Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Endgame fallout

I think I've finally learned the KNB mate pattern. It took about six hours to learn, spread out over about a month. As most knights probably know, the three phases of the mate are:
1. Push the enemy king to the edge
2. Push the enemy king toward the corner which is the same color as your bishop.
3. Mate in that corner.
Once I finish with phase 1 I am pretty solid with the mate. Phase 1 still takes me a few too many moves. You really need to coordinate the three pieces effectively to inch the enemy king to the edge.

I got some endgame books while away. Below are some mini-reviews I penned after skimming the entire book and also reading a chapter or two fairly closely. It is strange how many more beginner books on openings there are than endgames, given that everyone agrees that it is more important for beginners to study endgames. Note I don't have Pandolfini's Endgame Course or Lev Albert's Just the Facts, and would like to compare them at some point.

Seirewan's Winning Chess Endings. A good beginner-level treatement. He goes through the basic mates (he has the best description of the KNB vs K mate that I have found), and then the standard endgame stuff we should all know (e.g., the Philidor and Lucena positions), all with a good balance of explanation and example. I generally dislike his books, because he is not good at explaining things, but this seems to be an exception. The only major problem I found is that he doesn't explain what the opposition is. He uses the term, but never defines it. This is a pretty negligent oversight. Also, there aren't many problems included. To overcome these shortcomings, see the next book.

Rosen's Chess Endgame Training. Another great beginner book, and a perfect complement to Seirewan's book. It is basically a set of tests with detailed and incredibly clear explanations of the positions afterwords. His description of the opposition, for instance, is great. It needs to be complemented with something like Seirewan or Muller/Lamprecht, as it doesn't include the basic mates (e.g., no discussion of KBN vs K).

Muller and Lamprecht's Fundamental Chess Endings. An encyclopedic tour-de-force, covering all major aspects of the endgame from basic mates to general strategy, all with problems included. The explanations are clear and thorough. If I had to take one endgame book to an island with me, it would be this one. Also, at the end they have an extremely useful table that shows the theoretical results from all 4-6 piece endgames (e.g., QB vs Q is a draw) based on computer analysis. This book is so good that it's tempting to start with it, but I'll wait until I've really digested the material from the previous two books before I enter this treasure chest, so I can get the most out of it.

Snape's Chess Endings Made Simple is my least favorite of the bunch. I got it for its high reviews at Amazon, but immediately regretted the purchase. The first half of the book is explanation of key concepts at a beginner-intermediate level. The explanations aren't as clear as Rosen or Muller/Lamprecht: for the most part he uses examples with long lists of moves to make his points, while a beginner like me needs more prose. It doesn't include the basic mates. The second half of the book is a bunch (100) of problems with detailed explanations using ideas from the first half of the book. Perhaps these are useful and I'll appreciate the book more as I grow in skills.


Blogger Jim said...

Check my THursday entry on my blog. I found a book for you to add to your collection.

8/17/2006 10:02:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home