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If you are sick of endgame books teaching you dry endings, Chess.com’s Endgame Trainer is for you.
I have not studied endgames much in my career. I tried making my way through 100 Endgames You Must Know but I felt I only really needed to know 25 or so in the book. The positions were too complex. Each problem was littered with many winning moves. Many positions were far too difficult for my rating, and the chances I saw them in a game were very low.
Chess.com’s endgame trainer brings these positions to life. It organizes each endgame by theme.
Here you can see the theme of checkmates, pawn endings, minor pieces, etc. Each theme has a set of categories. Here are the different categories for the “Minor Piece” theme.
Once you’ve selected a theme and category you can choose between doing the challenge, practicing, or learning. They will also show you your best time and a leaderboard. Here is my best for “Two Rooks Mate” (try it here), which is inside the “checkmates” theme. Needs work.
Challenge mode in the endgame trainer is where you will likely spend the majority of your time. Here you’re able to solve 5 positions of your chosen theme/category as fast as possible. Chess.com will track your time which you can compare against your previous times. Perhaps chess.com should implement a “Mario Kart ghost car” feature.
The problem ends when you solve the problem, stalemate your opponent, or draw due to insufficient material.
One thing I love is you can convert the position however you’d like. You aren’t forced to play a single winning move when many are available. If you take a longer time to convert- no problem! In real chess, you aren’t punished if your rook endgame conversion takes an extra 10 moves, and you won’t be punished in this endgame trainer either. Find your winning combination and you’re set.
If you’re rusty on a certain endgame you will want to spend some time practicing before you jump into the challenge. In practice mode, you are set up on an analysis board with an engine. You will make moves and play out positions. Chess.com’s interface will give you feedback on if you made the best move. It will offer you alternate moves, and tell you when you blunder (although I wouldn’t know 😅).
Chess.com also leaves you with an analysis board so you can make comments on the position and come back to review at a later time.
Practice mode will let you play out each position in the challenge without the pressure of the clock. Work through each problem to prepare yourself for the challenge.
If you’re brand new to a certain endgame, Chess.com provides you with helpful, relevant videos and articles for how to convert. If you want to learn how to convert a two-bishop mate, for example. Chess.com links you here; a 10-year-old, tried-and-true, article about how to convert these positions. The same is true for any endgame you want to study and practice in their trainer.
Areas of Improvement
This endgame trainer is very new so I assume we’ll see a bunch of improvements and iterations over the years. I’d like to point out two things I’d like to see improved.
First– progress is not tracked. I’d like to be able to get a quick view into which endgames I’ve studied and how much I’ve studied them. Neither the themes nor the categories view gives insight. If there is an endgame I haven’t learned or studied, I’d have to click all the way through and see if there is a record time listed or not. A little checkmark or star rating would go a long way.
Second– a problem in challenge mode should end when the endgame can no longer be converted. Take this example from knight vs pawn.
Try this position here. White is winning here and can deliver checkmate. If white plays 1. Nf1, the only move available for black is 1…h2, leaving us 2. Ng3#.
If we make terrible moves, however, the problem continues. We can let black get a queen and win our knight (and I have in many of my games), and we’re still stuck in the problem.
The trainer should fail the problem here, just as it does with a stalemate. We’re forced to play it out in challenge mode.
Take it Slow
There are many, many endgames in this trainer for you to practice. If you’re a club player, you don’t need all these memorized. Take your study slow and study for comprehension, not completion. I would drill these endgames over and over until they’re second nature.
Amateurs Practice Until They Get It Right; Professionals Practice Until They Can’t Get It Wrong
And don’t go overboard either. ChessGoals study plans don’t recommend spending more than roughly 5% of your time on endgames. Learn what you need to know for your rating and don’t go overboard.
Keep it Fun
Studying chess should be fun. Luckily, chess.com’s endgame trainer makes studying endgames fun and doable.
When I dropped the London System, my main motivation was that I was getting the same positions over and over and the game was not as fun for me. This should be true for all players if your goal is long-term improvement. You won’t improve over a long period of time if you aren’t enjoying the game; you’ll quit.
In a world of boring endgames, Chess.com’s Endgame Trainer is a lot of fun! It will help you learn how to win endgames of all different sorts and practice in a new, fun way. I love that you can jump right into solving real problems on a chessboard, rather than poring over theory.