Preparing for the End Game in Chess

The End Game

When you see fewer pieces standing on the chess board, you have arrived at the end game. Of the three phases of chess - opening, middle and end - this is the one most studied by scholars. More books and commentaries have been written about it and understandably so. It is the most crucial part of the game, and with fewer possible situations, the end game is easier to analyze.

While many chess novices focus on the myriad of openings, the end game tends to be ignored. This is wrong. You should analyze end game situations as much as you can. In fact, your chess lessons should begin with the end game. Why? Because the whole objective of the game - the checkmate - is made there if at all. By understanding the nature of the end game, you will know what goals to pursue in the opening and middle games in order to set up the end game properly.

Checkmating Patterns

To set up the end game, familiarize yourself with the basic checkmate positions. An example is the back rank checkmate. When the king is castled behind three pawns and no rook, and an enemy rook or queen is in the back rank along with the king but more than one square away, no escape is possible.

Another common checkmate is when the king is attacked by one piece which is protected by another piece. If the king captures the attacking piece, he will be checked by the defending piece. An example might be the king at the edge of the board checked by the enemy queen with a bishop behind her.

The King

The king is vulnerable. You want to force the enemy king to the ends of the board to limit his escape squares. Further, you should pursue checks even if you know they will not be checkmates. Checks are useful for capturing precious enemy pieces. Once you check the opponent's king, they have no choice but to move him to safety. Use this "free turn" to capture what valuable piece you can get.

Key End Game Pieces

When you study end games, you will realize just which pieces are most valuable. For the end game chess, the most valuable are those that cover the most squares and travel long distances. These are the queen and rooks. Bishops are useful too. Knights are more effective in the early and middle games when the board is crowed. The king, while not powerful, can be a strong supporting player in checkmates. Don't be afraid to use the king offensively in the end game. You don't want to keep your king in his castle anyway, as this can serve as a back rank trap.

Ending Rules

The game ends with a checkmate. Remember that the king is never captured; the checkmate symbolizes the capture. If the king perpetually escapes a check, however, this is not a checkmate but a draw.

If you are playing with a chess clock, the player who runs out of time first automatically loses the match. Also, the game does not always end with a checkmate. The weaker player may concede the game before it gets to that point.

If the king is not checked and no move can be made, this is termed a stalemate and results in a draw. Draw is also possible through mutual agreement between players or when fifty moves are made without a capture or pawn advancement.

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