lunes, 13 de julio de 2015

Review 100 Endgames You Must Know by Jesus de la Villa

Today I want to make another review from a  book I enjoyed. I think it is more fun for me and more profitable for you, but give me time and I'll reach bad books with time.
The subject of this post is:

100 Endgames You Must Know Vital Lessons for Every Chess Player by Jesus de la Villa Garcia

This book is an elementary treatise on endgames. The author's objective is to explain as clearly as possible a minimal set of very important positions. The arbitrary number of 100 endgames which he considers most important should be simple yet with high theoretical and practical value.

The book is divided into a first set of 10 very easy positions which should ring a bell to almost anybody. Afterwards a set of positions is presented as a test. By solving this test we get a gauge of our level of understanding of the positions we are going to study across the book.

I remember vividly that I stumbled upon a rook ending where it was not possible to reach the Philidor position and I knew the correct move was to place the rook behind the enemy pawn. Maybe in a practical game I could have saved it, and indeed the correct move was the one I chose, but certainly I did not know all the nuances (or anything except the first move). I scored it as a correct solution.

After this, the rest of the important positions are studied thoroughly and lastly we get another test to see if we have understood the material.

I always have liked endgames books, and I studied such boring books as Levenfish & Smislov on rook endgames and Maizelis' Pawn endgames. This book is a whole different beast.It is not planned as a reference book, but a book aimed with beginners in mind. The author is quite happy to remind us that the plan is to get as much practical information as possible with the minimum work. It should be said, though, that it does require you to do a lot of work. Endgames is a difficult subject, but it will give you the most you could possible achieve with it.

I quite like the format. The material is exposed really well and is accessible for all levels. The analysis is as detailed (at times overwhelming, but not often)  as need be and the commentaries are spot on. Is a fun book to read and a good book to study.

The test are a great addition. No more reading and nodding. You should study the material in detail if you are to have any hope in the last test, but more interesting than that, doing the test you will notice where you are lagging behind.

If I were to cherrypick some flaw, I would go with some of the positions chosen. I think the author has done a great job teaching you the basics of every type of endings, but there are some very important and practical missing endings, as in rook endgames where the strong rook has a lonely passed pawn on the queenside while there is pawn-equality on the kingside, or 4 vs 3 on the kingside (also with a rook for both sides). I understand those endings are maybe very difficult and lay outside the scope of the book, but rook + bishop vs rook is also really complicated and I'm sure its practical importance is not higher.

De la Villa goes out of his way in the introduction to prove statistically that he is making the correct call,  so maybe it is my experience, but I never had a rook + bishop vs rook.

All in all I would recommend this book wholeheartedly. A friend lent it to me and I read it cover to cover, and afterwards I liked it so much that bought the ForwardChess edition because I wanted to have my own copy to study it seriously.

If you are already an experienced player, you could go to your local store and try the first test. If you are able to solve all the problems, maybe your knowledge is enough and you don't need this book. What I experienced, though, was that maybe I knew the theoretical result of many positions (the rook endgame anecdote above), and I maybe could have played some good moves on them, but I was for sure insecure defending these endgames. After studying this book I feel more confident in reaching them.

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