100 Endgames You Must Know

By Jesus De la Villa

Rating:

Media type: book

Why

A few months ago, I started researching how to improve my understanding of the endgame. I came up with a short list of books and 100 Endgames You Must Know, despite the click-baity title, made it to the top of the list. The book seemed more accessible than other books but still general enough to help me with my goals.

I expected the book would help me creating a basic mental model of core endgame theory and give me enough information to understand which aspects of the endgame I want to go deeper about. Based on my expectations, I would rate the book a solid 4.5 stars. The half point may be my fault (more on this later) and I will update this review in the future if I end up changing my mind. The book is a great introduction to the subject, with a clear writing style.

What

As the title suggests, the book presents 100 positions the author considers a must for every Chess player. These positions are clustered together thematically. For example, there’s a whole section about “Queen vs Pawn”, another about “same colored bishops”, and so on.

In general, each position is explained with great clarity which can explain the success of the book. The clustering is also smart and is perfectly coherent in almost every part of the book. The almost though may be a little unfair. Let me clarify. I found the rook endings sections harder to digest and I’m genuinely not sure if they’re harder for me or the material is presented at a below average level. Where “below average” still means “a bit less than 5-star level book”. I will re-evaluate my review in the near future, I intend to study rook endings from a few others book and then come back to this review.

Another interesting aspect of how the book is organized is the fact that very basic endgames (like a queen vs king) are not even presented. I suspect it’s the same with very theoretical and complex endgame positions. The omissions make clear the focus of the book is practical. The book will make you a better endgame player in practical games. The point is that if you would know all the 100 endgames presented, you would secure a lot of full and half points.

How

I intend to go back to the book very often which is why I bought a physical copy which I would recommend as the book can definitely act as a reference for endgames. As this was my very first endgame book, I approached it this way:

  • I read the whole book in a linear fashion, studying each section one after the other. I took notes of the parts I found more difficult (or just more interesting)
  • I re-read it all but skimming the easy parts (that’s slowly happening at the time of writing)
  • Take the final tests, evaluate it, go back at studying what I got wrong

The long term plan is to keep going through the book until I can safely recall from memory the solutions to all the positions (or at least the key ideas). Given how much time I can actually spend on chess, I suppose it will take a long time!