Two Winning Elements in the Endgame

Over the last year or so, I’ve really enjoyed studying the endgame. Part of this I can attribute to GM Nigel Davies, who emphasizes this training in Tiger Chess. Another aspect is that it has given me a new outlook on the opening and the middlegame.

I started to notice this when studying the games of Capablanca. Besides the general positional play that is often considered Capablanca’s strength, I observed that he highly valued the creation of an outside passed pawn in the middlegame. It popped up in one game, then in another, and then again!

After this, a familiar pattern would emerge. He would simplify to just a couple pieces and pawns, and then either win material when his opponent had to sacrifice to stop his passed pawn, or after adept maneuvering of his king, he would break through his opponent’s defenses and his opponent would resign before as Capa’s king was about to escort the passed pawn to promotion.

Here’s an example of this. Capablanca trades in his ouside passed pawn for a winning rook and pawn position.

It helped me to realize that I had to keep two factors in mind during the middlegame – the position of my king and the potential to create passed pawns. Of course, during specific situations other factors might be at play – e.g. an direct attack on my king, minor piece interactions, or opening files or diagonals and others – but I started to keep these two factors in the back of my mind especially when I could foresee a few piece exchanges and simplification of the position.

Here are a few questions to ponder:

  • In your play, do you take into account the subsequent endgame position that might result from exchanges?
  • Are you familiar with different types of endgames – e.g. rook and pawn, pawns on both wings, etc.?
  • Does your opening repertoire include variations where the games often lead to an endgame and are you comfortable in those positions?

I think recognizing these elements in your games as early as possible will help you to plan for the endgame. Besides this, it will also inform your decisions regarding changes in pawn structure as well as determining whether or not you want to exchange certain pieces. Of course, if you seen an opportunity to win the game before that, by all means do.

Here is one of my recent games where I took all of these factors into account. I had blundered some material back to my opponent but because I had considered the endgame much earlier, I had two winning elements – a superior king position and an outside passed pawn.

(Here I include just the endgame, but you can see the whole game in another article I wrote on Better Chess Training).

I hope this article inspires you to persevere in your study of the endgame. Your effort and time will be well rewarded both aesthetically as well as in extra points and half-points in your tournament games.

Bryan Castro

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About Bryan Castro

Bryan Castro is a businessman and writer from Buffalo, NY. When he's not spending time with his family or working, he can be found playing chess or practicing martial arts. He combines his interests of personal development and chess on his site Better Chess Training (