Pawns become much more dangerous than connected passed Pawns as pieces leave the board. The rule in King and Pawn endgames (with no other pieces) is that passed Pawns with three or more files between them always win, while passed Pawns with two or more files between them can win unsupported by their King if they can both make it safely to the fifth rank. So avoid leaving your King helpless against an onslaught of distant marching Pawns by making sure to keep as much material on the board for as long as possible. Absolutely DO NOT volunteer a trade unless you have no other choice. (Also see my previous note, "Trades Behind in Material.")"
 
Blocking Pawn Moves

"In a favorable K & P endgame (e.g., with your King far more advanced than your opponents), you want to make the last Pawn move that -blocks- your opponent from making further Pawn moves. Once your opponents Pawn moves have given out, he will have to retreat his King, and you can then advance your King into a decisive invasion of your opponents Pawns."
 
Activate Your King!

"The King is a fighting piece in the endgame. Use it! Often the player with the more active King wins the endgame."
 
Poorly Planned Pawn Trades

"Never trade off stronger Pawns for weaker ones in the endgame (e.g., a chain of Pawns for isolated Pawns), unless you are certain you will improve your winning chances by doing so. When you have an endgame Pawn advantage, its best to keep as many Pawns on the board as possible, and spread out over as much space on the board as possible. Avoid, therefore, simplifying the position; that just gives your opponent all the better chance for a draw."
 
Mate with Rook and Knight

"A Rook on the seventh rank, aided by a Knight, can conjure up mating patterns against an opponents King stuck in the corner. If you are the unfortunate opponent, watch for this and make sure that you do not suddenly have to offload heavy material to save your hapless King."
 
Quadrant

"To stop a passed Pawn, especially a Rook Pawn, from promoting, a King must be inside, or be able to step inside, the Pawns "quadrant", defined by the square on which the Pawn stands, the squares on the Pawns file up to the promotion square, an equal number of squares along the Pawns rank, and all the squares that share both file and rank with the aforementioned squares. If the King gets caught outside the quadrant, the Pawn promotes, and its curtains."
 
Opposite-Color Bishops

"In an opposite-color Bishop endgame, the weaker side can hold a draw by maintaining a blockade against the stronger sides passed Pawns. But one condition is that the weaker side must not allow NEW passed Pawns to be formed. Passed Pawns separated by two or more ranks apart become really deadly as they get farther advanced, because they split and tie down the weaker sides defensive forces. Even opposite-color Bishops, in that case, may be of no avail."
 
Minor piece vs. 2 or 3 Pawns

"A minor piece is better than two or even three Pawns in the middlegame, and is only at a disadvantage in the endgame if the Pawns become passed and get too far advanced (especially if the Pawns are split and/or the opposing King is too far away to help). Therefore, a player who is a Pawn ahead in the middlegame should avoid giving up a minor piece for one or more additional Pawns UNLESS the Pawns pose a substantial threat to promote. Without that, the minor piece will win out."
 

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