7 Best Endgame Wins of All Time

7 Best Endgame Wins of All Time

There are many beautiful endgame wins that are worth studying, where you will come across useful ideas you can use in your own games. In this article, I am going to present only a few that will hopefully inspire you to look deeper into this part of the game.

Improving your endgame understanding is a big part of every player’s quest to improve their level. There are many ways of studying endgames, with the most common being learning the most important theoretical positions.

Apart from this, it is important to know how to play and improve your position little by little in an endgame. This can be done by going over instructive games of players who are famous for their endgame play.

1. Flohr, Salo – Vidmar, Milan, Nottingham 1936

7 Best Endgame Wins of All Time

This is a very instructive rook endgame, as it can easily be reached from a position with a black isolated pawn on d5. In fact, in the game, white has just exchanged the knights on c6, reaching this structure. It might look like this endgame is easy to hold for black, but things couldn’t be further from the truth.

White has an advantage and the key to converting it is creating a second front of attack. Watch the rest of the game and learn the technique below:

2. Englisch, Berthold – Steinitz, William, London 1883

Englisch, Berthold – Steinitz, William, London 1883

This is a highly instructive game and definitely, one every player should study. Steinitz shows with impeccable technique how to play with the bishop pair and how to convert this advantage in the endgame. Notice how, in the game, he starts by placing his pawns on the color of the opponent’s bishop, then slowly gains more space and restricts white’s position even more. At the right time, he trades one of the bishops to transition into a winning endgame, where he can create a passed pawn that will give him the win.

3. Fischer, Robert – Taimanov, Mark, Vancouver 1971

7 Best Endgame Wins of All Time

Fischer was a great endgame player; choosing only one endgame from his games was a difficult task. I highly recommend you go through his games and watch how he outplayed his opponents. I picked this game, as the starting position looks equal. It’s hard to imagine that black will be under so much pressure in the future. Fischer perfectly showed how to provoke weaknesses in his opponent’s position and how to go for the right trades, at the right moment. Finally, with great technique, he shows how the bishop dominates the knight. He doesn’t rush; he tries to improve his pieces and put his opponent in zugzwang. The final blow is also something to remember as a winning idea in endgames where one side has to defend a lot of weaknesses.

4. Karpov, Anatoly – Ribli, Zoltan, Amsterdam 1980

Karpov, Anatoly – Ribli, Zoltan, Amsterdam 1980

Known for his solid and restrictive style, Karpov is another great endgame player whose games every chess player should study. He is famous for converting small advantage and the endgame was no exception. He has many great endgame wins, but I picked this one against Ribli where he illustrates clearly how to play against the opponent’s weaknesses. Black’s position looks difficult, but it doesn’t look that desperate at first sight. Karpov needed only 15 more moves to turn this into a win. The key to finding white’s best move in the diagrammed position is understanding black’s idea and locating the weakness. Once you find this, white’s move becomes obvious. Give it a shot and try to play like Karpov! What should white play here to get a clear advantage?

5. Carlsen, Magnus – Nakamura, Hikaru, London 2015

7 Best Endgame Wins of All Time

It would be impossible to leave out one of the greatest endgame players of our times, Magnus Carlsen. His endgame play is particularly inspiring and he has shown more than once that he can squeeze water out of a stone. He presses and presses, finding the most annoying moves every time, until his opponents fail to keep up the best defense. He also has many instructive endgames, but for this article, I’ve chosen his win against Hikaru Nakamura in an endgame where Magnus had the bishop pair.

The diagrammed position is a good example of his ability to find the most precise moves; moves that help him keep the upper hand and allow him to keep pressing. The white rook on d1 is under attack; a trade might seem like a natural thing to do. However, this helps improve black f8 rook. Leaving the file doesn’t seem like a desirable option either, so Magnus continues with 25.Rd2! Now, after the trade, white will get out of the fork on e2. The endgame was balanced for a long time, but, with great technique, the former World Champion squeezed a 78 moves win!

6. Granda Zuniga, Julio – Meister, Peter, Sitges 2015

Granda Zuniga, Julio – Meister, Peter, Sitges 2015

White has been pressing for a long time, but his opponent has been defending well. Black has only one weakness in this position, the b7 pawn, and white can’t add any extra pressure on it. However, Julio Granda, a very strong and imaginative player, found a beautiful idea that allowed him to play for a win. He continued with 39.Rxb7!! sacrificing a rook for only two pawns. The defence is far from easy for black and although his opponent defended well for a long time, he eventually crumbled under the pressure.

7. Topalov, Veselin – Shirov, Alexei, Linares 1998

7 Best Endgame Wins of All Time

I’m going to end this presentation with a fantastic win by Alexei Shirov. Black has two extra pawns, but we have a very tricky opposite-coloured bishops endgame. Black’s king can’t move forward and help the passed pawns advance.

He can’t go to the queenside either, since the f6 pawn would be hanging.

White’s defensive idea is to bring his king to e3 and prevent the black king from becoming too active. If he achieves this, white should be able to hold with correct play. But Shirov found an amazing idea that allows his king to enter and help promote his pawns.

Can you find the move he played here?

You might also like French Defense: Complete Guide for Both Colors as well as London System: 10 Reasons Why You Should Play It.

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Updated 04.15.2024