Battle of the Endgame Greats!
Firstly, there are many good books on endgames, focussing on specific aspects of endgame play or one specific ending.
Principally, in this article we are going to look at what we consider the two definitive textbooks on endgame knowledge.
Both books are jam-packed with excellent knowledge and the coverage of the topics is superb. Both are highly recommended but we will appraise which one might be best for you.
To start, let's look at each book in turn and then compare the overall packages for developing players.
Mark Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual
...the endgame text in the library of all the great playersAsk anyone in the world elite of chess and not only will they have heard of this book, they will likely own in and have spent hours going through the pages to perfect their endgame skills.
Whilst the 424 pages looks a mammoth read, the extra points you will pick up from acquiring the knowledge herein, is absolutely invaluable - we can personally attest to this!
Mark Dvoretsky also has a number of great puzzles to his name as well as a reputation as a strong player in his day.
Sadly he passed into the great congress in the sky where he will be showing some of the former world championships some endgame subtleties in the afterlife. The world will sorely miss his contribution to the chess world.
- The book is comprehensive - it covers all major endings and endgame scenarios with clear and interesting worked examples
- The analysis in the back shows how to solve the puzzles - see the notes below
- He introduces concepts in a vivid visual way (e.g. "pawns in the crosshairs" in the bishop v pawns chapter)
- There is a good general section at the end talking about piece activity and other general considerations
- A logical flow of endgames, starting with pawn endgames, which is the toughest to learn.
- Helpfully, content is broken down into manageable chunks with lots of subsections to cover the content in detail
- Overall, the studies chosen are simply beautiful and show chess at its best.
- Humourously, there's some nice "Tragicomedies" - showing how even the best players can make an error in this complex positions!
- It's lightweight - great to read by the pool, if you've gone away to have time to enjoy your chess - conversation starter too!
- Overall, there is an assumed level of ability on the part of the reader which isn't a basic standard of chess-play, which does alienate all but the best and most dedicated players.
- Explanations for the solutions are written (in line with his background) as solutions to a maths problem - there could be more personality here and a little more feedback to the reader.
- Unlike the other reviewed book in this article, there is a missing, critical section on how to deliver the basic mates - it is simply assumed knowledge
- In general, the material is only valuable for a dedicated chess player
- There should be a guide on complexity to support the learning of the players - these endings are not easy to learn and needs to be some motivation which is missing.
How Dvoretsky is useful in practiceOne example is rook endings.
As rook endings come up far too often than most players are comfortable with, Dvoretsky's endgame manual dedicates chapter 9 (which is massive) to rook & pawn versus rook endings.
With lots of good examples and a methodical build-up of knowledge, we learn some key things about keeping the defending king away from an advancing pawn, best of all with a vertical barrier in practice.
In conclusion, let's see if Wesley So finds this knowledge useful (only this week - at the time of writing):
There is very little doubt the technique for this ending was based on something which originated in the Dvoretsky endgame manual!
Fundamental Chess Endings - Lamprecht & Muller
...starting with Dvoretsky, giving it a shineThere is no doubt this text is inspired by Dvoretsky's masterpiece; the structure and examples are from the same template of the original source text.
Then, we deviate in that the authors' coverage of the positions and their analysis differs to the more mathematical approach used by Dvoretsky.
- Both authors are highly regarded players and frequently appear on chessbase columns as respected endgame specialists!
- The book begins with a detailed treatise on how to complete the basic endgames in the most efficient ways, including the dreaded bishop and knight ending - this isn't covered by Dvoretsky.
- The text is also littered with examples which cement the knowledge well
- The pace is more deserving of a beginner and very instructive, to support the less able player, which is appreciated
- King and Pawn endings are covered well, in particular the concept of mined and corresponding squares is better covered here.
- This is incredible value for money, in terms of the wins you will get from this knowledge
- Lots of analysis alongside the main analysis, playing through moves many players consider
- It is not a small book or a quick read - this may be over your luggage allowance.
- Could be more comprehensive for the developing player still by summarising what has been achieved at the end of each section.
- Clearly a large piece of work but not spectacularly original, given Dvoretsky had come before
How Fundamental Chess Endings is useful in practiceOne example is bishop v pawn endings.
Being able to convert a pawn in a matching bishop ending is tough.
From US women's championship also this week, let's see if a pawn can queen using the knowledge from section 4.2 of the Lamprecht and Muller work:
As a chess romantic, you can't beat Dvoretsky, simply due to the number of chess stars he's influenced and taught (Kasparov, Anand...) and the hard-working student will see results from buying this.
However, it is dry stuff for someone with not as much time and the Lamprecht and Muller piece, whilst being heavier is easier on the eye and written for a human, rather than an accurate academic piece on how to play endings.
We own both and have no regrets - written all over them with our own notes!