31 December 2020

Endgame Books

As the decade of the twenty-teens comes to an end, I thought it appropriate to consider the value of endgame books. I posted a photo on Facebook of the shelf that holds my collection of endgame books, offering a witty remark about ends and beginnings. I have long been in agreement with Jose Capablanca, Chess Fundamentals (1934) that aspiring players need to begin with the endgame.

I thought it would be a simple matter to list the books on this shelf and one or two other places, and then write brief annotations about all or most. However, the limits of this simple project became clear. Before basic pawn endings, Capablanca presents checkmates. Should checkmate pattern books be on the list? Pandolfini's Endgame Course is listed below and begins with simple checkmates. Why exclude others? 

Then, there is the matter of ebooks. Listed below are a few that are available from Amazon. For beginning chess players, no other author offers clearer analysis and better diagrams that the self-published work of Rodolfo Pardi. And yet, I exclude from the list the many classic texts in my Google Books library that are the result of scanning rare books from libraries. For instance, Johann Berger, Theorie und Praxis der Endspiele (1890) is perhaps the originator of the genre. Why not list it?

So, the list below starts with one shelf of books, listing a few other that might be on that shelf if they fit. As print books, they are the core of the reference materials I turn to frequently while studying or teaching the endgame. Studying the endgame positions in GM-RAM: Essential Grandmaster Knowledge (2000) by Rashid Ziyatdinov, for example, sends me looking through other works because Ziyatdinov offers no solutions. Thomas Engqvist, 300 Most Important Chess Positions (2018) contains many endgames with explanations, but the books on the shelf offer greater detail. I study because I enjoy the process as much as for the benefits to my game.

Alburt, Lev, and Nikolay Krogius. Just the Facts!: Winning Endgame Knowledge in One Volume. New York: Chess Information and Research Center, 2000.

This book is part of a set of seven that claimed to bring secrets of Soviet chess training to an American audience. I have not read it, but the Chess Training Pocket Book that is also part of the series is one of very few chess books that I have read cover-to-cover. And, I've done so twice. 

Averbakh, Yuri. Chess Endings: Essential Knowledge. London: Everyman Chess, 1993.

When someone asks where they should start in their study of endgames, this book is the first that comes to mind. It is short, focused, and written by one of the all-time great chess teachers. Averbakh produced a longer set of books on the endgame that belong in any complete library. I have PDF copies that someone gave me.

Ban, Jeno. The Tactics of Endgames. Mineola, NY: Dover, 1997 [1963].

When I bought this book about the year it came out, my chess library still numbered in the dozens of volumes. I spent some time working through part of it and my play improved.

Barden, Leonard. How to Play the Endgame in Chess. Indianapolis, NY: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1975.

This book looks good, although I have not spent any time with it.

Chernev, Irving. Practical Chess Endings. New York: Dover, 1961.

I bought this book as a teenager, spent minimal time on chess in my twenties, and returned to serious play in the 1990s after graduate school. For two decades, it was my only endgame book. I studied it a bit in the 1970s, and still pull it off the shelf from time to time. Many of the exercises are composed.

_______. Capablanca's Best Chess Endings. New York: Dover, 1968.

In 2012, after beating me in the match for title of Spokane City Champion, John Julian credited his study of this book for guiding him in an endgame we had played. I bought it later that year, if I recall correctly. In November and December 2020, I worked through ten of the sixty games with my students. Although, in truth, I pay little attention to Chernev's analysis. Capablanca often simply outplayed his opponent from positions that could have been drawn with best play, but errors were made. Good examples of practical play.

De la Villa, Jesus. 100 Endgames You Must Know: Vital Lessons for Every Chess Player, 4th ed. Alkmaar, The Netherlands: New in Chess, 2015.

If any book supersedes Averbakh's Chess Endings: Essential Knowledge, it is this terrific book by Jesus de la Villa. Chessable also has a course based on this book that I understand has been very useful for promoting its innovative approach. Before I had a copy, I watched a video of Magnus Carlsen being taken through the Chessable course. One hundred endgames seems like a reasonable beginning and the explanations are well-written.

Donaldson, John. Essential Chess Endings for Advanced Players. Dallas: Chess Digest, 1995.

