The endgame in chess

The objective of any chess game is to achieve a checkmate. Each move of the players is focused to accomplish this target. Positions are developed and pieces sacrificed so that the ultimate goal may be reached. More often than not, it takes a while before
a player is able to say the magic words.

Chess can be generally divided into three stages. The first stage is the opening game, in which the players attempt to maintain control of the chess board by solidifying their positions through placing the pieces at strategic squares. Once this is done,
a transition is made to the middlegame. Middlegame is characterised by making attempts at capturing the opponent’s pieces in order to gain an advantage that would prove crucial in the endgame.

In this article we are going to discuss this last critical stage in the game of chess and explain its dynamics in detail.

Lets start by defining what an endgame is. Endgame is the stage in chess in which relatively few pieces are left on the board. As opposed to the middlegame, where the king has to be kept secure, it plays an important role in the endgame. The king is usually
brought in the center and used for attack.

According to Aaron Nimzowitsch, the influential chess writer, “The great mobility of the King forms one of the chief characteristics of all endgame strategy. In the middlegame the King is a mere ‘super’, in the endgame on the other hand it is one of the
‘principals’. We must therefore develop him, bring him nearer to the fighting line.”

The general rule is that the player who is in a stronger position in the end game should focus on protecting the pawns and make exchanges with the other pieces. This makes the board less crowded and checkmate is achieved without complication.

According to Alburt and Krogius, an endgame has three basic characteristics. The player who has an active and aggressive king has the advantage at this stage. Other than that, passed pawns become of high value because they have the potential of reaching
the last rank and being promoted. Lastly, a situation known as zugzwang becomes critical to the players. This is a position in which the player making the first move will be at a disadvantage.

Max Euwe and Walter Meiden have reached similar conclusions after making their study about the endgame. According to them, in endgames which have only kings and pawns, the advantage lies with the player who has an extra pawn. It has been observed that 90
percent of the time, an extra pawn proves to be critical in deciding the outcome of an endgame. An extra pawn gives an advantage in situations where there are pieces as well as pawns. 50 to 60 percent of the time, the side with the extra pawn is the winning
side in the endgames.

Collaborating the findings of Alburt and Krogius, both Euwe and Meiden also reinforce the important role a king has to play in the endgame. The player who knows how to work the dynamics of an active king can easily gain a huge advantage over his opponent.
Likewise, a connection of two passed pawns can do wonders in the endgame. They serve to protect each other and as a unit, and can act independently as well.

Edmar Mednis, the great American grandmaster of chess, describes the importance of the endgame perfectly: “After a bad opening, there is hope for the middle game. After a bad middlegame, there is hope for the endgame. But once you are in the endgame, the
moment of truth has arrived.”