Sunday, April 8, 2012

Book Review: From the MIDDLEGAME into the ENDGAME

I really liked Edmar Mednis's From the MIDDLEGAME int the ENDGAME (capitalization as on the cover). The title actually describes pretty well what this book is about; how to decide to transition from the middlegame into the endgame. (Unlike Shereshevsky and Slutsky's out of print Mastering the Endgame which is mostly about queenless middlegames).

A game of chess begins in the opening, where the main concerns are controlling the center, developing ones pieces and tucking one's king away in a safe hiding place. The opening gives way to the middle game, where one focuses on controlling space, better activation of one's pieces, attacking the opponents weaknesses, defending one's own weaknesses and keeping one's king safe. If both sides manage to keep their kings safe, eventually material is reduced enough that the king may come out of hiding and begin to take an active role in the contest.

Because the queen is such a dangerous piece, trading queens is often the point of transition from middlegame into the endgame. The important part of the book, which covers how to decide to enter an endgame or not, is mostly  but not entirely concerned with the trade of queens.

To make this decision, it is important first to understand what kind of ending one is transitioning into. The first three parts of the book are dedicated to defining, evaluating and playing endgames. This prerequisite coverage is  makes up a little more than half the book. I would have wished that Mednis would have pointed to other books for this coverage and provided more examples on the main topic. It was informative, and I need to know more about endings, but there are lots of books on endings.

The key lessons of the book are easily stated, but not easily implemented. The examples illustrate the points well, but I wish there were more. Each example starts with a key position where a player has a choice between remaining in the middlegame or moving to an endgame. Mednis explains each position and the choice facing the player. He then discusses the right and wrong choices. The rest of the game is then given with sparse comments.

All of the lessons are extensions of the simple rule: "Make things difficult for your opponent". My take aways from reading the book.

  1. Go into the endgame if it is a clear and simple win
  2. Stay in the middlegame if the endgame is a clear loss
  3. Go into an endgame to avoid a middle game loss(defensive trades)
  4. Reduce your opponents ability for counterplay if you hold the advantage
  5. Increase complexity if your opponent holds the advantage
  6. If your advantage is temporary, use it or lose it

Personally, I need a lot of work evaluating endgames.

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