Chess endgames are the weakest point for most players – which means working on this critical phase of the game presents a golden opportunity to rack up tournament wins and rating points.
Most club players spend far too little time studying endgames. They are not familiar with essential theoretical endgames, nor do they focus on developing good endgame understanding and technique.
However, decent endgame skills are vital for any aspiring chess player. They can enable you to win apparently equal positions with only small imbalances or save half a point from clearly worse positions.
This video is a free preview of GM Rashad Babaev’s new course, where Rashad teaches strategies which you can use to navigate more confidently through any endgame you get. It’s like a toolbox of endgame techniques you can use to find creative moves in your games.
As José Raúl Capablanca said, “To improve at chess you should in the first instance study the endgame.” In this video, GM Babaev focuses on the most important piece – the king!
GM Rashad Babaev was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, like Kasparov, and was coached by one of Garry’s most influential trainers, Privorotsky. Now Babaev is one of the top trainers in the US, coaching scholastic teams to victory in the USCF National Tournament and transforming several students into grandmasters.
King Activity in the Endgame
Generally speaking, the changing role of the king is one of the most important characteristics which separates endgames from middlegames and openings.
Centralization of the king is one of the main principles of endgame play. See the diagram on the left.
The position at hand is easily won for White and you don’t need to be an endgame specialist to convert your material advantage into a full point. Still, it’s vital to be aware of the technique White uses to win. White will never win this position if he only plays with his knight and the pawns, leaving the king on g1. In order to win, White needs to activate his king and use it in combination with the knight.
In the middlegame, we have a protective mentality about the king. In the endgame, however, you need to flip a switch in your mind.
An active king can protect weaknesses, control important squares and target weak pawns so that more valuable pieces like rooks can be actively placed and don’t have to fulfill defensive tasks.
As a rule of thumb, the king is usually considered to be worth 4 points in the endgame.
For example, see the position on the right.
This position occurred in the game Carlsen – Svidler, Moscow 2009. The material is equal and at first glance, the position looks close to a draw.
However, Magnus has a decent advantage. Not only is Black’s pawn on a6 isolated and vulnerable, but Black’s king on g8 is not well placed for the upcoming struggle in the endgame.
Magnus soon brought his king to e3, from where it prevented Black’s rook from entering White’s camp.
After that, White’s rook (a more valuable piece) was able to fulfill more active tasks. Black had no counterplay and soon lost the pawn, and the game.
Do not only evaluate the current position of the kings, but also the potential of the two kings to be activated. Which king has the better chances to be actively placed? Which king will reach one of the central squares first?
Remember: if one king stands on one of the four central squares (e4, d4, e5, d5), the other king can’t be placed in the center.
That said, it’s not only important to activate your own king in the endgame, but also to prevent your opponent’s king from getting active. Cutting off the opponent’s king is a crucial endgame technique.
The Azerbaijani Endgame School
Would you take GM Babaev’s challenge? Dedicate 6 hours of study to his endgame course and, he claims, you’ll become an endgame monster for the rest of your playing days.
Tasked with making a major difference to your endgame ability in 6 hours, Rashad focuses on themes and skills not found in most courses.
From mastering the 2 factors that distinguish endgames from the middlegame – king activity and pawn promotion – to dynamic sacrifices and major piece endings, GM Babaev trains you to find creative solutions in an endgame position.
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