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John Emms' 'The Survival Guide to Rook Endings' is back to the 'fairly advanced' category. It has the same obligatory introductory comment: \"I've tried not to fall into the same trap as some endgame books which, while being fascinating, tend to devote too much space to rare and impractical positions.\" At least he said 'some'! Anyway, Emms does his usual excellent job, first presenting the basics at length. He isn't quite thorough enough on some useful R+P vs. R positions, but he makes the Vancura position easily comprehensible, which is no mean feat. Emms devotes most of the book to real examples, often drawn from his own play (20 of them). I think the fascinating thing about this book is that, with some exceptions in the last two chapters, Emms manages to stick with relatively simplified and simple-looking positions which, however, are terribly difficult to solve. In fact, the players involved, mostly grandmasters, tended to make multiple mistakes, regardless of how straightforward a position looked. What to sayÿ I like this book a lot and recommend it to just about anyone who isn't having an easy time with Korchnoi's book! It is readable and reasonably comprehensive, but doesn't sacrifice complexity for easy answers. A trivial and inessential gripe: I wonder why Smyslov and Levenfish's 'Rook Endings' isn't given in the Bibliographyÿ Okay, the other books mentioned contain all or most of that material, but is it really fair not to give credit to such a classicÿ
I just received Glenn Flear's 'Improve Your Endgame Play'. This is truly an elementary/learning book, containing just about all the basics and elementary techniques. Flear makes the usual point about specialised books that contain hundreds of theoretical positions, and how, if we try to learn by heart 'seemingly improbable and obscure endgame theory from dusty old tomes', 'we soon become bored, exhausted, and confused'. After this required disclaimer, Flear pretty much starts from the beginning (basic mates, converting an extra pawn, 'the square', opposition, outside passed pawns and the like). There are some more advanced positions to illustrate basic principles, but to my mind, this is an ideal teacher's book (with exercises), or a novice's self-teaching book. It is very well laid out and easily readable.
A different kind of book is Shereshevsky's 'Endgame Strategy', recently reprinted. The first thing I noticed is how restrained and almost conventional this book is, in stark contrast to Shereshevsky's brilliant-but-mad, analytically-flawed book 'The Soviet Chess Conveyor', which is sort of a cult classic. First, we prsent the usual claim: \"Chess literature contains very few works on the endgame, and in the main these are reference books, in which theoretical and not practical positions are analysed. The present book [studies] basic practical principles.\"
In fact, one will not learn the basics from this book at all; rather, it is a series of mostly complex examples, often in the middlegame rather than in the ending! Indeed, there are 62 pages of 'complex endings'; and most players would call the vast majority of the rest of the book's examples quite 'complex' as well. I am very impressed by his insistence that 'everything depends upon the specific features of the position'. Also his tendency (more pronounced in his other endgame books) to take positions and structures that derive from certain popular openings. I like this book a lot, but it has more to do with transitions from the middlegame than with endings themselves.
An interesting point Schiller makes is that a lot of these fairly elementary grandmaster mistakes we see in all these books are due to time-trouble (look at the move numbers), and that specific endgame knowledge is more important in these times of faster time controls. I found it amusing that he makes several comments about how studying compositions doesn't help much, when his earlier book (reviewed below) consists only of compositions! But from what I see of this book, it has lots of good and reasonably simple examples. A novice or developing player could learn the basics in great detail, and something more by judicious thumbing through the rest of the book.
Eric Schiller's 'Improve Your Endgame!' takes a very original approach in its modest 84 pages. The idea is to take 30 endgame studies, the great majority with reduced material (normally 4 to 7 pieces, counting the kings), and form an instructive book from them. The Introduction is a bit disappointing. Schiller admits right off that 'there is no shortage of useful literature' on the endgame (a scandalous notion). But he does say that endgame study 'tends to be rather tedious' and proposes 'to make the acquisition of endgame essentials easy, fun, and aesthetically pleasing.' That's more like it. The back cover states: 'Practical endgame play is best studied by examining composed positions', a dubious claim, one challenged by Schiller himself in his book above. 59ce067264