Flash! I’ve ordered Practical Endgame Play: Beyond the Basics by Glenn Flear, a major new book that sounds very interesting. It covers endgames where each side has up to two pieces (not counting pawns), which happens a lot in practice and is generally too complicated to analyze completely, so isn’t covered in detail by most books.
Well, it arrived today (Dec 24, 07) and it appears that it is a monumental book. It covers endgames with two pieces versus one or two pieces (not counting kings and pawns) usually plus several pawns. Since these endgames are generally too complex for exact analysis, the book relies on positions from actual games.
This book and Silman's new book were the best new endgames books of 2007. And I'm looking forward to:
to Play Chess Endgames by Muller and another guy, due January 2008
As a youngster starting out in chess in 1967, I was given the book Reinfield on the End-game in Chess, but I didn’t get much out of it. It just examined several endgames by masters, and didn’t teach me much. A few months later I played in my first tournament. In the second game, I had an ending with a rook and pawn versus a knight and pawn. It should have been an easy win, but I allowed myself to be forked, and lost the rook for the knight. Nevertheless, the resulting king and pawn versus king and pawn position should have been drawn. But then I lost my pawn. But even then, the position was still a draw - but I managed to lose it! After the tournament I sat down and worked out when a king and pawn win against a king and when it is a draw. I discovered opposition, triangulation, etc.
A month after the tournament I bought the excellent
book Chess for Match Players
by William Winter (out of print
now). It had a forty-page chapter on endgames, which fascinated
me. Strangely, this book served as my endgame reference for about
three years, until I bought my first copy Basic Chess Endings (first
edition), by Rueben Fine. (I wish I had gotten it somewhat
sooner.) Later I got many more endgame books – books about real
endgames, not problem-type endgame studies. Now I have over 55
endgame books. I’m certainly not a chess expert, but I’ve
accumulated some forty books on endgames over the years.
Publishing details and brief discussions of all books (including
several not mentioned in the recommendations) are in the bibliography
section. Now to discuss some of these books and my
Any one of these would meet the needs of most chess players. I have listed them roughly in order of how advanced they are. That is, the first two would probably be most appealing to more novice players and the last two would be more appealing to players with more experience. My personal choice is Howell, but any one of them would be useful for years. Silman’s book is different from the others; it covers material in order of level, from beginner to advanced.
There are some other books that might be considered for this category. One is Grandmaster Secrets – Endings (Everything you need to know about the endgame), by Andrew Soltis. This is more elementary than the books above and it is written much like a dialog between a chess teacher and student. This might appeal to young players and novices. The book contains a good deal of important information to get you started along your way, but it won’t carry you as far as the other books. It can be read more quickly than the others. It has twelve chapters, and a few sessions per chapter might do it.
A second book often recommended at this level is Pandolfini’s Endgame Course (Basic endgame concepts explained by America’s leading chess teacher), by Bruce Pandolfini. This book is pretty good, in the format of 239 short lessons. It contains a lot of important stuff, and you could read each lesson in only a few minutes. However, I recommend the books on the list above more highly.
A third book in this category is Chess Endings:
Essential Knowledge, by Yuri Averbakh, but it may be going out
print, since new copies of it seem to be disappearing. This is a
good book for what it covers. However, I would not recommend it
as a first book on endgames because it is not comprehensive enough (it
covers only a few selected topics) and the order of the material is
such that a reader might get completely discouraged when he gets to the
second chapter. (This is discussed in more detail in the review
of this book.)
Most of the books above would be all that most players need. But you can continue your study of endgames. You could go one of two routes (or both) for a second endgame book. One route is Mastering the Endgame by Glenn Flear. In a sense, this book is a sequel to the author’s Improve Your Endgame Play (see above), but it is independent of that book. It doesn’t give you the basics, so you need to have read a book from the previous category first. It is comprised of examples from actual games, categorized by type. The material in this book seems to more in proportion to what occurs in actual games than any other book.
The second route is one of the large, one-volume comprehensive endgame books. Here there are some fine choices:1. Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual, by Mark Dvoretsky (now in a second edition, but the blue type in the second edition is faint and hard to read)
I recommend any of these. Dvoretsky is a little more of a teaching manual whereas FCE and BCE are a little more encyclopedic. The first edition of BCE (by Fine in 1941) was the mother of all endgame books (in English, at least). It was finally converted to algebraic notation as well as corrected and revised by Pal Benko in 2003 (be sure to get that edition). The original BCE is what I used for years, so I’m partial to it. However, FCE is my current favorite. Dvoretsky is a fine choice too, and some people prefer it. It is now in its second edition.