I bought this book from the author in February at the only OTB tournament I played this year. I spent my morning coffee time with it much of the next few weeks. It offers good challenging instructive positions. 2020 became a much busier year when my teaching went online, and chess suffered until mid-summer.

Dvoretsky, Mark. Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual. Milford, CT: Russell Enterprises, 2003.

This book is not for beginners, and some have suggested that it is only for players substantially stronger than me (i.e. masters). Of course, I've beaten masters quite a bit in online blitz, and some in online correspondence. I've also held my own in two rook endgames with a FIDE Master in the 2008 Spokane City Championship. Credit time spent with this book. It is a standard reference that I use frequently. I have a newer edition in Kindle format on my iPad. The most recent edition has been revised by Karsten Muller because Dvoretsky is no longer with us. See "Pawn Endings Flash Cards".

Emms, John. Starting Out: Minor Piece Endgames. London: Everyman Chess, 2004.

I keep pulling this book off the shelf with some intent to study, but then doing something else.

Erwich, Frank. Endgame Tactics: Magnus Carlsen. Alkmaar, The Netherlands: New in Chess, 2018. ebook.

Frank Erwich has produced a series of short ebooks for New in Chess. The general pattern is to offer one hundred exercises from the games of the featured player. A diagram is presented with the solution on the next page. I work through a problem or two every now and then. I'm 45% through this one.

Fine, Reuben. Basic Chess Endings. New York: David McKay, 1969 [1941].

The formatting of this book makes this book hard to read. There, I have said it. For its day, it was a mammoth achievement. I mostly look at it when someone else has referred to it. Most recently, Harold van der Heiden referenced it in his Endgame Study Database in an endgame I was studying (see "Textbook Ending"). Dvoretsky proved more useful.

Fishbein, Alex. King and Pawn Endings. Macon, GA: American Chess Promotions, 1993.

Someone was raving about this book, and it seemed to offer insights helpful with one or two of the exercises in GM-RAM. I found a copy online and ordered it. I found it useful. I might spend more time with this book in the future. Unfortunately, it is out of print.

Flear, Glenn. Improve Your Endgame Play. London: Everyman Chess, 2000.

I have probably opened this book a few times, as well as the other two in the set. 

_______. Mastering the Endgame. London: Everyman Chess, 2001.

_______. Test Your Endgame Thinking. London: Everyman Chess, 2002.

Kasparian, Genrikh Moiseyevich. 888 Miniature Studies. Belgrade: BeoSing, 2010.

Genrikh Kasparian has another book on the endgame that I should buy, Domination in 2545 Endgame Studies. It is not cheap in a quality edition. These studies are challenging miniatures (problems with few pieces). When I first acquired a copy, I spent a bit of time most days for several weeks working through the problems. Terrific book, but not necessarily ideal for improving practical play.

Levenfish, Grigory, and Vasily Smyslov. Rook Endings. Dallas: Chess Digest, 1971.

Vasily Smyslov was a terrific endgame player. Positions that he played correctly appear in standard reference works, and you can bet the authors of these books studied this one. I dip into it from time to time.

Matanovic, Aleksandar, et al. Encyclopedia of Chess Endings (Queens). Beograd: Sahovski Informator, 1989.

Part of a five volume set. I picked this book as my prize after a blitz tournament at the Spokane Chess Club a few years ago. It is a terrific reference work.

Mednis, Edmar. Practical Rook Endings. Coraopolis, PA: Chess Enterprises, 1982.

This book is another that I bought from John Donaldson in February. I have not made the time to study it, but Donaldson told me the time would be rewarded.

Minev, Nikolay. A Practical Guide to Rook Endgames. Milford, CT: Russell Enterprises, 2004.

This little book belongs in a small collection of books like Averbakh's Chess Endings: Essential Knowledge. It goes to the heart of the subject in a few pages. terrific beginning point before getting lost in the rook endings in Dvoretsky.

Muller, Karsten, and Frank Lamprecht. Fundamental Chess Endings: A New Endgame Encyclopedia for the 21st Century. London: Gambit Publications, 2001.

This book has served me well as a companion to Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual. It is a terrific endgame reference work that sometimes explains matters more clearly than Dvoretsky.

