While looking for and comparing suggestions that will help me to improve in chess, I have noticed that some people and some chess book authors suggest that you should study the endgame first.

Some people say that by studying endgame first, you will find out the correct middlegame plan to achieve the endgame that will be on your favor.

Is it effective? Could someone please confirm that he became a stronger player by using that method of studying?

  • 4
    Study a few openings but focus on the middle and endgame.
    – Jimmy360
    Jul 19, 2015 at 22:54

10 Answers 10


Endgames are the most powerful way to learn tactics, properties of the pieces, visualization, and calculation. Anyone who thinks they're boring should thumb through a few pages of Van Perlo's Endgame Tactics. You'll be amazed at the creativity, surprises, and overall amazing capabilities of just a few pieces in the hands of a capable player.

What's more, in the middlegame you have pawns shielding and supporting your pieces, and have enough pieces that most or all are always defended. In the endgame, pawns are diminished or scattered, and you only have a couple of other pieces to work with. You have to go out on a limb and leave your pieces loose once in awhile, and the winner is often better at judging when you can get away with this and when you can't, and does more of it, more successfully.

By the way, this means that you should understand some of the strategies for each type of middlegame you're likely to come across, but don't focus on theory all the time. Look at practical endgames from a database, and analyze them.

Get a few openings (1 for White, 1 each for Black against 1.d4 and 1.e4) that you feel comfortable playing. You don't need a backup rep unless you're playing both standard and blitz time controls (you can play much riskier stuff in blitz), until you hit about 1800-1900 ELO.


I'm only a 1600 so take my advice at face value

I hear a lot of people saying all the time not to waste their time on openings, just focus on tactics and endgame. That advice is nice and everything but if you never make it out of the opening the endgame is worthless. I had a game in a tournament where I fell for Lasker's trap in the Albin-Counter Gambit. If I had spent just 5 minutes studying that line I could have avoided that and survived to use the lessons I have studied in the endgame.

I guess what I am trying to say is that instead of thinking of it as "should I do one or the other" you are going to have to do both. If you want to get good you can't avoid any one area you are going to have to give them all attention. Studying openings leads to a strong positional understanding and leads to understandings in similar openings. For instance understanding the sveshnikov sicilian helps with understanding the themes in the kalashnikov.

Study a lot of tactics because every 2000+ I have heard has said tactics are what you need to know. Hope this helps


You learn them at the same time. Endgames and Openings are not subjects that you can learn overnight. It can take a strong Grandmaster years to master the endgame phase.

It's the same way with openings; simple guidelines and principles should be learned at the beginner, but strong players > 2000-2200 should know heavy opening theory.

So when you first start playing chess, openings and endgames will not be the decisive factor in your games. You should learn the opening principles and guidelines: don't move the same piece twice unless there is a tactic, control the central squares, don't block your c-pawn on c2 in d4 d5 openings, and so on. It even helps to know some simple opening lines, e.g. 1 e4 e5 is the King's pawn game. 1. d4 d5 2.c4 is the Queen's Gambit.

Similarly, start with the simple endgames. Checkmate with King and Rook, checkmate with King and Queen. Also you learn simple pawn endgames, King and Pawn versus King. How do you promote a pawn, if you can? How do you stop the pawn and get a draw, if you can?

Then when you get to about 1500, when you don't make a lot of material blunders, it makes sense to increase your opening knowledge. Learn lines to about 10 moves deep in a few openings that you play, especially the main lines.

At 1500 learn the simple King and Rook and Pawn versus King and Rook endgames, like the Lucena and Philidor positions. It also helps to have some familiarity with Knight, Bishop, and Queen endgames. However theoretical endgames and openings still will not decide your games. Strategy and positional skills, as well as your technique (ability to convert a positional advantage into a point) will.

When you get to a high level, say 1900-2200, your games will be impacted more and more by opening knowledge and endgame skill. Then it makes sense to be an opening and endgame expert.


Here's my take on it. Listed according to priority:

a) Simplest end-games (RK vs K, QK vs K, BBK vs K, KP vs K)

b) Opening that you are interested (at-least one as white and at-least two as black). Find out first five moves in the opening and what are the general strategies and plans in that specific opening. Guidelines on where pieces are generally placed in the opening and typical pawn formations.

Why I place this as the second important step is that you will never enter an end game with equal chances, if you don't know the opening even this much.

c) Complicated end-games (KPP vs K, KPR vs KPR etc., the whole load of it)

d) Deep opening prep - if you reached this step that is :)


I agree pretty much with Keshav with some minor additions. When I taught my kids I started out alternating between the basic endings and playing a game with just the pawns where first person to queen wins.

This brings up another very important point. You will get best value with an opponent sitting opposite you when you are doing much of this learning / studying, even if it is the computer. Moving pieces on a board rather than doing it in your head is important.

