Create your free account

By clicking “Register”, you agree to our
terms of service and privacy policy

Log in

OR

Reset password

  • GM Avetik Grigoryan GM Avetik Grigoryan

Endgame roadmap: 9 strategies on how to play chess endgames

Do you struggle in endgames? GM Avetik Grigoryan shares his compass with 9 chess endgame strategies that’ll helped an improver raise 100 points!

Endgames | 9 min read
Endgame roadmap: 9 strategies on how to play chess endgames

“They offered me funding, connections, and a promise of fast growth. I asked them to teach me how to think.” - Billy the Great 

Do you read endgame books, learn theoretical endgames, and watch courses but still have problems in this phase of the game?

Do you find yourself in situations where you don’t know what to do in endgames?

Does it happen that you don’t know how to play in chess endgames

If you’re like most players, you probably will say yes. The good news is that after reading this article, you’ll not be like most players anymore!

Here, I’m not going to teach you boring theoretical stuff or Grandmaster-level subtle techniques. But I’ll share with you my latest invention – An endgame compass

This compass contains practical endgame strategies so that you’ll never be lost in the endgames and will always know what to do.

Before that, let me tell you a story of the guy who inspired me to create this compass.

From Grandmaster to Michelangelo 

A few months ago, one of our affiliate partners came with a unique request.
Instead of withdrawing his commission, he asked us if we could analyze his games and help with a problem he faces. 

When our client support girls forwarded the email to me, I recognized the guy. And as I liked him very much, I said yes.😄

He joined us as a student at the beginning of 2022, and quickly raised his rating from 1,400 to 1,900 in a few months and then reached a plateau.

He couldn’t raise his rating for the next 3 months and achieve his goal of crossing the 2,000 rating barrier. 

During the call, when I asked him why does he think he got a plateau, he pleasantly surprised me with how prepared and objective he was. 

He said “I lose almost every equal endgame. I’ve already read 6 books about endgames, but they didn’t help me much. I still lose a lot.”

I started to briefly check his knowledge of basic theoretical endgames when he interrupted me.
“I know theoretical endgames. I watched your course “100 Classical Endgames course too. It dramatically helped me, but I still don’t know what to do in the endgames. I don’t know how to think.”

My mind started to run.

“How to think in the endgames…Yes!!!
What an important point we missed in our courses.
Definitely, it should have been first before theoretical endgames and others…”

I don’t know for how long I was with my thoughts when he said “Avetik, you’re frozen. Are you still here or do we have a problem with the internet?”😁😁

I asked him to give me time and I’ll be back. 

I came down to the 1st floor where our coaches work and asked them if there are any endgame books that teach how to think.

And I didn’t accept their immediate answer, “No, mainly theoretical endgames and examples from games."

I asked my team to carefully check it out. On Sunday their answer didn’t change.  

So on Tuesday (I don’t work on Mondays) morning, I turned off my phone, internet, and everything else.

I took out a pen and paper, put on my headphones, and set my Spotify playlist for creative thinking, and dove into work.

I wanted to see if I could create a roadmap for the endgames. 

I came up with some rules and principles, but I couldn’t connect them. It wasn’t a roadmap. It was just separate principles. Useful, but still not what I wanted. 

So, I was like a painter, drawing something on my paper, trying to connect the dots. Many papers went into the recycle bin.

My wife approached laughing and said, “Av, are you a Grandmaster or Michelangelo”? 😁😁

Keeping in mind Edison's “I have not failed 10,000 times—I've successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work”, I continued working and on the next day I had the roadmap ready! 

The more I looked at it, trying to identify gaps or places to improve, the more I was proud of myself! (Yes I granted myself my favorite Ice-cream bowl.) 

Here is what I’ve got! 

The endgame roadmap on paper

Crossing 2,000 with my invention

The next day I called the guy and without showing any examples, showed only my invention, the roadmap I had created for the endgames. This review took just 5 minutes. 

When after 3 weeks he sent me a screenshot of having achieved 2,008 on chess com (crossing 2,000 and making his dream), I knew I was onto something big! 

I then added additional details to the Roadmap and worked to prepare a formal course for our students.

Today we uploaded the last sections of the course, and if you can’t wait to watch it, you can leave this article and jump right there. 

But if you can, let me briefly show you the roadmap. 

9 strategies that will improve your chess endgame

Here is how it looks. 

Yes, these are the same notes from my original outline, with added nuances on each of the roads/strategies. 

Let me briefly explain it to you so you’ll always remember how to play in the endgames.

1. Get a Queen

In the opening stage, we try to achieve different things, but mainly they all are around effective development of the pieces, fighting for the center, and taking the King to safety. (not castling! as many wrongly recommend.)

(If you are below 1,500 and haven’t checked out our Opening Principles course, it’s a MUST)

In the middlegame, there are different principles, but all focus on one outcome- mating the opponent’s King. 

In the endgames, nothing has changed.
We should still try to mate the King.
And if you ask “But how to do that with limited resources on the board?”, that's a good question! The answer is - we need a Queen!
That's why the pawns, especially the passed pawns, become the star of the show!



2. Create a passed pawn

The 2nd step. What if we don’t have a passed pawn?
And we can’t get a Queen?

