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Chess endings for Club Players by Herman Grooten

February 27, 2023

I have recently started reading Chess endings for Club Players by Herman Grooten, published by New in Chess.

Firstly, I dipped into it, to get a “feel” for the book, whether it resonated with me: it did. I have since started reading it from the start, and hope to persevere to the end: a lot of work will be needed to get the most value from it.

I can already tell that the book is (i) a labour of love, by a very knowledgeable endgame player, and (ii) written with the intention of being instructive. These two attributes flow from how he writes. A book written for the reader, not just one more book.

I found his second example (page 11 of his book) extraordinary and fun. Herman had been writing about adjournments, which I remember from my teenage years in the 1970s, and the detailed analyses players did: and the lost role of adjudicator. I adjudicated a fair few games myself (I wonder now whether my judgments would have survived in the engine era). This position was given to Herman’s then coach, you set it for his student: what result?

Black to move: what result?

I analysed it, before reading the solution. The move I wanted to play was 1…Re3, but then 2 Ra7 (2 Rc7 is the same) Rb3 3 b7 and the pawn queens. I looked a bit more, since many years ago I had studied an article by the late Mark Dvortesky on this type of ending, rook+3 pawns on one side of the board, with one side also having a pawn on the other side.

After a while, I saw it! Happy, I turned to the answer, 1…Re3 wasn’t commented on at all, and instead a nice line was given after 1…Rf8, which does indeed draw, elegantly.

But why not 1…Re3? What had I missed? I set up the board and played through my line and then, still puzzled, entered the diagram into my Smallfish iPad app: instantly it pinged that I was right: 1…Re3 does draw. Black can let the pawn promote, because (after 3…Kf8) 4 Ra8+ (if 2 Rc7, then 4 Rc8+ is the same) pushes the king (4…Re7) to a square that it is useful. 5 b8(Q)

Position after 5 b8(Q): Black to play

5…h5+! 6 gh[] f5+ 7 Kg5[] Rg3 mate!: all Black’s pieces (except the f5 pawn), including the K on e7, take part.


Pointing out a beautiful line isn’t intended as an adverse comment on the book: in a way, the opposite: there are a lot of beautiful lines in the book, but just as importantly, every page is an opportunity to think for yourself.

I already know I am going love this book and learn a lot from it. Pity it hadn’t been published fifty years ago when some of my games were adjourned.

From → Chess

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