Final Countdown, The

Willem Hajenius

Reviewer: Jeremy Silman
Cadogan Chess
128 pages

I was recently lecturing for several days at a very nice International Open North of Toronto and was sharing a bungalow with grandmasters Kudrin and Serper. One day I was relaxing between endless raves and pulled out my copy of The Final Countdown. Serper (who is an extremely talented player) asked what I was looking at. I handed it to him and he glanced at the contents. “Why would anyone want to read this?”” he asked.

Other grandmasters passed it around and also looked at me as if I was insane. Perhaps the endgame doesn’t interest most professionals in this part of the world, but I find this phase to be completely engrossing. This wonderful little book is a case in point: though the title makes one think of a nuclear thriller, all we really get is a steady diet of King and pawn endgames… one after the other after the other. To make matters even “worse,” they are very, very complicated endgames that discuss the ideas surrounding coordinate squares in detail.
Exciting stuff? Well… yes, I think it is! All the endings are from real games (I can’t stand composed positions where one side is ten pieces up) and all are discussed in a very lively, story-oriented style. In other words, it really IS fun to read!
A good way to go over a book like this is to sit down with a friend and discuss the ideas together. Challenge each other to prove the solutions given. In a very short time you will realize that there isn’t any such thing as a simple King and pawn endgame! You might also discover a kind of beauty that will take your breath away.
All you good players out there might want to pick up a copy of The Final Countdown. You’ll be happy if you like it and, if you don’t, you can always blame the poor reviewer!