Of course, it would not be a bad idea to get Mastering the Endgame and one (or more) of the books on the list. As another alternative, you could skip these books for the time being and go to some of the newer (and simpler) books below on specific endgames.
When I wrote the first version of this document, I had seen titles saying “endgame strategy”, but I didn’t know what it meant and I didn’t have any of those books. The idea is really very simple and important. Most of the endgame books are for positions in which the result with correct play by both sides is known – either a win for one side or a draw, and they discuss the technique for winning or drawing. Endgame strategy books are for that crucial phase of the game from the end of the middlegame where the result is not yet definitely known to a position with a known result. That is, they fill in the gap from the end of the middlegame to where the other endgame books take over. The major books on endgame strategy that I know of are:1. Endgame Strategy, by Mikhail Shereshevsky
I recommend either of the first two. I like the first two better than the third. The books on endgames by specific players are also good at showing this phase of the game.
After one (or more) books from the category above, you might want to consider books about specific endings. In fact, several of these are good alternatives to those books, specifically: The Survival Guide to Rook Endings, Secrets of Pawn Endings, and the Starting Out series.
Rook endings are the most important endings because they come up so often. There are two classic books on rook endgames: Rook Endings, by Grigory Levenfish and Vasily Smyslov, and Rook Endings, by Yuri Averbakh and Nikolai Kopayev (volume five in Averbakh’s classic Comprehensive Chess Endings series). However, both of these books are difficult going. Also, both are out of print in book form, but Comprehensive Chess Endings is available on a computer CD. However, there are some better recommendations for a modern, accessible book on rook endings:1. Starting Out: Rook Endings, by Chris Ward
It is hard to pick one of these over the other, but
I would choose
Emms. Ward’s book is a fine choice and may be a little easier
Another accessible book on rook endings is Practical Rook Endings by Victor Korchnoi. This is not a manual like the other books. After a good but short introductory chapter on the basics of rook endings, Korchnoi analyses fourteen of his own endgames of six general types. You probably need to read another book on rook endgames or at least the chapters on rook endgames in a general book before reading this book.
Secrets of Rook
Endings by John Nunn is not a book I
for the general reader. See my comments on this book in the
There is the classic Pawn Endings by Averbakh, but the same remarks for his Rook Endings above apply to this book. Again, there are two modern books that are more accessible:1. Starting Out: Pawn Endgames, by Glenn Flear
Either of these are fine choices. Flear is a
elementary and easier going. Secrets
of Pawn Endings is a denser
and more comprehensive.
At present, there is only one book to recommend in this category:1. Starting Out: Minor Piece Endings, by John Emms
John Nunn’s book Secrets of Minor Piece Endings is not recommended for the general reader. The other minor piece endgame books of which I am aware are old and out of print, or are not easily accessible (e.g. Averbakh).
There is an old (out of print) one by Averbakh, but I don’t know of any modern ones to recommend.
There is an old (out of print) one by Averbakh, but
I don’t know of any
modern ones to recommend.
There is Secrets
of Pawnless Endings by John Nunn,
but again this isn’t
recommended for the general reader. These endings occur very
infrequently. Nevertheless, for some I find much of Nunn’s book
fascinating, with the very long wins discovered by computers,
etc. Not very practical though.
I have these:1. Capablanca's Best Chess Endings: 60 Complete Games, by Irving Chernev
See complete actual endgames played by these world champions, who were formidable endgame players. I recommend any of these. The Karpov book is nicely produced publication, but I haven’t gotten into any depth with it yet.
All of these books are in English and use either algebraic notation (AN), figurine algebraic notation (FAN), or descriptive notation (DN). If I haven’t listed the notation yet, it is either in AN or FAN. I use * to ***** to indicate my recommendation. Some books are very good but not highly recommended by me because they are too advanced for most chess players or they are out of print and this hard to find and/or too expensive. I have all of these books, with a small number of exceptions (which are noted). I’ve given some of the classics lower ratings than you might expect because they are advanced and thus hard to recommend for most players.