Nunn, John. Nunn's Chess Endings, vol. 1. London: Gambit Publications, 2010.

When Borders Books opened in my city, they started by stocking nearly everything. Then, the local market affected the selection, and there was a diminishing supply of vital texts like chess books and the works of William Faulkner. In the last few months of its existence, these two were the only ones in stock that were worth having and I did not already own. Owning copies is one thing; reading them is another. Nunn's books are challenging.

_______. Nunn's Chess Endings, vol. 2. London: Gambit Publications, 2010.

Pandolfini, Bruce. Pandolfini's Endgame Course. New York: Fireside, 1988.

I worked through much of this book in a short period of time about twenty years ago, and many of the fundamental positions became central to my teaching. I gave away my copy as a prize at a youth chess tournament. A few years later, I acquired another copy.

Pardi, Rodolfo. Opposition and Critical Squares. Self-Published, 2014. ebook.

This book concerns one elementary chess endgame position and a few that are derived from it. The diagrams are the best I have seen in an ebook. This explanations are clear. Perfect choice for young players starting out.

Polgar, Laszlo. Chess Endgames. Koln: Konemann, 1999.

This is part of a set of three massive reference works that one might assume formed part of the curriculum for training the Polgar sisters. However, Susan Polgar has claimed online that at least one of them was her work when she was a teenager. Chess Training in 5334 Positions is the best known, and the most widely available. This endgame book has more than 4000 endgame positions organized by 171 themes. It has been a useful resource.

Seirawan, Yasser. Winning Chess Endings. London: Everman Chess, 2003.

During the broadcast of a grand master chess tournament a few years ago, Wesley So came into the broadcast booth with Yasser Seirawan to go over the game he had just won. Then they talked more generally. So credited the Winning Chess series that Seirawan wrote with having helped him when he was starting out. I find the story credible and think that Seirawan's books are all very good. They are not comprehensive, but well-written and the examples are quite instructive.

Shereshevsky, Mikhail. Endgame Strategy. London: Cadogan Chess, 1994 [1985].

I bought this book a few years ago from John Donaldson who always brings a batch of new and used books to a tournament in my city that he has attended twenty times or so. Most often, he wins the event. He sells these books at low prices. Shereshevsky's text has a good reputation, but my time with it has been too limited to offer much insight.

Silman, Jeremy. Silman's Complete Endgame Course: From Beginner to Master. Los Angeles, Siles Press, 2007.

Jeremy Silman structures this book as the endgames a player should know at different rating levels. The overall structure tends toward superficiality, which makes it the perfect resourse for those who do not want to spend much time studying. I find the positions that Silman lists for master and above where my current study takes me. I worked through the whole book up to my rating level in the space of a few hours the day I bought it. Now, it mostly gathers dust. Nonetheless, it has influenced me substantially in the material I choose to teach. Silman convinced me to cease teaching checkmate with bishop and knight as a regular practice, and he offers no instruction concerning that elementary checkmate in this book. He also convinced me of the importance of the Philidor and Lucena rook endings.

Smyslov, Vasily. Vasily Smyslov: Endgame Virtuoso. London: Everyman Press, 2003 [1997].

I used this book as supplementary material while studying some of Smyslov's own rook endings via Dvoretsky.

Stripes, James. Essential Tactics: Building a Foundation for Chess Skill. Self-Published, 2017. ebook.

This book was my first self-published book through Amazon. Previously, I had used the copiers and spiral binding services at Kinkos (now FedEx Office). It is not an endgame book, bit rather a primer on tactics aimed at beginning players that was inspired by the success that I found taking some young students through Bruce Pandolfini, Beginning Chess. Every position has ten or fewer pieces and a simple tactic, the idea I got from Pandolfini. I composed slightly more than 130 of the 150 exercises included here. However, after solving the tactic, one often finds an endgame where there may be a series of only moves. I offer reasonable explanations of these endings in the text.

Van Perlo, C. G. Van Perlo's Endgame Tactics, new ed. Alkmaar, The Netherlands: New in Chess, 2014.

The exercises in this book are unmatched and the quality of the analysis is first rate. However, this is more of a workbook than textbook. It offers not systematic study of endgame themes, but rather a generous collection (1300+) of problems to challenge and entertain.

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