Sharp Endgames: Foreword by GM Lars Bo Hansen

Foreword by GM Lars Bo Hansen

You hold in your hand a remarkable book – one that has the potential to greatly improve your results on the chess board. The legendary Viktor Korchnoi boldly claimed that anyone who worked through his book on Practical Rook Endgames would be guaranteed to gain at least 100 rating points. Silas Esben Lund, originally from low-key Denmark like myself, is too modest to make such a claim, so let me do it for him: if you work through this book cover to cover, you are going to gain at least a similar amount of rating points as from Korchnoi’s book – very likely more.

But be warned: the emphasis here is on work. What you put in, you will get out – don’t expect a quick fix. This is a book for the ambitious chess players who are willing to put in the effort to pursue results through hard work and deliberate practice.

The main value of this book is in the depth of the examples and exercises, which are designed to challenge even IMs and Grandmasters. In trying in vain to solve some of the difficult exercises, I can testify to the difficulty of the challenge!

However, Lund has a knack for making the difficult understandable. His explanations of the process by which even the most difficult exercises should be (have been) solved is to the point and highly instructive. He explains how you can sharpen your skills in calculation; shows how to identify the Critical Moments in the game; and highlights how the middlegame is connected to sharp and basic endgames in a logical thread. In doing so, Lund helps his readers improve not only his or her skills in sharp endgames, but also the middlegame and technical endgames.

At the core, the emphasis is on making good decisions at critical stages of the game. For that you need to combine several aspects – calculation, intuition, creativity, basic knowledge of chess, just to name a few. And you have to weave these components together into a useful and practical process. This is not easy, as many players tend to be biased in one way or another when making decisions in chess.

When trying to solve some of the exercises, I was reminded of an episode from a training session the Danish National Team had in Copenhagen with the legendary Russian coach Mark Dvoretsky shortly before the 2000 Olympiad in Istanbul. Dvoretsky was feeding us difficult exercises, similar to those of Lund in this book, and one of them was a deceptively simple rook endgame where Black needed to decide where to go with his King in reply to a check. Using intuition and drawing on my long-term interest in and experience with rook endgames, I quickly settled on the right move, but Dvoretsky was not happy with my intuitive decision. He wanted me to calculate and show the line that led to the right decision. While I got it right in this particular instance, Dvoretsky reasoned that being overly reliant on intuition – as opposed to calculation – was a dangerous bias at Critical Moments. Certainly not all Critical Moments can be solved by intuition only. I took the advice to hear and forced myself to calculate deeper at Critical Moments. Shortly thereafter, I had an excellent result at the Olympiad and a year and a half later, I reached a new personal best FIDE rating despite being semi-retired at the time. This book has the potential to do the same to the readers who choose to put in the effort – it will improve your ability to make the right decisions at the Critical Moments late in the game.

Out of the many great examples and exercises in this book, I will single out the study by Troitzky (1925) that opens chapter 2. Unfamiliar to me, this study epitomizes how good decisions draw on a combination of calculation, intuition, creativity, and knowledge of basic endgames. A delight for chess fans interested in both studies and practical play!

I have known Silas for many years from the chess circuit in our shared home country, and I have always liked Silas’ approach to chess and chess coaching and writing in particular. Silas is an independent thinker who weaves plenty of personal experiences and games into his coaching and writing. And he shares a very important trait with other excellent coaches – he actually has a well-considered coaching philosophy. His book is extensively researched – not just in terms of the chess content, but also how expertise is achieved – and all examples have been thoroughly checked by analysis engines and tested on chess students of various strength. As a result, this book is more than just a book – it is a curriculum for how to improve your chess.

Silas likes to take on topics that are under-represented in the chess literature. I thoroughly enjoyed his earlier books, which are filled with new concepts that you will find in few other chess books. For example, who else devotes an entire book to bad bishops (The Secret Life of Bad Bishops), showing that bishops are not “born bad”, but start out as a “DEB” – doubled-edged bishop – with the potential to be either good or bad, depending on what you do with it. The present book proceeds in the same vein – you will come away with a refined understanding of several key chess concepts – e.g. Critical Moments, the role of Deliberate Practice in chess improvement, and the relationship between middlegame, sharp endgames, and basic endgames.

Silas Lund has issued you a challenge: invest time and effort in this book, and your chess results are going to improve – no matter your current level. The question to you is: are you ready to accept the challenge? I strongly encourage you to – you will not regret it.

GM Lars Bo Hansen

Orlando, Florida, May 2017