Basic Chess Endings

Basic Chess Endings

"Basic Chess Endings" is a book on chess endgames which was written by Reuben Fine and originally published in 1941. It is considered the first systematic book on the endgame phase of the game of chess. It is the best-known endgame book in English and is a classic piece of chess endgame literature. The book is dedicated to World Champion Emanuel Lasker, who died in 1941. It was revised in 2003 by Pal Benko.


"Basic Chess Endings" was written by Grandmaster Fine in only four months and was published in 1941 by McKay (a division of Random House) in hardback. The book used the now obsolete descriptive chess notation and used the old system of using the abbreviation "Kt" to stand for knight instead of the more modern "N".

In a 1984 interview, Fine said that it took him three months to write the book. He said that organizing the material gave him no trouble, but it was hard work coming up with example positions. He created many of the examples harvcol|Winter|1999|p=214.

The hardback edition was reprinted at least as late as 1960. The copyright was renewed in 1969 as the book went through many paperback impressions. The cover of the 1971 paperback printing is shown at the right. It went through ten printings in paperback by 1981.

Over the years, many errors were found, and many of them were published in "Chess Life" in the column by Larry Evans. Over one hundred such errors were found and a mimeographed list of them was printed and circulated by Paul L. Crane and Rev. David Chew. Despite these errors, the book remained in print in its original form.

After many years, editor Burt Hochberg finally convinced the publisher to create a new edition. Endgame expert Pal Benko, whose own copy of the book contained hand-written notes of almost all of the errors, did the revision. The revised edition was published in 2003, but only in paperback. Benko converted it to the now universally-accepted algebraic chess notation. He also added some new material based on more recent analysis and added many new examples. He made many corrections, but a few errors remain. For example, Benko repeats Fine's claim that the endgame of two bishops and a knight against a rook is drawn with correct play harvcol|Fine|Benko|2003|p=524 harvcol|Fine|1941|p=521. In fact, endgame tablebases show that the three minor pieces win harvcol|Müller|Lamprecht|2001|p=403. Howard Staunton, without the aid of computer analysis, had recognized this over 150 years earlier harvcol|Staunton|1848|pp=439-40.

The original book contains 573 pages and 607 diagrams of positions. Many other positions were given by listing the location of the pieces rather than showing a diagram. The 2003 revision contains 587 pages with 1330 positions, most with diagrams.


Copies of the book are owned by many generations of chess players around the world. World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik considered it the best book on the endgame. Yuri Averbakh (who wrote the five-volume "Comprehensive Chess Endings" and "Chess Endings: Essential Knowledge") based his research on this book.


# The Elementary Mates
# King and Pawn Endings
# Knight and Pawn Endings
# Bishop and Pawn Endings
# Minor Piece Endings
# Rook and Pawn Endings
# Rook and Minor Pieces
# Queen Endings
# Conclusion and Summary
# Twenty Rules for the Endgame [In the original version, this section was "Fifteen Rules for the End-game" and it was a section in the previous chapter.] Except for the last two chapters, all of the other chapters have sub-chapters based on pawn distribution or positional factors. Many of those sub-chapters have sections and subsections.

Review by John Nunn

Grandmaster John Nunn wrote a review of "Basic Chess Endings", both the original version and the revised edition. A paraphrasing of his review follows.

"This is a classic book... The quality of the general explanations is excellent and probably has never been surpassed. ... Fine is at his best when he gives general descriptions and the book has been rightly praised for its instructional value. ... However, there are many errors in the concrete analysis of positions. ... The quality of the general explanations compensates for the errors and makes it well worth reading. ... The only exception is the chapter on queen endings, which has advanced greatly since 1941, and much of the material is seriously misleading."

On Benko's revision, "A chance to bring this classic up to date was squandered. ... The layout has been improved, but still many positions are without diagrams and some positions have been removed. ... There is a small amount of new material, but it is mostly from Benko's games and studies, and some of the new material has been added clumsily. ... The chapter on queen endings has not been changed to reflect the discoveries since 1941. ... The greatest disappointment is the failure to correct many of the errors in the original book, some of which are well-known. ... No systematic computer-checking of the analysis was done. ... Some errors have been corrected but many remain. ... Despite this, the book is recommended for Fine's groundbreaking general explanations, but it is not completely accurate or up-to-date harvcol|Nunn|2007|pp=246-50.

ee also

* chess endgame
* chess endgame literature



* Citation
last=Fine|first=Reuben|authorlink=Reuben Fine
title=Basic Chess Endings
ID= ISBN 0-679-14002-6

surname2=Benko|given2=Pal|authorlink2=Pal Benko
title=Basic Chess Endings
ID=ISBN 0-8129-3493-8

last1=Müller|first1=Karsten|authorlink1=Karsten Müller
last2=Lamprecht|first2=Frank|authorlink2=Frank Lamprecht
title=Fundamental Chess Endings
publisher=Gambit Publications
ID=ISBN 1-901983-53-6

* Citation
last=Nunn|first=John|authorlink=John Nunn
title=Secrets of Practical Chess
edition = second
publisher=Gambit Publications
ID=ISBN 978-1-904600-70-1

* Citation
last=Staunton|first=Howard|authorlink=Howard Staunton
title=The Chess-Player's Handbook
edition = second
publisher=Henry G. Bohn

last=Winter|first=Edward|authorlink=Edward Winter (chess historian)
title=Kings, Commoners. and Knaves: Further Chess Explorations
publisher=Russell Enterprises
ID= ISBN 978-1-888690-04-6

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