” In order to improve your game, you must study the endgame before anything else.” – Jose raul capablanca
When only few pieces are left on the chessboard then it should get easy to play the positions because you have to think about limited possibilities but the truth is: As the number of pieces reduces, it becomes harder to play the position because with impact of each move on the evaluation of the position will be huge.
For example: In pawn ending, one tiny pawn move can change the evaluation of the position from winning to losing instantly. This rarely happens in opening or middlegame where if you make a bad pawn move then most likely you will give only the advantage to your opponent and not lose the game instantly.
Let’s look at the best chess books for endgame that will help you improve your endgame.
1. Winning chess tactics
Author: Yasser seirawan
This was my first endgame book and this is my favorite endgame book for beginners. You will learn the important endings from the scratch and step by step improve your level. This book covers the following topics:
Basic mates: If you are a complete beginner then there are two types of mates that you should know. First, how to checkmate opponent’s love king using your king and queen only. Second, how to checkmate opponent’s king using your king and rook only.
King and pawn ending: Many times other types of ending gets converted into king and pawn ending where you and your opponent are left with only king and pawns. You will learn the concepts like opposition, triangulation, shoulder charging and pawn breakthrough in this chapter.
Queen and pawn ending: The trick in this kind of ending is not to be afraid of checks. Most of times your king has to play active role in queen ending and you might get afraid that opponent’s queen will give start giving checks and it will be a draw. As you will learn, it does not happen frequently.
Rook ending: This is the most frequent type of ending that you will get in your games because usually rooks come out in later part of the game and most of the pieces gets traded by then. If you study rook endgame in detail, it gives you big advantage over your opponent.
Bishop ending: There are two types of bishop endings. First, same color bishop ending where both you and your opponent has the bishop of the same color. Second, opposite color bishop ending where you and your opponent has the bishops of opposite colors. Opposite color bishop ending mostly are the hardest to win and mostly ends in the draw.
Knight Ending: ” Knight endgames are like pawn endgames.”- Mikhail botvinnik.
For beginners, this will be the hardest chapter because knight is trickiest piece and most beginners have difficulties in handling knight. Author introduces a “hoping game” of the knight for you to overcome this problem.
You will also learn about Bishop vs knight and rook vs minor pieces in detail in this book.
Conclusion: If you are a beginner then this is a perfect endgame book for you.
2. 100 Endgames You must Know
Author: Jesus de la villa
This book gives you fundamental knowledge of endgames in 100 lessons. let’s look at some of topics covered in this book.
Basic ending: In this chapter, author covers the topics like rule of the square, pawn on the 6th rank, key squares, imprisoning the opponent’s king, rook vs bishop and rook vs knight.
Knight vs pawn: Knight has difficulties in dealing with rook’s pawn which is discussed in detail in this chapter.
Queen vs pawn: Do you know that a pawn on 7th rank can draw against a queen? If the pawn is on a,c,f and h file then the game is a draw.
Rook vs pawn: This kind of endgame occurs quite frequently. Most of the times, difference of one tempo can lead to completely opposite results.
Same colored bishop: Bishop + pawn vs Bishop positions are covered in this chapter.
Bishop vs knight: When only one pawn is on the board.
Opposite colored bishop: Bishop + 2 pawns vs. bishop
Rook + pawn vs rook
Rook + two pawns vs rook
Pawn ending: You will learn about doubled pawns, isolated pawns, protected passed pawns, distant passed pawns and pawn breakthroughs.
Conclusion: This book is for intermediate level players who has knowledge of some basic endgames. Some of the topics covered in this book are in great detail which is not practically useful for complete beginners. This should not be your first endgame book.
3. Mastering Endgame Strategy
Author: Johan Hellsten
This is my favorite book on chess endgames. Johan hellsten explains these concepts in easy to understand language.
Best part about this book is: it covers the topic according to themes. Understanding and applying themes are much easier than trying to memorize moves.
Let’s look at what you will get out of this book:
King themes: Here the golden principle is: Centralize your king in the endgame. You will learn the vital concepts like opposition, shoulder charging, king raid and shelter in this chapter.