Just the Facts!: Winning Endgame Knowledge in One Volume, Lev Alburt and Nikolai Krogius, Newmarket Press. 2000, 2005. ISBN 1-889323-15-2 (AN) A good elementary/introductory book. The second edition (which I have) is said to be almost identical to the first edition. Note that on page 42 (in the first edition), there is a highlighted area stating that if the pawn advances to the seventh rank with check, it is a draw. As noted in the text, this only applies if the king is on the sixth rank next to the pawn. *****
Chess Endings: Essential Knowledge, by Yuri Averbakh, 1966 (DN), 1993 (AN), Everyman Chess ISBN 1-85744-022-6 **½
I think this is also available on CD. This book is mostly elementary. Some people recommend it as a first book on endgames, but I don’t because of the selection of material and its order of presentation. It is good for what it does, but is not comprehensive enough. I suspect that Averbakh intended this book to be a companion to his Comprehensive Chess Endings series of books – taking up topics not covered in that set. The first chapter covers the basic checkmates, and does it well. However, the second chapter is about some endgames without pawns: queen versus rook, queen versus minor piece, and rook versus minor piece. These endings don’t come up very often. I can easily imagine a new player going through the first chapter and then encountering the difficult queen versus rook endgame, and giving up! Chapter three is about endgames of a piece versus a pawn and chapter four is about queening a pawn. These are important and good chapters. Chapter five is about practical endgames. The book is a good book, but it is not comprehensive enough, and the second chapter can be skipped for a long time.
Endings, by Irving Chernev, 1961,
0-486-2220 (DN). Looks at individual endgames, so isn't as
instructive as the others. *
A Guide to Chess Endings, by Dr. Max Euwe and David Hooper, 1959, 1976, Dover. ISBN 0-486-23332-4 (DN) Not as instructive as the others in this section. *
Improve Your Endgame Play, by Glenn Flear, Everyman Chess, 2000. ISBN 1-85744-246-6 (AN). A good introductory book. Great text, but the book has some production shortcomings (see note at the end). ***** for the text, ** for the production.
A Pocket Guide to Chess Endings, by David Hooper, 1970, Bell & Hyman. ISBN 0-7135-1761-1 (DN) Pretty good and interesting. ***
Essential Chess Endings: The Tournament Player's Guide, by James Howell, 1997, Batsford. ISBN 0-7134-8189-7 (FAN) *****
This is a very good small, comprehensive book. It is one of the best “new” books – I need to explain that a little. Through the mid 1980s, I went through a logical progression of endgame books that were available at the time. Then I didn’t buy any for about fifteen years or so. Now in the last few years I’ve gone back and filled in some of the “new” ones. This is an excellent book that is comprehensive enough, and is probably all most players need.
The first chapter is on king and pawn endings. These are very important because any ending with pawns and pieces has the potential of becoming a king and pawn endgame with the exchange of pieces. Next are two good chapters on rook and pawn endings, comprising one-third of the book. Then there is a chapter on minor piece endgames, which I wish was larger (perhaps a second edition). This is followed by a chapter on other endings such as queen versus a rook and rook versus a minor piece. Finally, there is a chapter on pawnless endings, which includes the basic checkmates and other endings without pawns. Naturally, you need to know how to checkmate with just a queen or just a rook before anything else. A few little quibbles: (1) I wish the chapter on minor piece endgames was larger, (2) the chapter on minor piece endgames may need to come before the chapters on rook and pawn endings, and (3) he spends several lines explaining why he is not going to cover the checkmate with two bishops (too rare). (I had it come up once in a skittles game.) In the space it takes him to tell why he is not going to cover it, he could describe the procedure adequately well.
