Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Alburt & Krogius’s Just the Facts!

I have been using the second edition of Lev Alburt and Nikolay Krogius’s endgame book Just the Facts!, which is Volume 7 of Alburt’s Comprehensive Chess Course.

It is a very good book.  The material is well chosen, with a good balance between highly simplified positions and more complex examples.  The book is 412 pages long, but that statistic is misleading.  It has a large diagram every six moves or so, large print and plenty of white space.  This makes the book easy to use, but some books compress the same amount of information into half as many pages.  (Some variations go on for 12 moves or so without a diagram, and I found these difficult to follow without a board, but this was not a great problem.)  The book has the "Important Positions to Look For" at the start of each chapter, and “Learning Exercises” at the end.  I found these helpful.  More exercises would have been better: two or three times as many would not have added many pages to the book.

The number of simplified positions in this book is about the same as that in Yuri Averbakh’s Chess Endings: Essential Knowledge.  The main difference is that Averbakh has one chapter on “Practical Endings” (i.e. more complex examples), whereas Alburt & Krogius sprinkles this material around the book, devoting about half of it to this topic. Alburt & Krogius also omits some very elementary endgames, which are included in the first two volumes of the Comprehensive Chess Course, but this should not be a problem for most readers.  Alburt & Krogius has the huge advantage that it most of it can be read without using a chess board, which not only saves a lot of time, but also gives practice at visualising positions.  I often find this difficult when most of the “land marks” have gone, and (with less alternatives) I have to think more moves ahead.  Alburt & Krogius’s better coverage of more complex positions was not only useful in itself, but also made the book more interesting.  Averbakh is a good book, but I found it a little dull.  I would declare it a draw on the quality of material and the clarity of the explanations given, but I found Alburt & Krogius more effective.

Here is one of that book’s simpler “more complex examples”:

White plays 1.f4 exf4 2.d4 Ke6 3.Kg2 Kd7 4.Kf3 Ke7 5.Kxf4 Kb6 6.Ke4 Kxb5 7.Kd5.

This book appears to get better reviews than the other volumes of the Comprehensive Chess Course, and won the Chess Journalists of America’s Book of the year.  Krogius was also Spassky’s coach, so perhaps the content of this volume is especially good. The book is not particularly cheap, but the presentation is excellent, and it is good value.  It provides a better introduction to the endgame than any of my old books.

I read this book a year ago and returned to it recently.  Not surprisingly, I remembered very little.   With its excellent presentation, this is a book to read and reread, to thoroughly learn and retain the lessons that it has to teach.  Learning some typical endgames is a good start, but it is also necessary to practice on a large number of examples to gain real proficiency.

The front cover of  Alburt & Krogius quotes Smyslov: "The right endgame knowledge is the magic key to chess mastery.  This book gives you that key."  The back cover says: "The Comprehensive Chess Course can take you from beginner to master."  In reality, this book is no more than an introduction, but is very useful nonetheless.  I would recommend it as a time efficient introduction to the endgame, but for the fine detail, you will have to look elsewhere.

Also see: Training Progress Report


  1. Thanks for the useful description. As just one point, the frequency of diagrams is a big point for me in evaluating the practical benefit and ease of use of a book.

  2. I found this book to be a great introduction to the endgame. However I feel that Pandolfini's book is a better bargain as it contains the vast majority of basic positions for one to train with. (I train them against a variety of engines)

    And for explanations I think Silman's book is a bit better although I don't like the organizational method of Silman's book but his explanatory prose cannot be beat. (although Nunn gives him a run for the money.

  3. A&K is a good introduction to the simple endgames and the conduct of the more complicated ones.

    Pandolfini is a great book and cheap. It has more then K&A on the simplified endgames, and is dead easy to follow from the diagrams, but does not address the more complicated endgames.

    A&K leaves me scratching my head sometimes. Some of Averbakh’s explanations are better. Pandolfini’s explanations are always good, despite his eccentric use of language, and the extra positions he discusses often clarify matters too.

    Chernev looks very interesting, but I have not had time to read it.

  4. I use Chesstempo Endgame Theory and Chessimo-Endgame. If i dont understand whats going on i use Chessbase Fundamental Endings. I still have the books of Silman and Awerbach ( just in case .. ) but practicaly i dont use them anymore.

    I would need to work on early endgames ( >> 6 pieces ), i think that would be very beneficial.

  5. I will soon be commenting on Chessimo Endgames 01. Google could not find any references to Chessbase Fundamental Endings. Is that the correct name?

  6. For strategic endgames (6+ pieces) : Shereshevski, Lars Bo Hansen and Glen Flear's books are great.

    In software, I only know Panchenko's 'Theory and Practice of chess endgames' which partially adresses this topic.

  7. He might be referring to the book Fundamental Chess Endings by Karsten and Mueller.

    Kind of an updates Fine's.

    I had it but preferred Nunn's and Silman's books and just training with Pandolfini and soon Chessimo.

  8. I messed it up, i use the
    Chessbase Endgames 1- DVD'S from Müller. http://www.chessbase-shop.com/en/authors/37?ref=RF36-BU6JTC6QHH

    see examples from the videos here

    The Book of Müller is named Fundamental Chess Endings

    I had f.e. big problems with KRBKR at CT and Müllers Videos did help. You dont find that Endgame in many Endgamebooks.