Pawn themes: In the endgame, power of pawns rises because both sides try to create and promote a passed pawn. Every important concept like passed pawn, connected passed pawn, separated passed pawn, outside passed pawn, breakthrough, pawn majority, one pawn stops two and pawn races are covered in this chapter.
Rook themes: Rook endgames are the most occurring endgames. It becomes essential to master the themes related to rook like intermediate checks, bridges, cutting the king off, rook behind the passed pawn and exploiting the rook’s mobility.
Minor piece theme: You will learn about barrier, magic distance, fixing pawns, provocation and blockade in this chapter.
Queen themes: My queen ending improved a lot after a reading this chapter. Here you will learn about mates, perpetual, betting on passed pawn, centralization, series of checks, exposing the enemy king and interference.
Miscellaneous themes: Zugzwang, space and restriction are covered in this chapter. These topics are helpful in creating overall plan for the endgame.
Exchanges: Right exchange at the right time in the endgame can help you win the game. Simplifications, transpositions, piece exchanges and pawn exchanges are covered in this chapter.
Classical themes: Some themes like active king, active defense, activity above material, opening a new front, fortress, theoretical draws that are super important for a practical player are covered in this chapter.
Conclusion: This is a must have book for every chess player. However, i would suggest that first your read winning chess tactics for fundamental concepts and then you read this book.
4. Capablanca's best chess ending
Author: irving chernev
Capablanca is known for his endgame skills. This book covers 60 games played by capablanca. Most of time when players reached the endgame stage, positions were equal but capablanca converted the game into win.
Author explains every move and concept in beginner friendly manner which makes this book easy to read.
Let’s look at one of the most famous ending played by capablanca. This is game number 36 of the book. It was played against savielly tartakower in 1924. Capablanca was white in this game.
In this position, it is white to move.
it looks like white is going to lose a pawn in the game but it was a well calculated sacrifice.
Here white played 35.kg3!! Sacrificing a pawn.
After 35…Rxc3+ 36. Kh4 Rf3 37.g6! Rxf4+ 38.Kg5 Re4 39. kf6 we have reached this position.
As you can see white’s king and rook are very active that’s why despite two pawns downs; white is actually winning.
After some more moves 39…kg8 40. Rg7+ Kg8 41. Rxc7 Re8 42. kxf5 Re4 43. Kf6 Rf4+ 44. ke5 Rg4 45. g7+ Kg8 46.Rxa7 Rg1 we have reached the following position
Now the situation has completely changed, white is actually two pawns up and easily winning.
Conclusion: This is fantastic book for you to see how endgame concepts (that you learned in winning chess tactics and mastering endgame strategy) are applied in real games.
5. Dvoretsky's endgame Manual
Author: Mark Dvoretsky
If you consider yourself an advanced player and wants to take your endgame skill to completely different level then i recommend you this book.
When i was studying this book, i had really hard time to solve the exercises of this book.
It covers every endgame topic in detail and most positions are really hard.
Let me show you with an example. In the following position, it is white to move.
White’s plan is to push the a pawn to 8th rank and make a queen. But he cannot directly start with a4 because black’s king will come to stop it from g5-f6-e7 route.
So, white must block this path first. Therefore, white played 1.f6!
Now after 1…gxf6 Black’s path is blocked.
2. kxg2 Kg5 3. a4 bxa3 4. bxa3 kf5 5. a4 Ke5
Now black is threatening to take on d5.
white played 6.d6 sacrificed one more pawn.
Now after 6…cxd6 white played
White played 7.c6 sacrificing one more pawn to block the path of black’s king. Now black can not use d5-c6-b7 route to catch white’s a pawn.
After 7…dxc6 8.a4 ke5 9. a6 white is completely winning as black king cannot stop white’s a pawn.
This is the final winning position.
You had to see 9 moves ahead to solve this exercise.
When i first saw this study, it blew my mind 🙂
This book is packed with this kind of exercises.
Conclusion: This book is for advanced players only. If you have already read some endgame books only then you should choose this book.