Rustam Kasimdzhanov: Endgames for Experts

11/19/2012 – The Cuban Grandmaster and 3rd World Champion José Raúl Capablanca said: “In order to improve your game, you must study the endgame before everything else, for whereas the the endings can be studied and mastered by themselves, the middle game and the opening must be studied in relation to the endgame.” Review of an interesting DVD by a former FIDE World Champion.

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Rustam Kasimdzhanov: Endgames for Experts

Review by Zhigen Lin

  • Presenter: Grandmaster Rustam Kasimdzhanov
  • Publisher: ChessBase
  • Language: English
  • Running Time: 3.5 hours

The Cuban Grandmaster and 3rd World Champion José Raúl Capablanca said: “In order to improve your game, you must study the endgame before everything else, for whereas the the endings can be studied and mastered by themselves, the middle game and the opening must be studied in relation to the endgame.”

Of course, a beginner must learn the basic opening principles too (such as “control the centre” and “knights before bishops”), but I vividly remember American International Master Joshua Waitzkin explaining in an audio lecture that endgames are the heart of chess and that studying the endgame builds an important foundation to support one’s skill development in all other phases of the game. His reasoning was that in endgames, pieces can be studied in isolation so that a player can grasp their true potential without any ‘distractions’. Studying the capabilities of each piece will allow a player to not only play better endgames, but use and coordinate their forces more effectively in the opening and middlegame.

The subject of this review is a DVD from ChessBase. Endgames for Experts is an instructional chess DVD presented by Uzbekistani Grandmaster Rustam Kasimdzhanov, winner of the FIDE World Chess Championship 2004. The title of the DVD implies that it is aimed at expert-level players. I would say it is suitable for players with FIDE ratings of 1700 and over.

Overall, I really enjoyed this DVD and felt it improved my knowledge in the endgame considerably. Kasimdzhanov’s English is quite good and he is able to articulate complicated concepts in a readily digestible and engaging way. His analysis of both the concrete and strategic aspects of a position is very thorough. In my opinion, Kasimdzhanov is one of the best presenters in the chess multimedia industry.

Apart from excellent choice of material, I believe there are a number of factors that set this DVD apart from others. Firstly, it is unusual to have such a high-ranked player giving lectures. At the time of writing, Kasimdzhanov is one of the strongest players in the world with a peak FIDE rating of 2706. He won the FIDE World Chess Championship in 2004, knocking out a string of top players including well known grandmasters Veselin Topalov and Michael Adams.

An enormous advantage to this DVD is that, unlike opening lectures, which generally go out-of-date very quickly, material on endgames will always be relevant. Kasimdzhanov is well prepared for his lectures and often gives a helpful summary of the lessons learnt from each particular example. The lectures are cut into bite-sized 7 to 15-minute chunks. Personally, I think this is the perfect length for the videos. In fact, perhaps more than one person agreed with me because the producer seems to have gone out of their way to ensure that larger videos were split into the 7- to 15-minute time frame. A great initiative from ChessBase!

In this DVD, Kasimdzhanov shows his own games, which is logical because, in addition to variations given by computers, he can add lines that he calculated during the game, explain the reasoning behind certain moves and point out lines that he was expecting his opponent to play. He also has the opportunity to elaborate on his mistakes – the faulty reasoning that caused the mistake and how he could have improved on it. It is nearly impossible for an annotator to be able to analyse another person’s game to the same depth as a game participant.

Here are my favourite three examples from the DVD:

  1. Kasimdzhanov-Shirov must be one of Kasimdzhanov’s best games. He uses precise positional and tactical motifs to defeat one of the world’s best players.

  2. Tregubov-Kasimdzhanov looks like an easily drawn endgame at first, but Kasimdzhanov patiently grinds down his 2550 opponent.

  3. Kasimdzhanov-Baklan is a gem that is left until last on the DVD. In a marathon 82-move game, Baklan uses virtually every defensive resource in the position to prevent Kasimdzhanov’s plans. However, in a surprisingly complex endgame given the equal material balance, Kasimdzhanov’s two bishops eventually overwhelm Baklan’s bishop and knight.

Conclusion

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed watching this DVD. I feel that, when studied carefully, it will improve a player’s endgame skills significantly, which will result in a strengthening of their game as a whole. I would encourage more grandmasters to show their own endgame struggles to further our knowledge in this critical phase of the game. A strong incentive for both the teacher and student is that such material will generally never go out of date.

Assessment: 5/5

About the author

Zhigen Lin (FIDE rating 2146) is a BCom and BSc student at Monash University, Australia. He became the Australian Under 16 Champion at age 13 and has represented Australia in various youth competitions, including events in France, Turkey, Georgia and Singapore. He runs the Chess Game Improvement website and the accompanying YouTube channel.

Sampler: Rustam Kasimdzhanov – Endgame for Experts

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