Grandmaster Jose Raul Capablanca, noted for his precision endgame play, reportedly once said about chess, “you must study the endgame before anything else.” Chess players neglect studying the endgame, regarding them as tedious and dull. Endgame study is the best pathto chess improvement. Understandably, players would rather unleash a brilliant 10 move combination that ends in a spectacular mate than grind through a tedious endgame. After playing a precision opening, keeping the tension of the middle game that leaves a small advantage, it’s time to cool down and play the ending. Outplaying opponents in a tight endgame makes them more interesting.
The age of endgame books isn't as important as the opening. Endgames are based on concepts that remain the same. Older books can be as instructive as new ones, and the best have been re-edited to algebraic notation, and to eliminate errors. Newer books may use chess computers to check move analysis. The importance is how well they explain the subject. A trainer may suggest others than the ones listed here. If there’s a chess author you like, try his endgame book. There are many to choose from. Check out some of these and it may help checkmate your opponent's king.
These books cover concepts of the major endings. They start with king against pawn and continue to include the minor pieces against pawns and each other, and conclude with major piece endings. By understanding the basic concepts in these books, a players play will improve a great deal. These books introduce the player to endgame strategy and tactics. These books are an overview, and less informative in some areas than others. The best are good beginning instruction and can be used up to master strength. They are a good place to start.
One of the best of these books is Chess Endings: Essential Knowledge by Yuri Averbakh. Averbakh was a part of the Soviet chess machine and partially responsible for setting up the training program for Soviet school children. He worked and trained with some of the Soviet champions. He was part of Soviet hierarchy during the 1972 Fischer-Spassky match.
Silman’s Complete Endgame Course: From Beginner to Master by Jeremy Silman. He is a popular chess writer and easy to understand.
Practical Chess Endings by Paul Keres is an older book re-edited to algebraic notation. It is somewhat of an encyclopedia, but a good basic book.
Winning Chess Endings by Yasser Seirawan is a basic book that has some emphasis on how the middle game influences the ending. He approaches the game to play the middle game so as to reach a winnable ending.
Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual by Mark Dvoretsky is a book that is more than basic. It’s considered the best theoretical endgame book and best for better players that understand endgame basics.
Encyclopedic Endgame Books
Encyclopedic endgame books are devote d to one situation such as king versus pawn. Their purpose is to review a game for improvements, or to analyze an adjourned game. They are important after the basics are learned.
Basic Chess Endings by Ruben Fine was one of the first books to break endings down into different categories. Don’t be mislead by the title. It isn’t basic. It’s an old book that is considered a classic. Pal Benko has edited the book to update the endings and eliminate errors and typos.
Batsford Chess Endings by Speelman, Tisdall and Bob Wade. This is another encyclopedic book.
The most complete are books that cover one area, such as king and pawn endings. Averbakh’s 5 books, Comprehensive Chess Endings, is such a series. Each covers a specific piece configuration, such as minor piece, or major piece endings. These are used as reference to study adjourned games. It is an older series, but still considered the standard.
Books and endgame articles may cover complete games with an orientation to the endgame. Capablanca’s Best Chess Endings: 60 Complete Games by Irving Chernev, is one of these.
Endgame knowledge can guide middlegame play. By looking at what kind of endgame may develop from a position, a player can make moves to shift the game to a favorable endgame position. Playing complete games of endgame experts such as Capablanca, Rubenstein and Karpov are helpful to understand the whole process from opening, middlegame to endgame.