Endgame 1: Basic knowledge for beginners

6/20/2006 – The endgame often separates the wheat from the chaff. And a lot of games end with a surprising result because one side is lacking basic endgame technique. That can now change. With his new series of training DVDs the German GM and endgame expert Karsten Mueller offers every chess player the opportunity to build up excellent endgame knowledge from scratch. Review.

Visually learning the endgame
Review by Bob Long

"If you feel your endgame expertise is seriously lacking, this is the DVD explanation/solution for you. If you have any low level books on the endgame you can throw all of them out because Karsten Müller covers everything:

Chapter 1: Mating with Q, with R, with the 2 Bishops. Cutting off the K is the basic procedure and watching out for stalemates.

The two sections on N+B mates are quite helpful. The first one shows the “W” maneuver, which, once set up, can deliver mate to the appropriate corner of the board, no matter which edge you have pushed the opposing K to.
In the second section, he shows you how to set up the “W” pattern from, essentially, a random placement of pieces on the board. This is worth restudying, over and over, even though GM Andy Soltis says this rarely occurs. On the other hand our GM says there have been a number of cases where GMs and other strong players were not able to deliver the “goods” within the 50-move rule. He wants you to practice against Fritz and/or your club buddies (Fritz is great for this, as well as other Fritz-like programs).

Chapter 2: Pawn Endings
Rule of the Square
, important for determining whether you can catch a pawn with your K.
K+P vs K. This is where the term “opposition” is defined.
K + RP vs. K. When it is drawn (often) and what is necessary to have a sure win.

Bodycheck. An important technique of lunging toward the enemy K to drive that K away from a key square to stop the queening of a pawn (in this example, an a-pawn).
Pawn vs. Pawn. When you can win the opposing pawn, and when, after you have done so, it is a win or a draw. This one bears watching simply because it can come up, and you have to do some pre-planning at the critical moments of taking the opposition.
Protected passed Pawn. In a number of example Mueller brings up some classical endgame study examples such as Reti’s nifty draw when the two pawns are far apart but white threatens to queen his own pawn and thereby gains time in targeting Black “advanced” h-pawn. He also uses some examples from Gregoriev who, he believes, is the greatest endgame pawn expert ever born (which he also believes is the general opinion of many other masters).

Buy it now...

Karsten is very well-prepared. He knows when a “system” is more important, from a practical point of view, and when a “trick” is necessary. He stares at the board in such a way that you know he is laying it all out in his head as he proceeds through with the next set of moves. This is VERY recommended as too many people think quickly and regret slowly.
I have seen many of these examples in earlier reviews or studies over the years I have played chess but I can say, unequivocally, that “seeing” these examples does more for MY memory than “reading” (unless perhaps while reading you are imagining in your head how everything moves).

In the “Capablanca” example, he gives another example about “defensive” maneuvers which involved the King staying INSIDE the SQUARE. I never really thought about this before, but it is a slick example of important defensive measures when you find yourself in some trouble. “Key squares”, which he illustrates in the color Green, is very helpful because when this Green barrier is erected, the opposing side can not win if you do everything correctly.

There are some other bonuses on this DVD because even though the “moves” are given in the annotation palette, sometimes Karsten will go further and give additional moves which aren’t, per se, available in the initial annotation palette.

He tells us how important the “opposition” is by showing different uses, such as the real game in a simul between Capablanca and Kalantarov (1914). GM Mueller is your typical teacher as he repeatedly emphasizes how important it is to study certain topics in the endgame. You KNOW he knows what he is talking about, so please don’t be the “typical” student and ignore him.

In Chapter 3 he discusses Knight endings.
He notes, immediately, that the Knight is a tricky piece.
In the first example he has a black N on h8, a pawn on a2, and the K on a1. With White’s K on d2, White can force a draw! This has to be most irritating to Black wouldn’t you think?

Karsten, of course, believes that by knowing many of these positions (I.E., KNOWING THEM COLD) you can more economically use you time in an endgame and avoid time trouble problems. If you are concerned about many of these examples being long and tiring, it is not true.

There are many short examples which he refers to as “Educative Examples.” Also, this isn’t all OLD stuff either. In one section on Knight Endings (using “Fine’s Rule”) there is an example straight from 2003 between a 2500 and 2400 rated players.

There are 7 sections on Knight Endings and 5 sections on Bishop Endings (including two on Bishops of Opposite Colors). In this latter section, there is a 2004 example where Black is up two pawns (4 to 2) but White has set up a blockade and fortress which nullify Black’s WIN attempts. He shows some neat things which can be very helpful when crunch time comes.

Chapter 5
covers Bishop vs. Knight (of course, with a pawn on the board).

There are two sections of this which you should watch: the fortress and WHEN the Knight has the advantage. By the way, it is not necessary to think about a “fortress” as being a blockade of pieces, but instead just a position where one side can not make ANY progress even though he has a material advantage.  

Interestingly, this DVD is an excellent way to learn Basic Endgame data (Vol. 2 will come later and no doubt contain more advanced positions. Possibly there will be a Vol. 3 to cover more technical issues).
At first Karsten appears uncomfortable in his new role as a presenter but by the time he gets to the middle of the Pawn Endings’ section, he is in his element. Then he starts using flourishes and voice inflections to generate some variety into his presentation. Also, he is quite adept at using different color schemes for denoting squares or movement arrows. He is a good student of ChessBase's bells and whistles.  

Dr. Mueller (he is a mathematician) has a basso voice and a sense of humor which makes for keen watching such as when he talks about grown Pawns (i.e., a Bishop).

Highly recommended."

Full review at www.chsssco.com.

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