Why study Chess endgames?

Dec 1, 2014
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Hello everyone! This is IM Srinath, Narayanan and I am going to be here every Monday on articles that focus on games after the first 30 moves.

Have you often wondered, “Why study endgames? I almost hardly ever lose games in the endgame!”

Well, I had these exact feelings in my younger days. I always used to wonder ‘If I could mate my opponent in 30 moves, why do I need to study endgames?”

I grew older, my opponents began to get stronger, and it wasn’t simple anymore to display supremacy within the first 30 moves. In higher levels, people usually have fairly solid openings base, and have probably spent several hours studying early middle game positions. So how do you beat these guys?

Well, I didn’t have to look far. I just had to see how I was getting beaten by people stronger than me. I noticed that many mistakes occur in the 30-60th move phase of the game, when I got outplayed by grandmasters. This is also because this is the phase when people’s time begin to get lower. So, I started to look for opportunities during this period, and I don’t claim to be an expert – but I’ve become significantly better than where I was a few years ago in this phase.

This is one of the most important phases in chess. This is because, while it’s possible to make a comeback from mistakes made in the openings and middle game, it’s almost impossible to make a comeback from mistakes made in the endgame – as they are usually the last mistake made in the game. It’s also an area where we can score a lot of points, as it’s usually one of the phases less studied by our opponents. This was initially displayed by the current World Champion Carlsen, and now almost everyone tries to play till the end and squeeze points.

So, why almost everyone should read this column regularly?

1. It helps us consolidate the lessons learned in the endgames column of Chessity. The theoretical positions and calculation skills learned from those columns are mostly what constitute endgame play.

2. Endgames are usually the last chance to win a game/save a game.

3. As we look more and more at such examples, we’ll understand how theoretical study of endgames help in scoring points. While these positions don’t occur in games that often, it often occurs in our mental calculations, which usually helps us find the right evaluations and the precise continuations.

4. Even the best players in the World make mistakes in this phase. So, the benefits of becoming proficient at this phase become even greater. And proficiency comes from greater knowledge and more practice!

In our first example, we examine a recent game of GM Sveshnikov,Evgeny. The opening ‘Sveshnikov Sicilian’ is named after this legendary Soviet Grandmaster. It’s also known under other names such as ‘Cheliabinsk variation’ and ‘Sicilian Pelikan/Pelican’


Sveshnikov Evegny - going strong at the age of 61!


Sveshnikov, E. - Barle, J.

World Senior 50+ 2014 2014.10.26

BD_27015_226_0.pngDiagram #1


White's pieces are centralised and White has a slight advantage. White brings the last piece to the center.

1.Kf2 Re8 2.Kf3 ( 2.Red1 is another option, that would stop d52... Re7 3.Kf3 Rae8 wouldn't stop d5 anyway)

2... d5

Black eliminates the main weakness in his position, the d6-pawn.

3.exd5 ( 3.e5 Kg7 is another possibility with a slight advantage to white. However, a symmetrical game gives white better chances to control the game)

3... Nxd5 4.c4

Taking control of the important d5 square.

4... Nf6 (4... Rxe3+ 5.Rxe3 Nxe3 6.Kxe3 is another possibility. The game continuation is probably slightly better - because an outside corner paser is very dangerous)


White is burning all the squares of black knight like Ash's Charizard flamed all the squares around Gary's Blastoise in their match at Johto League.

5... h5

This move is an important addition for the creation of a h-paser later on in the ensuing rook endgame.

(5... Rad8 6.Red1 Rxd4 7.Rxd4 And white gets control of the d-file. Black can't challenge that with Re7-d7 because white has g57... Re7 8.Rd8+ Kg7 9.g5 Nd7 10.Ng4 +/- )

6.g5 Ng4 7.h3 Nxe3 8.Rxe3 Rxe3+ 9.Kxe3 Kg7

BD_27015_226_1.pngDiagram #2


equal pawns, symmetrical structure, however, white's centralised pieces make a huge difference. White's initial objective here is to attack black's queenside pawns and try and create a passed pawn. Black cannot succesfully defend on the queenside due to law of numbers, and therefore Black has to fight on the other flank through the h3 pawn and the h-paser. Having understood the objectives of both sides, it's time to concretely calculate the variations and the result of the calculations usually help us understand the evaluation of the position.

10.Rd7 Re8+

Black has to defend actively, and try and find counter play.

( Rb8 isn't really an option as white marches with the king 11.Kd4 Kf8 12.b3 +/- The d7 rook cannot be dislodged because of the f7 pawn.)


