Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Don't fear the endgame, young Skywalker

One reason I feared taking up the Caro-Kann and Slav as black was my pathetic endgame play. These openings are known for being solid, quiet, and reward those with good endgame technique. This sort of freaked me out, but I decided the only way to improve at the endgame is to actually reach an endgame! In my recently acquired book on the Slav by Vigus, he directly addresses the endgame wimp:

If you fear that your endgame ability is insufficient (especially under modern time restraints), and that you need to decide the game while plenty of pieces are still left on the board, my advice would be: try to stop worrying about it. Simply by getting used to playing endgames out, you will improve, and if you gradually attain the reputation of being a 'boring grinder,' so much the better! Then you might find that opponents take risks earlier on in order to avoid your fearsome 'technique,' and that you are not called upon to display your prowess after all.
Well, one can hope anyway.

15 Comments:

Blogger likesforests said...

You said you like the Slav with an early ...Bf5 (as opposed to ...dxc4 or the Semi-Slavic ...e6). I just realized Alex Lemderman's "The Slav Defense" ICC video lecture covers exactly the variation you prefer in three 25-min video lessons. He notes it's the most straight-forward way to play--less risky than ...dxc4, and less complicated than ...e6, thought he's honest and takes time to discuss the troublesome Qb3 and how Black can manage a draw. It's very interesting--not that I plan to give up ...e6 anytime soon. :)

12/03/2008 11:45:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

LF: cool, thanks for the tip. I'll have to check it out. I just looked it up in the book, and (thank goodness) Vigus recommends Bf5! In response to Qb3 he recommends Qb6. I'm now at the point where I'm looking up stuff in the book after my Slav games. I won one tonight (30 0) by luck (he hung a Bishop). It shares many features with the QGD, but without that horrible Bishop, which is nice.

12/03/2008 11:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Grandpatzer said...

I wouldn't get too hung up on "endgame" openings. They're still usually going to be decided by tactics. I used to play the Spanish exchange, but rarely got a "classic Spanish exchange"-type endgame. More often, I got queenless middlegames where I had trouble coordinating my minor pieces, and then the game would be decided by who screwed up the most.

Do you not enjoy endgames, or just don't feel confident in how you handle them? I strongly recommend Soltis' "Grandmaster Secrets: Endgames" for making the endgame more enjoyable. One of my all-time fave books.

12/04/2008 07:39:00 AM  
Anonymous chessmasterorbust said...

Even though i play something entirely different, i always took an interest in the Slav defensive systems. Maybe it is only natural for me to start playing it as well because i've allready modelled my repertoire after a favourite player of mine's 1st choice as White and 1st choice with Black against 1. e4. He also happens to play the CK (which is indeed an interesting defence and if i recall correctly i once recommended it to you) and the Slav against Queen pawn openings. Well actually he plays both the Slav and Semi-Slav. He might be a player of interest to you too BDK! A brilliant and imaginative player and trainer to young Kasparov. Studying his games will pay you dividends. His name is Vladimir Bagirov. Anyway, i just played the following 10 minute game with the Slav. Seeing that this was my 1st serious attempt with the Slav i took too much time coming up with decent moves and lost on time even though i was winning. Check it out if you like.

[Event "Partij met rating, 10m + 0s"]
[Site "Grote speelzaal"]
[Date "2008.12.04"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Chess0183"]
[Black "E"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D12"]
[WhiteElo "1239"]
[BlackElo "1323"]
[PlyCount "87"]
[EventDate "2008.12.04"]

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. d4 d5 3. e3 c6 4. c4 Bf5 5. Nc3 e6 6. Nh4 Bg6 7. Nxg6 hxg6 8. h3
Bd6 9. c5 Be7 10. b4 Nbd7 11. a4 Qc7 12. Bb2 b6 13. Rc1 bxc5 14. bxc5 Rb8 15.
Ba3 Qa5 16. Qc2 Ne4 17. Bd3 Nxc3 18. Qxc3 Qxc3+ 19. Rxc3 Bf6 20. O-O Ke7 21.
Rcc1 Rb7 22. Rb1 Rbb8 23. Rxb8 Rxb8 24. Rb1 Rxb1+ 25. Bxb1 e5 26. Bb2 exd4 27.
Bxd4 Bxd4 28. exd4 Nf8 29. f4 Ne6 30. Kf2 Nxf4 31. Kf3 g5 32. Bc2 f6 33. Bb1
Ne6 34. Ke3 Nf4 35. Kf3 Ne6 36. Ke3 Kf7 37. Bf5 g6 38. Bd3 f5 39. g3 f4+ 40.
gxf4 gxf4+ 41. Kf3 Nxd4+ 42. Kxf4 Ne6+ 43. Ke5 Nxc5 44. Bc2 1-0

If i'm bold enough, maybe i'll try it out OTB at the club as well. Somehow it did feel good to play it. And another advantage of it being an endgame opening... You know what they say, right? Openings teach you openings but endgames teach you chess. So all the more better to play defensive systems like the Slav. And i also happen to have this cool eBook on it.

