I need inspiration. I'm an amateur. One of the areas that I find least likeable and just plain boring, is the endgame. I sometimes feel like I'm making no improvement there whatsoever. That's why unless I am significantly up in terms of material and can force a win fast I try to get a draw or just resign. But anyhow I want to get better and find the motivation to improve my endgame, so I figured one way is look at some examples of masters of endgame. Maybe that will help me see the exciting aspects.

I've looked at several resources but I was reading a few days ago that high rated grandmasters these days are all good in every aspect of the game, including the endgame (or they would not be up there), and that old grandmasters who were seen as great in endgame, were actually not that positionally sound when their moves are compared with today's chess engines.

So I figured I just ask about that here, as I've got different opinions, someone saying Magnus Carlsen is the best in endgame, while many others go to historical figures like Capablanca, Rubinstein, and Smyslov (couple others also whom I forget).

And if there are particular games/books by a particular master that really brings endgame to life, I would appreciate you mentioning that so I can look and be inspired. Thank you!

  • Capablanca in rook endgames I think. – hoacin Jan 5 '17 at 8:02
  • as a side note, right now with endgame tablebases published for 6 man and 7 man, take them into account when redolving doubts. They play perfectly. – Santropedro Jan 5 '17 at 15:17
  • @Santropedro If you have the space for those endgame tables. 6 man is 1.2Tb (or 150Gb if you only want the positions). 7 man take 50Tb to 200Tb. If you use a modern chess engine then it will be capable to provide you the 'answers' that you want in a 'reasonable' time. – Marco Jan 6 '17 at 8:45
  • 2
    @Marco use tb7.chessok.com online! – Santropedro Jan 6 '17 at 14:26
  • @Santropedro Thanks for the link. I will check it out. – Marco Jan 6 '17 at 16:05
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Here are a few candidates for great endgame players, where I give a feeling of their playing style and recommended sources:


Capablanca is considered to be a balanced player, but one who excelled particularly in the endgame.

The game might be divided into three parts, the opening, the middle-game and the end-game. There is one thing you must strive for, to be equally efficient in the three parts.

Recommended sources:

  • Capablanca's Best Chess Endings: 60 Complete Games by Irving Chernov
  • Capablanca: Move by Move by Cyrus Lakdawala


Smyslov is best known for the simplicity of his play. He adopted an intuitive approach to most moves.

[By studying 'simple' endgames,] I was able to gain a deep feeling for what each piece was capable of, to sense their peculiarities, their strength and impotence in various different situations on the board, the limits of their capabilities, what they 'like' and what they 'don't like' and how they behave.

Recommended sources:


Karpov is best known for reducing the options his opponent had, even in the endgame. Zugzwang and prophylaxis was his forte.

I still remember Botvinnik's reaction to each of my games, right from the opening moves. At first he would express amazement, then annoyance, and, finally irritation.

Recommended sources:

Given your view that the endgame is boring, your study of it is bound to be (understandably) half-hearted, at best. So the first element in a successful endgame training strategy is to build enthusiasm for it. This is best done by gaining a respect and admiration for the creative possibilities in actual endgame play. This is not the time to tackle the 48-or-so types of piece constellations in single-rook endgames, or any other deep theory.

I would recommend Van Perlo's "Endgame Tactics", published by New In Chess, 2nd edition. You will find that often even in the dryest-looking position there are tricks and traps that can save or win a game that looks lost or drawn. Once you have begun to appreciate the potential for surprise and beauty in the endgame, you will be much more likely to attack the learning process with enthusiasm. You will also soon see how endgame theory builds on itself, with fundamental principles and techniques at the bottom of the pyramid, and novel combinations at the pinnacle, and find the former easier to remember, and the latter easier to create.

I hope you grow to enjoy the creative potential and excitement of the endgame as much as I do.

  • Thank you jaxter, appreciate your suggestion and I quite like how you ended your post too, I hope so as well, cheers. – JSavant Jan 7 '17 at 9:30

The classical players - Flohr, Rubinstein, Capablanca. All excellent endgamers, the beauty in the simplicity. But, you are putting the cart before the horse, so to speak. It's hard to appreciate the beauty of endgame play if you do not understand it. Saying you are "bored" with it is sooo millennial snowflake-ish it isn't funny. Your fast-food attitude towards chess has to be modified.

I suggest you cozy up with a small set next to the fireplace and open up one of many excellent basic chess endgame books and deliberately go through it front to back. Spend 30 minutes a day on just this. A really good, practical book is "100 endgames you must know". A second choice might be "A guide to chess endings" by Euwe and Hooper, if you can handle descriptive notation (you being a snowflake and all), and you can find it. Both of those are deliberate and address the practicality of endgame play. If you just can't control yourself, try Van Perlo's Endgame Tactics. If you catch fire get Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual, which is just awesome, but not for children.

Good luck, and avoid melting.

  • Thanks Mark, ah sitting next to the fireplace and reading a chess book on a cold day, I already feel more enthusiasm. I will do my best not to melt. Cheers. – JSavant Jan 7 '17 at 9:32

Grandmaster Ulf Andersson's technique in the endgame (and in queenless middlegames) is quite proverbial.

Several books collect his best games, and you can also find much material online:





The Classical Player whose End game was Best was Mikhail Botvinnik & at present the Best Player who excels in it is Magnus Carlsen . Rubinstein had very innovative examples of Rook endings which cannot be paralleled even to this day .

The best way to find the best chess endings is to search in Chessgames.com where you can filter the games accordingly . There are some tools in Chessgames like Guess the Move where you can look for a Position with Rook/Queen/Knight endings and even play with that tool . There is even an at par Score which will decide how good you are .

IMO all the world champions were great endgame players. Rubinstein has been called the greatest player in Rook and pawn endgames. Check out his games http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chesscollection?cid=1005102

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