Once a student is familiar with piece movements, attacks, check and checkmate, my next topic is to teach him or her elementary mates. This was explained by Capablanca in his book Chess Fundamentals.
“The first thing a student should do, is to familiarise himself with the power of pieces. This can best be done by learning how to accomplish quickly some of the simple mates.”
In my view tactics and endgames should be learned in parallel. For tactics it’s best to proceed step by step to develop tactical skills very gradually and effectively. I have had very good results with that. But for the endgame I referred to many books before finally choosing ‘GM RAM’. This seems very strange at first as there are just 256 dry positions to work out without even knowing who is to move! But once you go though the you realise that the first 58 endgame positions are really essential. I realised that 70% or more of my endgame knowledge is based around those 58 positions, and these cover the following topics:
- Key Square
- Rule of Square
- Pawn breakthrough
- Essential Rook ending (Philidor and Lucena)
- Queen vs. Rook endgame
- Essential Queen endgames
These elements are all vital for practical endgame play. And as there is nothing ready-made it can actually actually inspire us to work through them in our own way.
There is a problem when a coach focuses on the endgame. A few of my students see the endgame as boring, insisting that I teach them more and more tactics, but the problem is that they can’t understand that they are not knowledgeable enough to decide what is good for them.
Accordingly I have not changed my way even at the cost of some students going elsewhere for lessons. Quality demands sacrifices.