Does common-sense logic work in the chess end game? Simple logic definitely can help you, provided you combine it with knowledge of the general type of ending in which you find yourself, and you work out the move calculations that are often critical. Some chess books can be extremely useful for increasing your knowledge of end games, but the brute-force mental calculations are still needed.
Many end game problems can be especially challenging for beginners. The following is better understood by chess players with more experience than raw beginners, at least a little more over-the-board experience with endings.
I recently played a casual game at a chess club in West Valley, Utah. To see the first half of that game, the opening and middle game and beginning of the end game, see this (on the site The Caress of Chess): chess club in Utah (informal game).
I believe I had an advantage going into the end game, but it wasn’t easy for me to win. My opponent was obviously no novice. Here is the position after my 46th move (I was White):
Diagram-1 Black to move (can he survive?)
My opponent attacked my rook with Kc2 (Diagram-1) and resigned after I captured the d2 pawn, sacrificing my rook. It was obvious to both of us that, after the black king takes that rook, White can move Kd5 with no hope for Black to advance the pawn on the c-file.
But what if my opponent had instead advanced that pawn on the c-file? Let’s look at that:
46) . . . . c5
Diagram-2 after Black advanced a pawn to c5
Let’s look at Diagram-2 logically. What is the best way for White to approach a win? We’ll begin by examining Black’s only hope. The best chance for Black is to have the king on c2 and the c-file pawn on c3, which seems to take three moves. How can anyone argue with that logic, in light of this: It will take White four moves to promote the e-file pawn to a queen. That makes Black’s position appear not so hopeless.
But it’s White’s move. What’s the logical course for White? Destroy your opponent’s one hope for survival. That means trying to find a way to prevent Black from getting both pawns far advanced. We have two ways to do that. Let’s look at one.
In Diagram-2, White needs to get his king out of the way, so the white pawn can advance. Where’s the best place to put the white king? Why not to d5, attacking that black pawn?
Diagram-3 after 47) Kd5
What’s great about attacking that black pawn, for Black will just advance it, giving it protection? Black wanted to push that pawn forward anyway. But look at Black’s problem after advancing the pawn:
47) . . . . c4
Diagram-4 after Black advances the pawn to c4
Notice a tactical theme in Diagram-4. It’s not a pin or a fork or a double attack. It’s the over-worked piece: The black king is defending two pawns. White simply sacrifices the rook, capturing the pawn on d2. After the black king captures the rook, the white king captures the pawn on c4. White can then push the last pawn forward to promote it to a queen, that is, if Black does not resign long before then.
If you’re a beginner, or have limited experience with looking ahead, try the following: Imagine, in Diagram-4, the rook capturing the black pawn next to it. Now imagine the black king capturing that rook on the square that pawn used to be on. Notice that the black king is now removed from protecting the other pawn which is then captured by the white king. Obviously the black king will not be able to catch up to that white pawn, so it will become a queen. Most experienced players can win with king-plus-queen versus king.
Not all end games are so simple, nor the tactics and logic so easy, but this variation (which did not actually occur in that game at my chess club) does appear simple and logical.
The first sentence of the first chapter in the book Beat That Kid in Chess makes it clear: “What’s the most important thing to see in chess? See how to get an immediate checkmate.”
A much better choice would be Beat That Kid in Chess, which is written for the early beginner who knows how to play but does not yet know much about winning in an actual competition.
An end game on the Dinosaur Chess site