BOOK REVIEW by CARL PORTMAN
The Chess Endgame Exercise Book
1st edition (softcover, 192 Pages)
Also available as an e-book ($9.95) and an app-book ($12.99)
What is this book about?
That would be…chess endgames! Okay let’s peel back the skin and look deeper into the belly of the book.
There are ten chapters, after an illuminating introduction from the author.
1. Pawn Endings
2. Knight Endings
3. Bishop Endings
4. Bishop vs Knight Endings
5. Rook Endings
6. Rook and Minor Piece Endings
7. Queen Endings
8. Endings with Queens and Other Pieces
9. Endgame Tactics
Index of Players and Composers
What does (some of) the official Blurb say?
Everyone knows they should work on their endgame play. So many hard-earned advantages are squandered in ‘simple’ endings... But it’s tough finding a way to study endings that doesn’t send you to sleep and that helps you actually remember and apply what you have learnt.
“While endgame theory books are helpful, active participation by the reader is a great aid to learning. I have spent several months selecting the 444 exercises in this book from what was initially a much larger collection.” – John Nunn
All major types of endgame are covered, together with a wide-ranging chapter on endgame tactics. Examples are drawn from recent practice or from little-known studies. The emphasis is on understanding and applying endgame principles and rules of thumb.
Does the book achieve its aim?
Dr. Nunn says that he wants to encourage the reader to put their brains in high gear, both to test themselves and to learn more about the endgame. The fact that he has included exercises covering the range of chess players from beginner to master means that everyone can do this. Yes, they can learn an awful lot.
Let me just give you an example of the fun that one can have studying any position of the 444 at random.
Have a look at this position. What do you think you would play if you were Black?
Remember that these days we are all playing faster time controls so you might not have long at all to think about it in a game. If you can remember principles it can help you to make good moves. Well the move that draws for Black according to Nunn is 1…Kh1!
Now then. It is not enough just to know the move. One has to get to grips with the why. That’s how we learn. Nunn goes on to say “It is important to be aware of the general principles. Black to play would draw here by 1…Kh1! since in the case of a knight’s pawn, the best square for the defender’s king is in the corner diagonally opposite the pawn”.
Who knew that? It’s a fascinating principle and leads the reader (hopefully) into investigating this concept further with or without the chess engine.
There are many pearls of wisdom in the book and I particularly like the thorough and clear explanations to the puzzles in the solutions. These solutions incidentally appear immediately after the puzzles as opposed to being shown at the end of the book. I much prefer this method and long may it continue.
Do we chess fans need another book on endgames? Well I can speak as a chess coach. I have used and re-used many positions from the most recent (at that particular time) to the very old – the works of Reti and Kubbel for example to show aspects of endgames, but the fact that this book contains recent games certainly up to 2019 means that I had not seen the vast majority (well, almost all) and it is so useful to have new material. Each time I flipped a page I found myself absorbed in the positions, some of which were from players that I know (and count amongst my friends) such as Trevor Brotherton and Nathaniel Paul from Shropshire who have a position from one of their games in Telford shown. There was therefore a real sense of the personal in this book.
I wonder, are YOU in it? Did the good Doctor Nunn select one of your games? Who knows? You’ll have to get the book and find out.
What this book did for me was to reinforce – as if I needed that – the fact that endgames are not boring. They are fun. They are fantastically rich in possibilities. You cannot tell me that any kind of magic in chess occurs in the opening. There’s more in the middlegame but in my humble view the witchcraft and alchemy are to be found in the endgame. John Nunn is one of our own. He is one of England’s evergreen and great chess inspirations, and we are very lucky to have him still writing, still sharing his ridiculously incisive wisdom with us. When I read his work - it inspires me to want to learn more. I want to get the chess set out and study. I want to lose myself in the depths of the possible and seemingly impossible. That's the mark of a notable and experienced chess author.
I particularly liked the idea of the test papers in chapter 10. I could visualize sitting at an old wooden school desk, fountain pen in hand, ink in the bottle and the chess test papers in front of me. Sitting at the head of the class in the finger of sunlight streaming through the window was the teacher, Dr. Nunn, peering over his round spectacles like a wise old owl – getting ready to say ‘turn over your paper and begin’. I would not have been his best pupil, that’s for sure but he would hopefully have given me a good mark for endeavour. It took him a long time to put all of these puzzles together so the least I – and other readers - can do is switch off the infernal chess engine and apply ourselves. Just try. Have a go. Teacher Nunn is on our side! He wants us to do well.
I really enjoyed and will continue to enjoy this book. The layout is excellent. The style is very supportive of easy learning and of course it has the GAMBIT stamp of approval.
You can watch a YouTube video in which author GM John Nunn presents a sample from this book. He will tell you why this book is a little different to other endgame books he has written.
Cut and paste this address.
Who is the author?
As if you needed to ask! (Shame on you).
Dr. John Nunn is one of the best-respected figures in world chess. He was among the world’s leading grandmasters for nearly twenty years and won four gold medals at chess Olympiads. In 2004, 2007 and 2010, Nunn was crowned World Chess Solving Champion, ahead of many former champions. In 2011, his two-volume work Nunn’s Chess Endings won the English Chess Federation Book of the Year Award, and was highly praised by Levon Aronian (who read both books cover to cover!) when making the award presentation.