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Endgame Workshop

251 pages, paperback, Russel, 2009.

Incl. 7% Tax, excl. Shipping Cost

This product is not available any more, neither at the manufacturer/publisher nor at Schach Niggemann, and it is not possible for us to order this article otherwise.

Introduction I first began teaching chess in 1972. Bobby Fischer had just won the world chess championship and several opportunities arose. I no longer had a job shelving books at the Strand Book Store, so I gave chess teaching a try. From all around New York I was inundated with students and classes. Clueless, I turned to what chess books there were, and there were many. I soon realized that few of these books were written by authors who had given chess lessons. Manuals were often too esoteric, with little thought given to the learning process, or artificially simple, with each book omitting what every other book left out.

If there were an unstated educational philosophy it was that all students should learn the same material the same way. Personal differences in knowledge, skill and nature were of small moment. But then, prior to Fischer's meteoric rise, chess teaching as a profession didn't exist - at least not in America. Suddenly, there were countless individuals wanting to learn how to play. To meet their needs a whole class of educators arose. This troupe was quite innovative. While they didn't necessarily add to the theory of the game, they developed all kinds of art and new science for teaching it.

I don't think I knew what I was doing in the beginning. But I kept my eyes open and tried to absorb the savvy of my colleagues. Taking what I thought to be their best ideas, adding them to my own practice, and using certain classic texts as instructional backbone, I set out trying to teach the game and make a living. In­spired by the likes of Tarrasch and Capablanca I began concentrating on the endgame. At that point I still accepted their arguments for teaching the endgame first. Essentially, they felt the endgame was more fundamental and easier to un­derstand. "We are considering endgames first because it is the simplest part of the game," wrote Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch in the Game of Chess (1931). And from Irv­ing Chernev's Capablanca's Best Chess Endings (1978), the Cuban great said: "In order to improve your game, you must study the endgame before anything else." Over time I varied my tactics in accord with experience. Naturally I delved into all aspects of the game as respective areas seemed relevant and fitting. But at heart I still believed in those chess warriors, Tarrasch and Capablanca, and car­ried their colors into battle.

From 1972 until 1977 I averaged fifty teaching periods a week, a schedule few chess educators have ever equaled. Probably about a third of those lessons fo­cused on the endgame. Starting with a body of preconceptions - and a bunch of misconceptions - gradually my endgame course selections adapted to the accu­mulation of group and face-to-face sessions. Student questions had to be answered and their learning roadblocks had to be overcome. I decided that if I were to help them as players I had to satisfy them as people. So I never dismissed a psychological misgiving and always tried to move past impediments by logic, clarity, and gentle, but persistent, persuasion. Sometimes all of that even worked.

Nevertheless, step by step the regimen grew, and after a point I was offering a general endgame program. Along the way certain examples were dropped, others were added. What remained was cut down to bare bones. I especially tried to reduce complex positions to elementary ones, with fewer pieces on the board, hoping that concepts would then leap from the board. Visual patterns and designs became significant. But words were also critical. I had found that routine ways of expressing some standard chess thoughts were confusing. I'd say one thing and students would hear something else. So the language of presentation had to be simplified and defined. And there was constant repetition, relying more and more on mnemonics and other devices. I called all this, where anything might serve purpose, the endgame workshop method. Starting at a traditional place, usually with the basic or simple mates, I'd integrate examples and concepts as they made an impression. Often that veered discourse from the main path. The diet of ideas was subject to constant change anyway, since student practice always had to be reviewed, reflected and incorporated. It might mean, if logic allowed, jumping from a queen ending to one with just pawns. From that pawn ending the conver­sation (and I always called lessons "conversations" to emphasize the casual bal­ance between student and teacher) could move back to the opening and how a particular system was likely to generate a certain structure. Endgame lessons could even segue into other fields. If I thought it could help the student understand, we might discuss how and why a student understands. Within reason, there were no limits.

This endgame-workshop approach may be inherently unsound (who knows?), but it appeared to score in the roll of student response. And the process became quite humanistic. Paramount was student happiness. Ideals were important, but received satisfaction was more important. Still, I couldn't let it go at that. While I didn't like the concept of standard courses and fixed presentations, without consideration of individual requirements, one reality soon became clear: in order to stay in business, with allowances for human needs, I had to find an endgame treatment that worked on paper. It became clear that something like a curriculum had to be written out, especially since I was constantly being overseen by department heads and other academics, all of whom were uncertain whether chess, or any aspect of it, could be a legitimate college offering. Granted, practi­cally none of them knew anything about the endgame, so I may have gotten away with murder.

Five courses in particular forced me to spell out my ideas more concretely. They were given at New York University, the New School for Social Research, the Rockefeller Institute (I recall that two Nobel laureates sat in on the rook-and-pawn sessions, though it's possible they had no place else to go), the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Chess City, where the workshop lasted ten weeks and consisted of about a dozen players, all with a USCF rating between 1600-2000. The paradigms developed for those five courses, modified by a legion of experience from private lessons and seminars, constitutes the bulk of material in this book.

Clearly, this is not an all-inclusive manual. Yet I can say that most of what appears here has been fashioned for real people with real problems about chess problems. True, after finishing my endgame course, it's not likely that any of my former students sensed they had solved the mysteries of the universe. But the vast major­ity (okay, the ones willing to speak to me afterward) seemed to feel they knew much more about the endgame phase and were confident to play it better. For most of them that was good enough. Whoever you are I'm hoping that may be good enough for you too. I hate writing introductions. I'm glad this one is over.

Bruce Pandolfini

New York City

February 2009

Language English
Author Pandolfini, Bruce
Publisher Russel
Medium Book
Weight 350 g
Width 15.1 cm
Height 22.8 cm
Pages 251
ISBN-13 9781888690538
Year of Publication 2009
Binding paperback

004 Introduction

007 Lesson 1: Opposition

018 Lesson 2: Queen

028 Lesson 3: Queen and rook

036 Lesson 4: Rook

041 Lesson 5: Two bishops

048 Lesson 6: Bishop and knight

056 Lesson 7: Minor pieces

063 Lesson 8: Corners

067 Lesson 9: Queen vs. rook

075 Lesson 10: The Exchange

081 Lesson 11: Rook and minor piece vs. rook

088 Lesson 12: Major piece tandems

097 Lesson 13: Pawn endings

105 Lesson 14: More opposition

113 Lesson 15: Critical squares

118 Lesson 16: Outside critical square

124 Lesson 17: Minor pieces and pawns

139 Lesson 18: Quadrangle of the pawn

148 Lesson 19: Outflanking

153 Lesson 20: More complex outflanking

158 Lesson 21: Corresponding squares

169 Lesson 22: Outside passed pawn

177 Lesson 23: Diagonal king moves

182 Lesson 24: Queen against pawns

187 Lesson 25: Rook against pawns

194 Lesson 26: Minor pieces against pawns

203 Lesson 27: Minor pieces and pawn vs. minor pieces

210 Lesson 28: More minor pieces and pawns

218 Lesson 29: Rook tricks

231 Lesson 30: Various matters

243 Solutions to Practice Positions

244 Appendix: Concept index

Endgame Workshop