After basic endings and playing with pawns I'd follow Keshav with the first few moves of several basic openings coupled with some basic opening principles like get out a center pawn, move the knights and bishops towards the center, castle, etc.

Before more complicated endings I would put tactics. Pins, forks, skewers, removing the defender, etc.

Assuming you have already mastered the basics, basic endings, pawn play, basic openings, simple tactics, then I would suggest the biggest bang per buck will come from heavy tactical work. Get some of those tactical puzzle books and just work through a dozen or so problems a day. If you can't see the answer on the page then set the position up on a board and move the pieces if you have to.

Longer term keep those daily tactical puzzles going and add work on more difficult endings like KPvK, KRPvKR, KBNvK. Learn the theory, practice both the attack and the defence with a real board against an opponent.

As your play improves and your standard of opponent improves you will need to work on your opening repertoire to make sure you get out of the opening with a good game and plenty of time left on the clock.


It's very difficult for a beginner to study endgames because they think like, "what good does it do to study endings if I get killed in the opening and middle game." Of course this is logical in its own way and I would suggest tactics, tactics, tactics first. However here's a reason for studying endgames that I feel really helps. You really learn the power of the pieces. For example if you study an interesting R+p vs R+p ending you will learn how great the Rook is at defense or its power to attack and defend simultaneously. You start to admire the power of Bishops and learn their weaknesses. You'll discover the power of a well posted Knight or its weakness in stopping rook pawns. These are all concepts that are easier seen with fewer pieces on the board, i.e. endings. Something to think about as it will rollover into your middle game planning. Suddenly you'll look at games (another must is to play through many games) and understand the positioning of pieces, exchange of pieces, pawn structure etc etc.


Could someone please confirm that he became a stronger player by using that method of studying?

I can confirm, I was 2000-FIDE, struggling to beat players of the same rating. After a month of serious endgame study, I increased my rating to 2200 fairly quickly. Since then, I am continuously studying endgames.

A lot of players at that level have a gap in their knowledge of endgames, which becomes especially visible when they are low on time. By studying endgames myself I scored a lot of extra points by winning equal or holding lost endgame positions.

So if you're at level 2000 or lower, I would advise to focus on studying endgames at your own time and refresh your knowledge on openings/strategy/something else while playing in tournaments.

Some arguments for studying endgames:

  • Concrete evaluation. The position is a win/draw/loss with a clear explanation of why. This helps to build a rigorous understanding of the game. Contrast that with the phrase in this opening white is slightly better with a subjective explanation.

  • Everlasting knowledge. You learn once that the Lucena position is winning and this fact remains true forever. Now contrast this with a belief that the Exchange Caro-Kann gives black an equality until someone finds a new idea how to play for an advantage with white.

  • Useful in practice when you're low on time. Even if you don't know the opening, you can spend a lot of time and come up with a decent move (not necessarily the best). In the endgame, you will be down to your last seconds. It's very unlikely you will find an accurate move with few seconds remaining by yourself - even the top players do not always find!



because a won endgame is ending in a checkmate, and you have to learn how to checkmate first.


Fischer's famous chess teaching book does not even start with an endgame but with mate-in-1 positions. Polgar (the father of the three chess sisters) also uses this method. I think it is superior to endgame training.


Endgame study seems boring especially for novice players, but it's necessary for two reasons: you need to know what is winning and how, and more importantly IMHO it helps you internalize the basic tactics of these pieces.

That said, I can tell you certainly when I was 1900 to mid 2100 USCF, the majority of my wins from lower rated players, and the easiest, arose from exploitable opening mistakes. You have to do both. Not just five moves and a general idea of where the pieces go. but familiarize ourselves with the associated lines as much as possible. It is much better to know one or two openings pretty well than to try to learn a bunch halfway.

To answer your question explicitly, yes when I was 15 (rated around 1550) I got a hold of an endgame book and went through all of the positions, every chance I got. At that time and that place there were no strong local players so I had to play in tournaments to improve, ten or fifteen games per year. So there are better ways to train, but left to my own devices I feel like that was the first step in improving.


I like to think of chess as a journey. You have to know your destination before you can decide how to proceed. Unless you know how to win a simple endgame, you'll have no idea how to set the course of the game. Of course games can end earlier, but usually that's due to some tactical mistake. If you can achieve a small advantage and transition into an endgame with that, you'll know how to convert it into a win. Study the basic piece endings first (K & R vs K; K, B & B vs K, etc.) and then study the K & P vs K endings (learn the "opposition" and "triangulation") as well as K, R and P endings and you'll be in good shape when you reach the endgame. It has made a big difference in my game, for example allowing me to win a tournament game where I had a K, B & N opposed to the lone K as well as recently a K & R vs K & N ending. And when I reach K and P endings, I no longer feel unsure of myself as I once did.

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