BD_27015_226_2.pngDiagram #3

( 11.Kd4 was probably better. We'll see later in the game that White eventually chooses to go towards this direction under alternate circumstances. The essence of this position is that, White has to create pasers on the queenside. This is because the queenside is farther away from black's king, and therefore the pawns are harder to defend against. The passed pawns need the support of white's king, while white's rook can do the dual task of helping white advance the pawns combined with impeding the progress of black's h pawn11... b5 (11... Re2 12.Rxb7 Rh2 13.Rb3 a4 14.Ra3 +- ) 12.cxb5 cxb5 13.Rd5 +/= One of the pawns has to fall. Black will seek counterplay on the kingside, but white is more likely to be faster)

11... Re1 12.Rxb7 Rc1 ( Rh1 13.Kg2 Rc1 14.b3 ( 14.Ra7 Rxc4 15.Rxa5 Rxf4 16.b3 Rd4)14... Rc2+ 15.Kg3 Rxa2 16.f5 gxf5 17.Kh4 leaves white with better chances)

13.Rb3 Rxc4 14.Rc3 Rd4

Played almost quickly by Black. Rxc3 and f6 made more sense, a decision made on general grounds instead of deep calculation. I am sure if the Black player practised on Afek's endgame studies column - he might have been able to successfully draw this game!

( Rxc3+ 15.bxc3 f6 16.Ke4 Kf7 17.Kd4 fxg5 18.fxg5 Ke6 19.Kc5 Kf5 20.Kxc6 Kxg5 21.c4 Kf4 22.c5 g5 23.Kb5 g4 24.hxg4 hxg4 25.c6 g3 26.c7 g2 27.c8=Q g1=Q 28.Qc7+ Ke4 29.Qxa5 is probably just a draw as white's king can't hide from the persistent checks.)

15.Ke3 Rd1 16.a4

Although this position is objectively equal, in a practical game, white has much better chances. The right approach for black is to seek counterplay on the other wing by playing h4 and targeting h3. White has won the war on the queenside, but if black can manage to race to the counter play on the king side, then black has saving chances

16... Re1+ 17.Kd4

In the right direction this time!

17... Rd1+?

BD_27015_226_3.pngDiagram #4


the decisive mistake

(17... Rf1 18.Ke5 Re1+ 19.Kd6 Re4 20.b3 Rxf4 21.Kxc6 Rb4 = Rb4 is an important saving move.)


Black has helped White reach his goals.

18... Rf1 19.Kb6!

BD_27015_226_4.pngDiagram #5


In endgames, the rook pawn outside paser is the most dangerous breed of passed pawns. This is because they're much harder to stop as they're far away.

( 19.Kxc6?

BD_27015_226_5.pngDiagram #6

19... Rxf4 20.b3 Rb4 would transpose to the above variation)

19... Rxf4 20.Kxa5 Rf5+ 21.Kb6 Rxg5 22.Kxc6

BD_27015_226_6.pngDiagram #7


One doesn't need to calculate till the end to understand which side is going to win the race.

( 22.a5 would be even more desirable, but here22... Rb5+ impedes white's progress)

22... h4 23.Ra3 Rg2 24.b4 Rg3 25.Ra1 Rxh3 26.a5 Rc3+ 27.Kb6 h3 28.a6 h2 29.a7

While both pawns are advanced, the activity of the king's make a big difference. Black has to sacrifice his most prized soldier to be able to continue the game.

29... Ra3 30.Rh1 g5 31.Rxh2 g4 32.Rh5 g3 33.Rg5+ Kf6 34.Rg8 ( 34.Rxg3 is of course another simple way to win)

34... Ke5 35.a8=Q Rxa8 36.Rxa8 f5 37.Rg8 f4 38.Kc5 Ke4 39.b5 f3 40.Rg4+ 1-0

Lessons learned from the game:

1.Activity of king is one of the most important aspects in all endgames.  In this game, it became one of the deciding factor.

2.Passers are more stronger, the farther away they are from our opponent's king. 

3.Advanced pawns are usually an asset in endgames as they become dangerous pasers when we capture the pawn in front of them. 

4.Concrete calculation is a very important skill in endgames.  In spite of all the general rules - concrete calculation must be given the first priority.  In this game, we saw that if black managed to calculate Rxc3 fully, he would've drawn without any further problems.  Chessity has excellent tools to train this skill - this is like a muscle, use it or lose it.

That's it for this week's endgame column of Chessity! stay tuned until next Monday when I come up with another instructive endgame example!

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kanchirk 13:10 - 3 Dec 2014
Excellent Article. Keep it up. Thank you.
arunjchess 14:16 - 5 Dec 2014
We got a comment on facebook from IM Afek Yochanan:

"Well, it's even simpler than that: Opening knowledge is also a matter of fashion and trends while studying the endgame is a worthwhile investment for the rest of your chess career as it rarely changes. In each particular game you may prepare for the opening but the ending is mostly unpredictable and it catches you when you are already pretty tired and short of time. Acquiring the knowledge of the endgame is therefore highly essential. Go for it now!"
combinatie 22:43 - 20 Jan 2015
wbrederode 21:33 - 18 May 2015
I enjoyed your Article THanks Willem
yodhaa 11:09 - 26 May 2015
Thank you so much!

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