What goes through the mind of a chess player in the endgame?

After learning how to move the pieces, after understanding how the game is divided into stages, and after finding that openings can provide a wide range of theoretical exercises, I come to ask myself some questions.

This question is part of a series of questions asked by players who have begun their study of chess, and have previously learned chess terms, and now seek knowledge of how great players think and how they make decisions on each move.

previous >> Part-4

  • A 9mm bullet, after I blundered away a win against GM Huschenbeth for the nth time. (Sorry, just kidding - normally I win any endgame :-) The normal answer thus is: How do I bring home the bacon (grand plan; split up into miniplans). There are too many types of endgames, thus a general answer would be moot. Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 12:59

2 Answers 2


The endgame is the part of the game which comes closest to being mathematically determined. In essence if there are 7 pieces or fewer left on the board then the result of the game with best play is known and can be looked up in the tablebases.

Further, there are many kinds of endgame positions with more than 7 pieces where it is clear to a player with the right "endgame knowledge" either which side is winning and the general process for winning the game or that the game should be drawn and what the drawing principles are for each side.

Ultimately there are different classes of positions with different algorithms for winning or drawing the game.

Consequently what goes through my mind are a series of linked questions:

  1. Am I winning? (OK, it should really be "What is the evaluation here?" but I'm more self-interested than that)
  2. If I am winning then do I know how to win? I can certainly know that I have a winning position with KNB vs K without knowing exactly how to win. If I don't know exactly how to win can I remember enough of the ideas and principles of the winning algorithm to realistically play for a win, to have a plan to keep me going.
  3. If I am losing do I know enough about my opponent's winning algorithm to make it as difficult as possible for them to win? There are the 3-fold repetition rule and 50-move rule for me to aim for for my salvation.
  4. If the game should be a draw do I know why and how I need to play to ensure the draw if I am on the weaker side and conversely what I need to trick my opponent into playing if I am on the weaker side?

There is a lot of knowledge of endgame structures and patterns involved here which is why at all levels of the game, from beginner to world champion, endgame study is a key component of maintaining and improving the level of play.

  • Hello Brian; i check that Rosie F edited all my question removing my format; removing the question from body/content and plase in title; that's right?
    – user33089
    Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 15:04

The traditional distinction between game stages is mostly academic in my opinion. I don't think the thought process of a chess player is radically different, except for the fact that you usually don't need to worry about king safety in the endgame, so players will consider moves and plans that use their king as an attacking piece.

When they exist, passed pawns become a major theme in the endgame since with fewer pieces on the board, it becomes more costly to dedicate one piece just to block it.

But other than the different strategic theme, the way in which we elaborate plans and calculate lines doesn't change that much

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.