"Endgame Strategy" by Mikhail Shereshevsky

  • GM BryanSmith
  • | 27 dec. 2012
  • | 24356 x bekeken
  • | 28 reacties

This week's book review will be of the classic Endgame Strategy by Mikhail Shereshevsky.

This book - as its name implies - is about the endgame. However, it is not really about basic endgames (i.e. rook and pawn against rook). It is not a book of endgame theory, but rather is a manual of how to play complex endings, or even - you could say -queenless middlegames. Most examples begin with several sets of minor pieces, rooks; others are heavy piece endings with each side having two rooks and a queen.

Thus, the book is not really covering extremely simplified positions where calculation and knowledge are key, but rather more complex positions where understanding and positional judgement are the most important factors, yet the game no longer has the "middlegame character".

The book was first published in Russian in 1981, translated to English by Ken Neat and first published in English in 1985.

Shereshevsky is an International Master from Belarus. He is mostly known as a trainer. I have another - very interesting - book by him called The Soviet Chess Conveyor. He also wrote Mastering the Endgame with Leonid Slutsky.


Where I got it

This is another book which I don't really know how I got. I think I've had it since I was a teenager but I never spent much time on it until later.

What's good about it

The aim of this book is to improve a player's "class" in the endgame - to fine-tune his judgment of positions, to introduce him to common methods, and to teach strategy. In other words, it helps a player to better "feel" a position - who stands better and what needs to be done.

There is a huge variety in the examples. There are examples of opposite-colored bishops, rook and pawn endings, positions with each side having a minor piece and lots of pawns, heavy piece endings, and positions which are basically queenless middlegames, with all other pieces on the board and an intact pawn structure. By using archetypal examples of various kinds of endings, the author is trying to let the reader understand better the general battle lines. There is a particular emphasis on the battle between knight and bishop.

Teaching - or learning - chess is complicated. Unlike other fields, most of it is not specific knowledge. If you teach a language, for example, the student needs to know that this word means this, that the correct sentence structure is this, that the ending for, i.e. accusative case is this. And then they just apply their exact knowledge. With chess, exact knowledge is only valuable in openings and theoretical endgames. And in the case of openings, it is disputable exact knowledge, since a verdict on a specific line of play could be overturned.

The student is extremely unlikely to get any of the exact same positions as are in this book in his own games. The key is for the student to improve his thinking process by seeing illustrative examples. This would hopefully allow him to get to the heart of other positions more quickly.

I think this book is best for players 1300 and up, but really I don't see the harm in reading books above your level, either.

How it impacted me

I don't think I read this book much when I was younger. I first started reading it and playing over some of the examples in the fall of 2009, I believe.

Often people have said that I am not very good at endgames. I do think there is some truth to that, even if their assessment might be based on some blitz games, and not tournament games where I have more time to figure things out. In particular, one Russian friend loved to tell me that I am terrible at endgames. I think the idea is that - since I never had a coach - I would have less understanding of the type of chess that is based on general understanding, for which a more experienced player can hand down the "tradition". Thus my chess level would be composed more of those things which are easier to learn by oneself - i.e. tactics, openings, attacking methods, etc.

In any case, in 2009 I decided I could benefit from this book, and started looking at it more seriously. I think it did help me to appreciate complex endings more. Some time around then I played the following game with a tough, queenless middlegame. At the time I felt it was a pretty good game and it seemed that the book had some influence on me. Of course, it is far from flawless:

An Excerpt

Here are the annotations to the game Benko-Parma, Belgrade 1964, from the chapter "The Principle of Two Weaknesses".

Any Downsides?

This book is highly respected for a reason, but it is not obvious when you first see it. The comments are very terse and simple. There is not a huge amount of analysis. In some of the examples there are other possibilities for the opposing side that Shereshevsky doesn't address, and this can be frustrating. Sure, you can analyze the position for yourself and learn from that, but often you will want to hear what the author would say about some other possibility.

Nevertheless, I think Shereshevsky's terse comments are very directed, and were designed to affect the reader. He's not always trying to prove his point - you have to just believe him. Maybe this is because he is a trainer more than a practical player.

The other criticism is that a fairly large number of the examples come from very famous old games, e.g. by Alekhine, Botvinnik, Lasker, Capablanca. Many players will have already seen those games.

What you should eat/drink while reading this book

Vodka. But not too much, or you won't learn it well. And if you are under 21 in the U.S.(18 or 16 in most other countries), then you should drink Sprite as a substitute.


