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Don Aldrich’s Book Reviews

published in Chess Today on 10 January 2004

Chess Endgame Training by Bernd Rossen, (Gambit 2003), flex, FAN, 176 pp, $19.95.

Chess Endgame Training is aimed squarely at the amateur player who has little endgame knowledge. The division of material is a little different from the usual, and the presentation is, as far as I know, entirely unique.

There are many basic endgame manuals that seek to instruct. Dvoretsky’s opinions aside, there are several that run from good to excellent — Mueller’s Fundamental Chess Endings and Keres’ Practical Chess Endings being two of my favorites. The field has pretty much consisted of explanation of concepts using examples from over the board play and composed studies, and often followed by exercises for the reader to solve.

Each chapter in CET begins with some explanation and an example, but this often consists of less than a page. The reader is then hit with 15 or 16 exercises to solve. The actual teaching takes place in the solutions to the exercises.

I admit this puzzled me a bit. The two building blocks of education are learn by doing and repetition. I am not at all sure giving a person who needs to learn endgame theory an exercise out of the box involving a concept he has never seen before is all that productive. Furthermore, there is not a lot of repetition — most of the exercises involve one specific idea.

For example, the first chapter on basic pawn endings begins with the idea of the queening square. It is simply explained, and then there are 16 exercises. The problem is that they do not all deal with the queening square idea. The concept of the opposition is introduced, as well as key squares and zugzwang. I am not at all sure if the student won’t be frustrated by examining positions to which he has no clue as how to proceed. Furthermore, if he does ‘get it,’ there are no additional exercises for him to test this newly won knowledge, as he got it by reading the solutions to the exercises.

The divisions of knowledge are well thought out. There are several chapters on each ending covered — six King and Pawn, four Rook, two Queens. There are also individual chapters on Bishops, Knights, and Bishop vs. Knight.

It isn’t until we reach the last chapter that we discover the true intent of the work — to be used as a manual for teachers working with students. He sets out a complete endgame course with advice on how much time to spend on each chapter, which exercises should be used as lectures, and which should be given as exercises for the students to solve under the watchful eye of the instructor. This is to be followed by group discussion of the solutions.

Now, this makes some sense. I think Rossen has put some care into the selection of the material and outlining the course of instruction. However, the book is touted on the cover as “An experienced coach guides you through a practical training course.” This simply isn’t the case, at least for the student who has no coach.

This book probably fails a self-instructor, especially when compared to some of the better books currently on the market. It may have some value as an instruction manual to be used to teach others, but any experienced player who wishes to do so can probably do better with some effort on his own part and one of the more complete books.
Not Recommended

Other reviews by Don Aldrich

Review 1: The Critical Moment, by GM Iossif Dorfman (PDF Format)
Review 2: Shirov's 100 Wins, by Sergei Soloviov (PDF Format)
Review 3: School of Chess Excellence 1: Endgame Analysis, by Mark Dvoretsky (PDF Format)
Review 4: Winning Chess Strategies, by Yasser Seirawan (PDF Format)
Review 5: Purdy On The Endgame, compiled by Ralph Tykodi
Review 6: School of Chess Excellence 3: Strategic Play, by GM Mark Dvoretsky
Review 7: Secrets of Positional Play, by Drazen Marovic
Review 8: Tony Miles: It's Only Me, by Geoff Lawton
Review 9: Chess Strategy In Action, by John Watson
Review 10: Leko’s 100 Wins, by Sergei Soloviov
Review 11: Super Tournaments 2002, by Sergei Soloviov
Review 12: French Nd2, by Lev Psakhis
Review 13: Chess Endgame Training, by Bernd Rossen
Review 14: King's Indian Battle Plans, by IM Andrew Martin

All text Copyright Alexander Baburin unless otherwise noted