Saturday, 15 December 2012

Pandolfini’s 111 Winning Endgames

I have got a copy of Pandolfini’s Chess Challenges 111 Winning Endgames:

This book has been on my bookshelf for a while, but I finally found time to work through it, so it is time to give it a brief review.  I previously reviewed another book by the same author: Pandolfini’s Endgame Course.  I found that book very helpful.  I have been using it as problem book, working through it multiple times, with increasing intervals between each repetition.  Nonetheless, I was still short of endgame problems with complete solutions that I could find reasonably easily from the diagram.  Pandolfini’s 111 Winning Endgames looked worth a try, and was recommended by Dan Heisman.

As the name suggests, the book provides only 111 problems, but it is not expensive.  It presents one problem per page, with the solution overleaf on the next page.  Pandolfini gives points for the first move, and for each variation in the solution. The problems become progressively harder throughout the book.  (Nonetheless, I scored as well on the later problems as on the earlier ones.)  I solved each problem from the diagram, and wrote down my solution, before looking at the solution in the book.  I tried hard to write down replies to all the reasonable defences.

Pandolfini’s solutions appeared to be mostly accurate and reasonably complete.  I did, however, find some shortcomings.  Pandolfini did not always give the best solution.  Here is problem 91:

Pandolfini gives 1...Kc3, which forces a K+B+N vs. K endgame.   Nonetheless, I found a much better move (see below).  Pandolfini also occasionally failed to document important defensive moves.

Early on in the book, I got one solution completely wrong and one mostly wrong, and later I was completely stumped by problem 101:

(See below for the solution.)  I also failed to write down variations that would have earned me points for several problems.  Nonetheless, Pandolfini also failed in this respect. Overall, I did not do much worse than Pandolfini and his team of checkers and proof readers!

Pandolfini gives the scoring table:

Points   Rating   Percent
400      1800      91%
350      1600      80%
300      1400      68%
250      1200      57%
200      1000      46%

(N.B. I added the final column - there were 438 points in all.)  This table is rather odd. Going from 46% to 91% is an 800 point increase, which is about twice what it would be if we treated the problem set as an opponent, and used a standard rating calculation.  I have serious doubts about this table, but Pandolfini’s assessment that an 1800 player should score about 90% looks reasonable to me.  On that basis, I would expect a 1400 player to score about 50%.

Despite the minor shortcomings, I believe that this is a good book, and would recommend it.  The problems are good, and the solutions appear to be reliable (with the exceptions noted). The book is well presented, easy to use and inexpensive.  I expect that the book is most suitable for players in the 1400 to 1800 range.  111 problems is not going to make much difference to the stronger players, but it is a worthwhile contribution nonetheless, and good books like this are hard to find.

What about the solutions to the problems above?

For number 91, 1...Nc1 is mate in 8.  I did not look as far as the mate, but I did see that I could force mate or promote my pawn to a queen

For number 101, the solution is 1...Re3+.  If White plays 2.Rxe3, Black replies 2...Qa3+. 3.Qc2 or 3.Qd2 allows a skewer on the second rank.  After 3.Qd4, Black plays 3.…Qc4+ which forces a skewer on White’s queen, wherever the king goes.  Not easy to see!

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