Mikhail Shereshevsky, Endgame Strategy

Tuesday, May 7, 2024: Book Review by Uwe Bekemann

"Endgame Strategy" by Mikhail Shereshevsky is based on a work of the same name which has become a classic and was published by Everyman Chess in 1994. Its contents have been revised, updated and expanded for the new edition, now published by New In Chess (NIC), in 2022. The current work concentrates on the author's own analyses, as the publisher states on the first pages, so that, compared to the original Russian edition, numerous quotations from other authors have been omitted.
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Because modern endgame play under the influence of the computer shows some differences to that in the time of the first edition, the focus was also directed on this.
Firstly, a word about the author: Mikhail Shereshevsky is an International Master, coach and author. He is of Belarusian descent and is listed as a Russian player by FIDE. He emigrated to Bulgaria in 1990.
"Endgame Strategy" contains 15 chapters dedicated to the most important principles of endgame strategy. In some cases, the reader can already realise from the chapter title which specific topic awaits him in the chapter, for example "Centralisation of the king", "The principle often two weaknesses", "The initiative in the endgame" or "Defending inferior positions". In some cases, the concrete tips on endgame management are hidden behind an abstract chapter title such as "Do not hurry" or "Squeezing blood from a stone".
Shereshevsky uses 228 examples, most of them come from tournament practice but can also be studies, to discuss the principles on which the player can base his endgame planning. He is primarily concerned with the motives on which a plan can be based. The reader learns to plan by being introduced to the helpful principles, and these are explained in order to enable him to recognise the possibility to play by using a principle in his own games and then to apply it in a qualified manner. For example, the aim is to recognise the constellation in which the centralisation of the king can be used and the possible way to implement it. Similarly, the player should remember the possibility of playing against two opponent's weaknesses when they have accured. Once he has recognised these weaknesses in his opponent's position, he can plan his game accordingly. Aspects of endgame tactics can then be added during realisation his plan.
The author explains in great detail. The proportion of text in this work is correspondingly high. The included variants illustrate the concrete realisation of a plan as well as possible incorrect paths. The explanations are designed in a way that even less experienced players can make good use of them.
Numerous diagrams support the reader in working through the examples, most of them start with an advanced game position.
Now the question may arise which value a book such as "Endgame Strategy" can have for the modern correspondence chess player who has the tablebases at his disposal for his endgame play and who can use powerful engines. These tools cannot replace a qualified endgame strategy. The tablebases only cover positions with a few pieces and the engines cannot calculate all possible lines in concrete terms.
I have checked some example positions from the book with several engines to see whether their calculated proposals match the results from the book. I focussed on examples in which there is still quite a lot of material on the board. In most cases, the engines didn't find the recommended strategic path at first. However, when I showed them this afterwards, they changed their recommendations. An interesting example of this can be found on page 31, which shows a game between Sokolov and Korchnoi from 1987, in which the most frequently suggested calculation result corresponds to the move executed by Kortchnoi in the game, but which was not the best option. The principled centralisation of the king was the better alternative.
If the correspondence chess player knows the principles of strategic endgame management, he can aim for a future strategically favourable position from the current one.
On page 119, the author makes a remarkable statement that also applies to correspondence chess players: he explains that in today's modern chess, opening positions can be endgame positions, whereby he makes a reference to the transformation of certain opening variations into the endgame. According to this view, endgame strategy is already relevant as a topic in the choice of openings.
Conclusion: "Endgame Strategy" is a classic textbook which, because of its revision, updating and expansion, provides the reader with a modern guide to strategic endgame planning in his games. I consider the main target reader to be the club players, but the book can also be used by less experienced players.
The modern correspondence chess player who works with tablebases and engines can also take benefit from the book, because it shows him how his strategic planning can incorporate aspects that are neither absolutely calculatetable for the engines nor have become dispensable due to the contents of the tablebases.
The review copy was kindly provided by Schach E. Niggemann (www.schachversand.de).
[Uwe Bekemann]

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