Lesson 7 - Chess Game Phases: The Endgame (or Ending)
"After a bad opening, there is hope for the middle game. After a bad middle game, there is hope for the endgame. But once you are in the endgame, the moment of truth has arrived."
- Edmar Mednis
A fierce battle was fought on the chessboard, the majority of the pieces was exchanged during the middlegame and only a couple of pieces remain for each players. There is a lot of space on the board and, despite the fact that there are less pieces for both players, it is not easy to find the right moves... how is that possible? Well, welcome to the paradoxical world of endgames!
The endgame phase arises when the majority of the pieces have been exchanged. Both players have only one or two pieces, their King and some pawns. Some finales are clearly winning for one of the player, others are technically a draw and for some others the fight must go on as the position still contains lot of possibilities for both players.
Despite the fact that there are less pieces on the board, this phase is the one requiring the most calculations. If a player has the ambition of becoming a master, the majority of his efforts and time would be devoted to studying the endgame phase. There is no place for creativity in endgames as they are a matter of technics: either you know how to play a specific endgame or not. At the elite level, endgames will even influence the other phases of the game: grandmasters might sometimes choose a specific opening variation and middlegame plan to reach specific endgame schemes.
Another fact supporting the paradoxical aspect of endgames is the important role played by the King and the pawns. These pieces were considered weak in the previous phases, but the endgame gives them the possibility to show all their worth. We will oftenly see the King pursuing enemy pawns or a pawn aiming dangerously toward the promotion square...
The more you play, the more your level of play improves... chess is like any other activity in that regard. However, there is a limit to the capacity of a player in reaching master or grandmaster level without studying endgames. You're asking me why? Well, simply because endgame positions are full of escaping possibilities for a player defending a loosing position. Some endgames are tough to convert into a win and demand the knowledge of some basic principles.
So, if endgames are so complexe and difficult, why a beginner should spend time studying them? Well, there are a couple of basic principles that are easy to learn and that could apply to your own games. The knowledge of these principles will allow you to finish winning games faster and will help you save a couple of loosing games also!
Please allow me to demonstrate my point by teaching you one of these basic principlesin the next page...