Saturday, August 2, 2014

Practical endgames

A long game doesn't always mean an interesting game. My interclub-game against Tom Piceu took 53 moves but was in fact decided already after 27 moves. It is surely for some part nonsense to state that the number of moves is linked with activity as I insinuated in my previous article. On the other hand I did encounter last season some complex endgames on the board which I believe are interesting to show the reader. 

Of course I start with the interrupted queen-endgame against Bart. Initially I find the right moves but with the draw at reach, it still goes wrong.

With this loss I had exactly a break-even for my fide-rating and with the relegation to 2nd division which was already confirmed for some time (see the wild west) you could argue that it didn't matter much. However honestly I have to admit that this loss came as a big blow. Indeed Bart did present in a clever way some problems but without my amateurism it should never given any success.

It was not the only queen-endgame which I encoutered on the board. In the Open of TSM I played 4 games of which 2 for rating. One game for rating I lost in a dramatic way against Steven which I earlier discussed on my blog, see the sadistic exam but also the second game didn't go smoothly. I wasn't able to cash an extra pawn against Jan Gooris.

I was unhappy after the game with the result but if I look at the endgame now then I just have to admit that a win was never there. Maybe with a slower tempo (after move 40 I only got 15 minutes extra so we played mainly with 30 seconds increment) I would've been able to create more problems but even then it is very unclear if this would force a mistake from Jan. Anyway I found it a pity that the competition already ended in december so in the following months I only played a few games interclub. The ghost of inactivity is difficult to repel.

This season was surely not all misery in the endgame. In my articles a moral victory and universal systems I already showed how I was able to hold slightly inferior positions. However those examples are light beer compared with the endgame below which I was able to draw in an incredible way against the French FM Ludovic Carmeille.

Such half points taste very sweet. An other spectacular escape happened in my game against the Bulgarian grandmaster Dejan Bojkov (extracts of the game were already discussed in camouflage and einstellung effect). The win was surely not trivial for black.

I was a little afraid that he would like to win solely on time which is one of the biggest disadvantages of playing without an increment but fortunately it remained sportsmanlike. Anyway I won't complain about my endgame-results.

Can we train ourselves in these type of endgames? Well if we review the different positions then we remark that they are all unique. It are practical endgames which you can't find in any books. It is even doubful if it is interesting to study them as the chance is minimal that something can be reused in another endgame. I like delving in the complexities of endgames so I spend a lot of time on it but I won't recommend the work to players which hate these endgames.

On the other hand a certain basic knowledge of endgames sounds to me not redundant. However also that is not anymore a certainty if you hear Nakamura telling us how he didn't know the Vancura position so he had to distillate the right moves on the board himself. A completely different sound gives the recent work Grandmaster preparation endgame play of Jacob Aagaard in which the study of the endgame has been raised to a new (higher) level. He expects from the ambitious student that the tasks are solved in a peaceful environment. That way skills are acquired which are useful for tournament-chess.

On the book clearly an enormous effort was inserted. Nevertheless quickly a lot of critics were given of which the author clearly wasn't pleased, see his reaction on Quality chess. The tasks are too difficult was one of the most heard critics. Even the German grandmaster Joerg Hickl complained that he could only solve 10%. The fact that in many examples the correct move was missed even by players like Ivanchuk, indeed proofs that it is difficult. On the other hand finding the right move in a problem is easier than in practice as mentioned by Glen in a reaction on my article 'the expert'.

We can only speak of serious training  if done in a peaceful environment in which it is possible to concentrate properly on solving and studying endgames. This is how the author refutes the critics. However today we see that a lot of practical endgames must be dashed. Surely with the ever more becoming popular 30 seconds increments we can mainly trust our instincts and some minimal calculations.

With a slower tempo (like in the Belgian interclub) I still believe such trainings have their usefulness. It is not that we can copy some combinations or schemes in practice but it does stimulate our thought process how to solve certain problems. I also believe the effect of the trainings is temporarily and must be often repeated. You could maybe compare it with making IQ-tests. You won't become smarter with solving IQ-tests but you can improve your score on such test with making similar tests in advance. It was also detected that the effect quickly diminishes when no further tests were done. Studying practical endgames is not something trivial. Each amateur has to decide for himself if the effort is valuable or not.


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