An unexamined life is not worth living.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Book Review - "Mastering the Endgame" by M. Shereshevsky and B. Slutsky

This title, which consists of two volumes, is a somewhat unusual and tremendously useful book for any chess player between 1600 and 2200. For me personally - reading this book was an essential part of getting from 2000 to 2200. The topic discussed is the relation between the opening and the endgame. The first volume deals with all 1.e4 openings, the second one - with 1.d4 ones. The authors discuss the characteristic features of an opening and try to explain how those features affect resulting endgame. They usually give the most typical pawn structures and provide several practical examples from grandmaster games to illustrate the plans of both sides in the endgame.
A very simple idea, is not it? Yet there have been very few really serious attempts to cover endgames with all most popular pawn structures in one book. Edmar Mednis has been discussing these issues in his "Transition to the endgame", but effectively has done an opening analysis of 4 theoretical lines. What we see in "Mastering the Endgame" is different as it covers a much broader range of positions. The authors give games from different time periods, so we can see how the themes developed over time. By reading this book a chess player will inevitably get a very clear idea about the strategic value of an opening. As cleverly pointed out by A. Yusupov in the foreword, this book also should make us think about the middlegame, how the opening problems are resolved throughout the middlegame, which endgame positions are we going to land into by move 40. Often the authors say that a certain structure, while being generally favorable for White in the middlegame, can lead to a worse endgame. Not only do they make such claims, but usually clear strategic explanations are given to such statements.
The only problem with this book is that both volumes are rather difficult to buy. The paradox is that the first volume is easier to find in Russian, the second one (1.d4) - in English. The English version of Volume 1 seems to be out of print.

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