  • 3 jaar geleden


    Just picked this one up at Half Priced Books. I have barely touched it so far but, my first criticism would be that it needs far more diagrams of the positions.

  • 3 jaar geleden


  • 3 jaar geleden


    I actually have a copy of "The Soviet Chess Conveyor, and it is a wonderful book.  I would describe it as similar to some of Devoretsky and Yusopov's books but more accessible to non-titled players.

    I would definitely enjoy Bryan's take on the book.

  • 3 jaar geleden


    I have heard nice things about The Soviet Chess Conveyor a very difficult book to find at a decent price. Perhaps you can review that one. This book "Endgame Strategy" is one of my favorite books and one I use as tournament preparation especially after a long layoff.

    Ernie a.k.a

    Soulpower 74

  • 3 jaar geleden


    Mine has a different cover, it's a 1985 edition. Bryan's book seems to be a newer one. 

  • 3 jaar geleden

    IM pfren

    Basically, it's very unlikely to find a current engine which plays the endgame decently. Being a correspondence player at LSS, I never pay any serious attention to the engine's suggestions in the endgame.

  • 3 jaar geleden


    cf.p.110 refers to Flohr-Capablanca Moscow 1936.Capablanca's quote was "When your opponent has a bishop,keep your pawns on squares of the same color as this bishop.But if you have a bishop,then,irrespective of whether or not the opponent has a bishop,keep your pawns on squares of the opposite color to that of your bishop"(Last Chess Lectures,Capablanca)

  • 3 jaar geleden


    Great review!

  • 3 jaar geleden


    @Bogatyatogor:  It is unlikely that every line of any older chess book will stand up to modern computer analysis.  That is beside the point in a book such as this in my view.  The purpose of the book is to learn to understand general ideas and approaches.  One can benefit from this even if every line is not perfect as long as the overall approach is strategically sound.

    For instance, many of Paul Morphy's openings are, by modern standards, not quite correct.  Some are downright unsound.  This does not mean that we have nothing to learn from Morphy.  His games still teach us a lot about how to approach open positions in the broad strategic sense.

  • 3 jaar geleden


    I have an older Pergamon copy, is it the same?

  • 3 jaar geleden


    cf. p110 means refer to p 110 (although it's actually a slight misuse of cf.). As to what is on p 110 I do not know the specifics, but Capablanca's famous advice is that pawns ought to go on the opposite color as your own bishop and the same as your opponent's.

  • 3 jaar geleden

    NM Goala

    What does the "(cf.p.110)" mean in your excerpt: Capablanca's advice on the placing of pawns in endings with bishops (cf.p.110)

  • 3 jaar geleden


    I love this book too! I'm in the middle of reading it for the second time!

  • 3 jaar geleden


  • 3 jaar geleden



    Not specifically, the idea is to arm the player with certain methods of play that apply in complex endgames with particular characteristics. Some chapter titles might help

    4. The problem of exchanging

    7. The principle of two weaknesses (absolutely critical, this is a fundamental strategy for most endgames - my comment)

    9. Suppressing the opponents counterplay

    etc, etc

    Some positions are queenless middlegames whereas others are more straightforward Bishop and pawns v Knight and pawns. This is one of the best chess books ever written in my opinion, gives you practical ideas for how to proceed in positions that a lot of amateur players just give up as draws.

  • 3 jaar geleden

    NM grumpyguru

    Great review, thanks.  I read this book one summer and went from Class C to Class A quickly.  I am sure I can benefit from another reading.  Great topic for an article series by the way. 

  • 3 jaar geleden


    Excellent review Bryan. I made it through 10 Chapters of this book myself and absorbed a lot. Those ol' Cadogan books are Treasures.

  • 3 jaar geleden

    CM JamesColeman

    @ Taylorgus - He can, I've played that myself a few times with reasonable results. After the typical  10. Be3 Nxe4 11. Bd5 Qd7 12. Bxe4 d5 - followed by ...e5-e4 - Black will regain the piece in one way or another. White does have some advantage but it's a decent surprise weapon and there are some tricks for White to be aware of.

  • 3 jaar geleden


    @Taylorgus 10. Be3 Nxe4 11. Bd5 is highly unpleasant for black to say the least

  • 3 jaar geleden


    In the first example (Smith v. Schroer), after 10 Be3, why can't black just take the pawn on e4 (i.e. N x e4)? I don't see an immediate refutation, but there must be some reason.

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