It is important to play the chess endgame correctly, or else the efforts spent to arrive at it may be lost.
The 'king safety' principle that applied to both the opening and the middlgame no longer holds.
It is hard for the enemy pieces to combine properly and begin a winning attack.
Instead, the king is playing a key role, his power increasing as the number of the pieces reduces.
It is necessary to make one's king active by transferring him to the centre or wherever is needed.
Pawn promotions are typical in the endgame. Trying to promote a free pawn or creating a free pawn is a common plan. All available forces need to cooperate for this purpose.
The king himself may be needed to help the promotion. Promoting a pawn usually means to win the game, so the opponent will probably sacrifice some material if he can not prevent it otherwise.
The key notions of development and tempo no longer apply (or at least, not to that degree). Instead, pieces need to be placed correctly, which requires the construction of a plan.
A common rule of thumb is 'do not hurry in the endgame'; it is easy to see in which cases it applies and when tempi are important.
The pieces involved define different strategic factors.
In an endgame including rooks the seventh (or the second) rank may be of critical value.
This is because the king is usually still on the eighth (first) rank after the middle-game and if the enemy rook penetrates through the seventh (second) rank, he will restrict the king's activation whilst threatening the pawns on this rank.
In rook endings where promotions are intended, a rook is best placed behind a pawn, either friendly or enemy, so that his mobility increases as the pawn advances.
The king is best placed in front of a pawn, either friendly or enemy, to assist or prevent its promotion.
In light piece endings, a bishop is more valuable when his pawns are placed on squares of the opposite colour than the bishop's square, allowing him to move with freedom and threaten the enemy pawns.
Also a bishop is worth more when the centre is open and there are pawns on both wings, for he can exploit his increased mobility.
On the contrary a knight is better when the position is closed and the pawns blocked.
To play the endgame correctly one needs to know the basic endings very well.
The basic endings are trivial situations, with very few pieces on the board; these positions arise all the time. Having a fair understanding of these basic endings helps the analysis very much.
For example, assume that WHITE has found a line which eventually leaves him with his king on e8 and a pawn on e6, while the black king is on g8.
He may stop counting further, because he knows that this position is won for WHITE; the pawn promotes easily and the basic ending King + Queen vs. King (after the promotion) is winning.
Basic chess endings include :
King vs. King
It seems to be a complicated matter, but it is far from truth. Most of them are quite straight-forward and need no effort to understand.
Awareness of the basic endings provides a solid background for further understanding of the endgame in chess.
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