Practical Chess Endings, by Paul Keres, R.H.M. Press, 1973 ISBN 0-89058-028-6 (DN), algebraic edition (FAN): Batsford ISBN 0-7134-4210-7 Great but out of print. *****
Pandolfini's Endgame Course, by Bruce Pandolfini, Fireside. 1988. ISBN-13: 978-0-671-65688-1 (AN) Is elementary, many short lessons. **½
Winning Chess Endings, by Yasser Seirawan, Everyman Chess. 2003. ISBN 1-85744-348-9. (AN) Is elementary, but is a good introduction. *****
Chess Endings Made Simple: How to Approach the Endgame with Confidence, by Ian Snape, Gambit Publications, 2003, ISBN 1-901-983-97-8 Introductory material. The first chapter is on checkmating with bishop and knight and positions with queen versus rook, rook and bishop versus rook, rook versus bishop, and rook versus knight. This chapter should be moved to the end. These endings occur rarely and are difficult. Someone starting this book would likely get discouraged in the first chapter. ***½
Grandmaster Secrets: Endings, by Andrew Soltis, Thinker's Press. 1997, 2003. ISBN 0-938650-66-1 (FAN) The most elementary of these books. It has a lot of good information. It is written as a conversation between a teacher and a student, much as you would get lessons. That may or may not be to your liking (it isn’t to mine). Younger players and extreme novices may like it. **
Basic Chess Endings, by Reuben Fine and Pal Benko, 1941 (DN), 2003 (AN), McKay. ISBN 0-8129-3493-8 The mother of all modern endgame books. An old classic by Fine - recently revised by Benko. *****
Fundamental Chess Endings, by Karsten Müller and Frank Lamprecht, 2001, Gambit Publications. ISBN 1-901983-53-6 (FAN) One of the best - comprehensive and modern. *****
Silman's Complete Endgame Course: From Beginner To Master, Jeremy Silman, Siles Press, 2006, AN, ISBN 1-890085-10-3 A unique approach – material is in order by what players at different levels should know, beginner to master. Many topics are revisited at different levels. *****
Comprehensive Chess Endings, by Yuri Averbakh, et. al., five volumes. Pergammon Press (AN) A pretty detailed and comprehensive look at various endings. This is a classic work but difficult going. Out of print in book form, but available on computer CD-ROM. ***• Volume 1: Bishop Endings/Knight Endings, Yuri Averbakh and Vitaly Checkover ISBN 0-08-026900-1
Encyclopedia of Chess Endings, Sahovski Informator (Chess Informant), in five volumes, FAN. For experts and masters (and endgame fanatics) only. Out of print. I have the volume on king and pawn endgames and the two volumes on rook endgames. There is also a volume on minor piece endgames and one on queen endgames. There are many positions with the moves of the solution, but no text.
Starting Out: Pawn Endings, by Glenn Flear, Everyman Chess. ISBN 1-85744-362-1 (AN) A good book for intermediate or advancing players. (see note at the end) *****
Secrets of Pawn Endings, by Karsten Müller and Frank Lamprecht, 2000, Everyman Chess. ISBN 1-85744-255-5 (FAN) A good book for king and pawn endgames. *****
King and Pawn Endgames, by Alex Fishbein, 1993, American Chess Promotions, FAN. Not as good as the others. **½
The Survival Guide to Rook Endings, John Emms, 1999, Everyman Chess. ISBN 1-85744-235-0 (FAN) A good book for rook and pawn endgames. *****
Practical Rook Endings, by Victor Korchnoi, 1999, 2002, Olms. ISBN 3-283-00401-3 (FAN) An introductory chapter on fundamental positions followed by detailed analysis of fourteen of rook endgames from his actual games. ****
Rook Endings, by Grigory Levenfish and Vasily Smyslov, 1971, Batsford. ISBN 0-7134-0449-3 (DN) A classic study of rook and pawn endings (out of print). Somewhat advanced. ***½
Practical Rook Endings, by Edmar Mednis, 1982, Chess Enterprises. ISBN 93146-16-9. (AN) ***
A Practical Guide to Rook Endings, by Nikolay Minev, Russell Enterprises, AN, ISBN 1-888690-22-4.
Secrets of Rook Endings, by John Nunn, 1992, 1999, Gambit Publications. ISBN 1-901983-18-8 (FAN) A very detailed look at king, rook, and pawn versus king and rook endings using a computer tablebase. Not recommended for the general reader. *
Starting Out: Rook Endings, by Chris Ward, Everyman Chess. A good book for intermediate or advancing players. ISBN 1-85744-374-8 (AN) (see note at the end) *****
Starting Out: Minor Piece Endings, by John Emms, Everyman Chess. ISBN 1-85744-359-1 (AN) A good book for intermediate or advancing players. (see note at the end) ****
Secrets of Minor Piece Endings, by John Nunn, Gambit Publications (FAN). ISBN 0-8050-4228-8. A detailed look at minor piece and pawn versus minor piece endgames based on computer tablebases. Not recommended for the general reader. *
Secrets of Pawnless Endings, by John Nunn, 1994, 2002, Gambit Publications. ISBN 1-901983-65-X A detailed look at critical endings without pawns (Rook and bishop versus rook, for example), based on computer tablebases. Not recommended for the general reader. Of little practical importance, but I find some of this stuff fascinating (very long forced checkmates, wins with very little extra material, etc) **
Capablanca's Best Chess Endings: 60 Complete Games, by Irving Chernev, 1978, Dover. ISBN 0-486-24249-8 (long AN) Complete games with good endgame lessons. ***
Endgame Virtuoso Anatoly Karpov: The Exceptional Endgame Skills of the 12th World Champion, by Tibor Karolyi and Nick Aplin, 2007, FAN. New In Chess, ISBN 978-90-5691-202-4. Contains 105 games of Karpov from 1961 to 1990, focuses on the endgames. ****
Vasily Smyslov: Endgame Virtuoso, by Vasily Smyslov, 1997, Everyman Chess. ISBN 1-85744-198-2 (FAN) Endings plus some complete games that illustrate endgames. ***
Winning Endgame Technique, by Alexander Beliavsky and Adrain Mikhalchishin, Batsford. ISBN 0-7134-7512-9 (FAN) Explores several key types of endgames. *
Test Your Endgame Thinking, by Glenn Flear, 2002, Everyman Chess, FAN, ISBN 1-85744-305-5. A large number of positions from games, presented as puzzles with solutions. *
Mastering the Endgame, by Glenn Flear, 2001, Everyman Chess. ISBN 1-857-233-4 (AN) Sort of a sequel to the author’s Improve Your Endgame Play, but is independent. A very good second book on endgames. Examples from actual games in several main categories, with the sections proportioned according to their importance. (see the note at the end) *****
101 Chess Endgame Tips, by Steve Giddens, 2007, Gambit Publications, FAN, ISBN 978-1-904600-66-4. Good but elementary tips from 101 games, one per page.