12/04/2008 07:41:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Grandpatzer: great point about not really needing to worry about the endgame too much. I actually enjoy the endgame, I just have not great technique and tend to be lazy (or out of time) when it comes to calculating what I need to do. Ask loomis, who saw me blow an easily won game against someone rated 600 points higher than me at a tournament last month :)

chessmaster: Excellent! I'm sure you did recommend the Slav, and I had some lame excuse. :)

I'll check out the games of that guy you mention--I need a Slav hero! Thanks for providing that pgn. Is the Flear book good? The Vigus book is OK.

Great game--it is amazing that the Slav, where your white bishop is pretty much bad (though outside the pawn chain) scares people so much they just want to trade it off for one of their good pieces like a Knight. He gave you a good Knight that covered important squares for the bishop, opening up a file for the rook (OK, weakening your kingside a bit, but you haven't committed your King yet so it wasn't that bad). Crazy shit. How could anyone play the QGD after something like that happens? :) It happens all the time.

12/04/2008 07:52:00 AM  
OpenID rollingpawns said...

Yeah, "getting used to playing endgames out" is a good idea. One of the reasons I like online correspondence is that if you reach endgame, you can play it carefully. For example, in recent game with opposite colored bishops practically without 2 pawns, article from Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Opposite_colored_bishops_endgame
helped me to draw it, as well as win another game with same bishops, rooks and pawn up. It gave me no less satisfaction than saving game by perpetual or winning by combination.

12/04/2008 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger James Stripes said...

I like seeing fellow bloggers writing about the endgame. In golf, they say, "drive for show, putt for dough." In chess, the endgame is the putt. If you develop a craving for the endgame, your rating will rise. It's the yeast.

I just did a quick count of my 101 posts through my first year of chess blogging (one year plus three days), and find that I've tagged 33 posts as concerned with the endgame. My rating in the past year has risen about 150 USCF also. How's that for success!

12/04/2008 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

rolling: there is nary a better feeling in the world than getting a draw in an endgame where it is his bishop and pawn (on the wrong h file) trying to promote and he doesn't know it's a dead draw. :)

James: I hadn't seen that Polgar Brick Number III before. Very cool. Do you find those composition-like pawn endgames helpful in practice? I've done a bunch of them (they are part of the program Chess tactics for beginners for some reason) and frankly the weird counterintuitive ones have never been all that helpful. Except, perhaps, as a tale: you need to calculate, and not rely on intuition as these babies are hard and destroy your intuitions!

12/04/2008 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger James Stripes said...

Not all the compositions are practical. When I took a break from the Polgar 5334 positions text, I was struggling with a lot of mate in twos involving a queen and knight mating a king in the middle of the board--not real practical IMHO.

On the other hand, the pawn endgames, and the rook and pawn endgames in his Chess Endgames mostly seem practical. The sequence logically builds from elementary positions (such as 8/4k3/8/3PK3/8/8/8/8 w) to others in which such positions are latent as one possibility (3k4/8/8/8/8/3P4/8/3K4 w). With the rook endgames, who ever gets a true Lucena or Philidor in practical play? Few of us. Yet, opportunities to apply the principles we learn through these positions occur with some frequency.

12/04/2008 01:08:00 PM  
Blogger chesstiger said...

The author of the book gives good advise. Never be affraid about anything. Just try it and see what happens.

If you want to learn something in chess you may not shy away from it and hope to find a miracle cure that you will never encounter what you fear. Just be relaxed, whatever happens, just do the best of your abilities and believe me miracles happen. One can learn by trying and doing.

Afteral, what is an endgame? It's just as a middlegame but then with lesser pieces.

12/04/2008 03:51:00 PM  
OpenID chessmasterorbust said...

BDK, i think the Flear book is great! Especially as a starting point if you're taking up the Slav defensive systems. Hence the title "Starting Out...". I like it even more as an eBook because i really like working with ChessBase and it is actually a ChessBase format eBook. Anyway, it covers just about everything in both the Slav and Semi-Slav. Although it doesn't cover the line i played in that game i showed you. It only covers the Slav with an early dxc4 which indeed seems to be the better move. Check out this amazon sample with some reviews. It's recommended on Silman's website. Especially to newcomers to the opening but also regular practitioners.

12/04/2008 04:07:00 PM  
OpenID chessmasterorbust said...

Flear does point out the early Bishop f5 line though and why he thinks it's not so good. Check your mailbox ;)

12/04/2008 04:19:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Chessmaster: excellent, many many thanks. I will have to reconsider that Bf5 line, which, it turns out, Vigus does not recommend. I misread the book. I've been playing the slave about a week, like it a lot, but obviously have so much to learn!!!

12/04/2008 09:15:00 PM  
Blogger drunknknite said...

chesstiger speaks the TRUTH!

I can't tell you how many games I have lost trying some stupid sacrifice or trying to win a drawn endgame. I was never the player that just takes a draw because I can't evaluate the endgame, I would rather lose than draw because at least I will know that whatever I was thinking was wrong. That's an awesome comment chesstiger.

12/05/2008 05:52:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

drunk: yes I am the same way even when in a tournament I'll take the loss instead of the draw (unless I'm absolutely sure it's a draw).

12/05/2008 07:25:00 PM  

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