Understanding Rook Endgames

Karsten Müller, Yakov Konoval

Reviewer: John Donaldson
287 pages

Understanding Rook Endgames is a book that illustrates that computer related discoveries are not confined to the opening. It is simultaneously a guide to the richness and subtlety of chess at its highest level and how rarely humans reach such heights! Rook and Pawn endgames can be so complex that not only do the best humans routinely butcher them, so do silicon oracles! The latter stumble when they only have access to five piece databases – not the newer six piece databases. With the latter the machines play positions with six pieces or less perfectly.

Unfortunately one of the drawbacks of the year 2016 is that while computers can play positions perfectly, they cannot explain to us what they are doing which is often far from obvious. One drawback of Understanding Rook Endgames is that only strong players will be able to understand what is going on in the many long sub variations that are present throughout this book.

That is not to say that all of Understanding Rook Endgames is impractical. Chapter six has several rook + four pawns versus rook + three pawns with the extra pawn on the other wing – positions that are a frequent visitor to modern tournament praxis.

Understanding Rook Endgames will be worth its weight in gold to the ambitious who are willing to make the effort to glean its secrets. For them this is just the right book. Others, whose knowledge of rook and pawn endings is less advanced and who are more practical, will want to start first with Practical Rook Endgames by Edmar Mednis, than advance to A Practical Guide to Rook Endgames by Nikolay Minev and finally A Survival Guide to Rook Endings by John Emms.