The answer is we have to create one!

Creating a passed pawn in Bishop vs Knight endgame example

What plan should we choose? 

What plan should we choose? If you said let’s go 1.a4, 2.a5 and create a passed pawn - you got the point!
Using a pawn majority to create a passed pawn is the main way and there are 4 other ways that you’ll find in the course. (2 might be logical, but 2 are unexpected :) ) 

3. Win pawns  

But what if we don’t have a pawn majority?
We should try to win pawns, so we can get a pawn majority, then create a passed pawn, then get a Queen and then dadaaaam… Mate!

The 2 main ways are:

1. Attacking the weak pawns
2. Entering the opponent’s camp

Nd5 to win the pawn on c7  Rook enters the opponent's camp

You’ll learn additional ways in the course.

Now, what if we don’t have a passed pawn, we don’t have a pawn majority and we can’t win any pawn?
The answer is the following - we have to! :D

We can’t win them immediately? We’ll do it slowly. 

And the next 4 paths lead to the main road. 

4. Activate the pieces

If you’ve watched our courses, educational streams, and especially the Happy Pieces course, you know the importance of having active pieces!

The same is true in the endgames. 

We shouldn’t have sad pieces but if we do we need to take them to effective positions. Which squares are the most effective for our pieces?

Usually, the answer is in the center. But in the endgames, it’s often not the case. Below is an important rule to remember. 

In the endgame, the pieces are effective if they target or potentially can target the opponent’s weak pawns! 

Below is an example. 

5. Activate the King

You might have heard “Activate the King” in the endgames. But now you know why we do this. 

Mainly for winning pawns! 

We do not just blindly take the King to the center as many resources advise.
As with the other pieces, we try to target the opponent’s weak pawns. And if there are no weak pawns, only then we usually take the king to the center. 

Cohn E. - Rubinstein A. 1909
Cohn E - Rubinstein A, 1909 - example on king activation

In our classical endgames course, you might have seen this position.
As you remember or guess, the correct plan isn’t Kd6, Kd5…
But Kf6, Kg5, Kh4… Targeting the weak pawn on h2. 

Here is a rule to remember:
In the endgame, try to activate your King toward the opponent’s weak pawns. If there aren’t weak pawns - then the King usually goes towards the center.

6. Create weak pawns 

Now, what if our pieces are active and the opponent still doesn’t have a weak pawn? What do we do?
We have to create weak pawns! 

In the course, you’ll learn about the 4 ways of creating weak pawns:

1. Winning pawns (often when you win a pawn, the adjacent pawn(s) become weak!)
2. Exchanging pawns
3. Exchanging pieces
4. Provoking 

7. Create weak squares

As we’ve learned, we’ll often try to win pawns by entering the opponent’s camp. And we can easily do this by using weak squares.

King marches to weak b5 or d5 square

And another great way of using weak squares is to make them outposts for our pieces, where they can become much happier than before! 

Knight jumps to the d5 outpost

Dear friend, this is the main road we’ll use to get to the opponent's King. 

We need a Queen, for that we need a passed pawn, for a passed pawn we often need a pawn majority, to achieve a pawn majority we need to win pawns.
And activating the pieces, the King, and using the weak pawns and weak squares are paths to remember! 

Now when you know the main road, let me introduce you to the shortcut to the opponent’s king. 

8. Attack the King directly

Directly mating the King in the endgame will not often happen because of limited resources on the board. But even in this phase of the game, there will be chances to do it.

Here is an example:

In the course, you’ll find the 3 main scenarios when you should think about directly attacking the opponent’s King, even though it's an endgame.

9. Use tactics - they are everywhere

So far I’ve taught you the strategy of how your thinking process should be in the endgame. But in chess, in life, and in every area, strategy without tactics is handicapped. 

While in the endgames tactics will happen more rarely than in the middlegame but they still occur.
And tactics will often help in our strategy. 

Here is an example.

Conclusion

Dear friend,

Here is the full roadmap of the endgame.
I’m giving it to you like a compass to navigate the endgame. You can always use it when you're not sure what to do and how to think in the endgame.

Feel free to download and keep this with you. 

About the course

In this endgame roadmap course I’ve prepared for you, you’ll deepen your knowledge with many examples and you’ll also learn:

  • 4 types of strong passed pawns we look for
  • When and when not to push the passed pawns 
  • 5 ways to create a passed pawn 
  • When to activate the pieces first and when the King 
  • The question that will help you to identify this
  • 4 ways to create a weak pawn 
  • 3 scenarios when you should think about a straight mating attack 
  • Strategies on how to play if you’re the one to defend
  • The 1st question you should answer when defending 

And much more…

Endgame Roadmap course

If you have any of our Essential or PRO plans, you have free access to this and ALL our chess courses as well.

And if you don’t, you can get a plan here which comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. 

P.S. Looking forward to seeing you in the course and reading your thoughts and feedback in our forum

For your growth,
GM Avetik

Originally published Sep 20, 2022

We use cookies to make ChessMood's website a better place. Cookies help to provide a more personalized experience, and web analytics for us. To learn more about the different cookies we're using, check out our Cookie policy.