The endgame is probably the toughest phase to study. The fewer the pieces left on the board, the more subtle it becomes to manoeuver and thus, the harder it is to create weaknesses in your opponent’s camp or to defend your position.
Developing an ending technique is somewhat close to being an art. On top of that, you might question its real value when you know that many amateur games are already decided in the middlegame, or even during the opening phase.
Yet, despite its difficulty and its relative weak occurrence over the board, the endgame is much more important than you think. Studying and practicing its technique actually confers powerful benefits and those 5 should definitely change your mind on the subject.
1) Reinforce your calculation abilities
Do you remember the last time you played an endgame against a stronger opponent? Did you feel the increasing stress due to the growing number of possible variations and their complexity? When it felt like any tiny miscalculation could cost you the game?
At that particular moment, you probably realized playing an endgame is tough over the board as every lost tempo can reveal a disaster. So yes it’s tough but it’s rightly in those circumstances you make the best progress in visualizing and analyzing deeper variations.
Who said only tactics can reinforce your calculation abilities?
2) Get a better general understanding
More than improving your calculation, practicing endgames will also progressively plunge you into the essence of the game. You will learn to recognize the real value of each piece and start understanding concepts and structures you were previously unaware of.
It can be a bit abstract said like that, but you will progressively have a better general understanding of the game. Simply practice some endings consistently and I promise you, you will soon get what it means.
3) Know when to transpose into a final or not
By carefully analyzing rook endings or a promotion race, you will also have more ease finding a winning path from the middlegame onwards. We all know how hard it can be to convert a winning position so let’s be honest here: why would you keep on playing with high strategic manoeuvers, and potentially risks tactical blows, when you know a direct transposition can do the trick? That’s the superb power you have when you master your endings knowledge.
4) Not being afraid to simplify
Let’s come back to the heart of the game and assume you didn’t see the winning path. The position is still balanced but because of the lack of confidence in your endgame, you avoid exchanges and end up finally in an inferior position. Frustrating isn’t it?
The conclusion here is that a player with a questionable endgame technique will not only not see clear wins over the board, but also tend to avoid any simplification and put himself (herself) in potential danger by doing so.
5) Choose a repertoire based on your ending force
This last benefit drives us into the master level.
Do you know the ‘Berlin defense’? This famous opening variation resurfaced when Vladimir Kramnik used it during the world championship against Kasparov in 2000. With a clear outsider status, Kramnik managed to defy the odds mainly thanks to the l’Hermet line of the Berlin that you can see here under on the puzzle.
This particular variation has the particularity to allow many exchanges, including the queen, so that you can enter in the ending phase quite rapidly. And because Kramnik proved its solidity, most of the current top players started employing the Berlin again.
Indeed, despite a drawish reputation, this type of endgame keeps on offering interesting opportunities for both sides while all the other variations of the Berlin defense are equally strong alternatives.
No need to say here that top GM’s who opt for the l’Hermet fully trust their endgame skills, while this possible (and kind of forced) variation explains its lack of interest at the amateur level.
So the point here is that when you start mastering your endgame technique, it could be your turn to adapt your repertoire and choose variations which will make your new endgame knowledge a strong weapon.
As many Grand Masters have expressed in interviews, practicing and studying your endgames will bring your game to a whole new level. From better calculation ability to the use of your endgame skill as a new weapon, this article has given you 5 reasons why you will immensely benefit from dedicated training in the endings area.
If you don’t know where to start, you can wait for my next article which will deal with improving your endgame technique in a minimum of time. Until then, don’t hesitate to try some ending puzzles here and there, it certainly won’t hurt.