Endgame Secrets: How to plan in the endgame in chess, by Christopher Lutz, Batsford. Examines forty-five endgames from actual play. *
Practical Endgame Play, by Neil McDonald, 1996, Cadogan. FAN, ISBN 1-85744-176-1.
Practical Endgame Tips, by Edmar Mednis, 1998, Cadogan, FAN, ISBN 1-85744-213-X. Various endgames and tips.
Six Hundred Endings, by Lajos Portisch and Balázs Sárközy, 1981, Pergamon. ISBN 0-80-024137-9 (DN) Examines specific endgames from actual games and studies, categorized by the basic type of ending. **
Reinfield on the End-game in Chess, by Fred Reinfield, Dover, 1957. (DN) (Originally published as Practical End-game Play in 1940.) This was my first endgame book. *
Chess Endgame Training, by Bernd Rosen, 2001, Gambit Publications, FAN, ISBN 1-904600-01-8. Text with a lot of exercises. Sort of a training guide.
Batsford Chess Endings, by Jonathan Speelman, Jon Tisdall, and Bob Wade, 1993, Batsford (out of print). ISBN 0-7134-4420-7 (FAN) More of a catalog of positions and analysis than a general book, so not as useful or instructive as the others in this section. **
Analysing the Endgame, by Jon Speelman, Arco Chess Library. Analysis of some basic endgames and some more complex ones. Can be difficult going. *
Endgame Preparation, by Jon Speelman, Batsford. Covers some endgame topics. Can be difficult going. *
Van Perlo’s Endgame Tactics: A Comprehensive Guide to the Sunny Side of Chess Endgames, by Gerardus C. van Perlo, New In Chess, FAN, ISBN 978-90-5691-168-6. Over 1100 tactical situations in endgames from actual games.
Endgame Play, by Chris Ward, 1996, Batsford, FAN, ISBN 0-7134-7920-5.
How to Play Chess Endings, by Eugene Znosko-Borovsky, 1940, 1974, Dover, DN, ISBN, 0-486-21170-3. One of the early books on endgames, but out of date now. *
Secrets of Practical Chess, by John Nunn, 2007, Gambit Publications, FAN, ISBN 978-904600-70-1. This is not an endgame book, but it does contain a long chapter (54 pages) with good material on the endgame. ***½
Note on the books Improve Your Endgame Play, Mastering the Endgame, Starting Out: Rook Endings, Starting Out: Pawn Endings, and Starting Out: Minor Piece Endings. This is sort of a series of books with similar productions. The text of all of these books is great. They all have production shortcomings. First, they have no index whatsoever. So if you want to look up “opposition” or “triangulation”, you can’t do it. Second, the chapters all have subchapters, and the headings of the subchapters aren’t in the table of contents. The subchapters are listed on the first page of each chapter, but there are no page numbers. Third, more care could have been taken in getting the diagram close to the references to it. Also, there are “example numbers” and “diagram numbers”, and they don’t match. The examples are numbered consecutively throughout the book whereas the diagram numbers start over at number 1 in each chapter. Some of the examples have more than one diagram, so they could have numbered the diagrams for example 10 as diagram 10A, 10B, etc. Finally, the three Starting Out books here (but not others in the Starting Out series that I have) are printed on very stiff paper. They won’t lie open for you – you have to hold the book open.