The countdown to SAJCC: how to better your endgame

With still a few weeks left before the South African Junior Chess Championships (SAJCC), now is the time to make sure you're well prepared.

We are counting down the weeks to the championships by focussing on different elements of the game each week. This week, we are looking at the endgame.

Some say the endgame is the toughest part of chess. There are fewer pieces left on the board, making it more subtle to manoeuver and therefore harder to create weaknesses in your opponent’s camp or to defend your position.

You might question the endgame's real value when you know that many amateur games are already decided in the middlegame, or even during the opening phase.

Yet, despite its difficulty and its relatively weak occurrence over the board, the endgame is much more important than you think. Many Grand Masters have said that practising and studying your endgame will take your game to a whole new level. From better calculation ability to the use of your endgame skill as a new weapon.

If you don’t know where to start, here are three great books to look at.

1. 1001 Deadly Checkmates

1001 deadly checmates

1001 Deadly Checkmates is a must for all SAJCC players. This easy-to-use book shows you how to spot checkmates by focusing exclusively on positions from real games, ranging from junior events to grandmaster encounters. It highlights themes and ideas that are often missed in practice.

While solving these puzzles, your all-important 'mental library' of patterns will grow, leading to an immediate increase in your playing strength. All 1001 puzzle positions have been carefully checked, and are graded by theme and difficulty. Points are awarded for finding the checkmate, so you can measure your skill. Most of the puzzles are suitable for novice and junior players. The last chapter challenges you with 'extreme checkmates', but don't worry: you'll be ready for them.

2. How to beat your dad at chess

how to beat your dad at chess
This is a chess book that explains how to beat a stronger opponent in an easy-to-follow format by forcing checkmate. Through examples from real games, you're shown how to use 50 deadly checkmates that chess masters use to win their games. 

It's a book for everyone. For the beginner, learning the checkmating ideas and enjoying the examples will help develop tactical skills to carry out attacks, combinations, sacrifices. And for the advanced player, many of these checkmating ideas will come as a revelation, having never been categorised before. Experts agree that pattern-recognition is vital to success in chess, and this book provides a wealth of valuable patterns.


3. Learn chess the right way

learn chess the right way
Grandmaster Susan Polgar’s first book in the Learn chess the right way series is a great choice if this is your first SAJCC. In this book, the focus is on one-move checkmate exercises. In each of the first five chapters, a specific piece delivers checkmate. In Chapters 6-8, checkmates which involve special tactics (such as pins and discovered attacks) are introduced. Chapter 9 has a mixed collection of puzzles, without any hint about which piece is to deliver checkmate, and chapter 10 builds on the previous nine chapters, introducing the basic patterns of checkmate in two moves.

Roline Pretorius

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