Section 5: How do we master the endgame
1. The purpose of learning the endgame
There are lesser chess pieces in the endgame, and compared with the opening or midgame, the variations are less complex. It would also be relatively easier to read and analyze the game and also to determine the possible outcome. In acutal play, one's endgame knowledge and experience are essential. Players with a good mastery of the endgame, know which situations are potential wins, and know how to checkmate. They would also know which situations are potential draws, and how to force a draw should they be on the losing end. For players with much endgame experience, their ability to accurately analyse the game is greatly enhanced. They would also have a better feel of the tempo
of the game played and are more likely to be able to orgainze attacks with various tactical combinations. In short, one's grasp of the endgame correlates directly with his Xiangqi abilities.
From a practice point of perspective, one should also place emphasis on endgame training. The endgame is easier and less complex than the opening or midgame, but the priniciples or tactics learnt can be applied to the entire game. It is therefore easier to master the basic principles of Xiangqi from endgames and use them in the entire game.
Learning the endgame also gives the beginner a feel and direction of the game, thereby making the transition to learning the opening and midgame much smoother. If you were to learn Xiangqi just by playing the actual game, it would not be as efficient as basing your knowledge in the endgame.
But the best thing about learning Xiangqi endgames is that, one gets to train to analyze systematically and logically, so that in an actual game of Xiangqi, you can apply your thinking process from the opening to end. That is one good way to know what strategies to use and how to adapt to different situations. Making the transition from the opening to the midgame and then to the endgame would be much smoother if one already has a firm foundation in the endgame. The success stories of many players learning endgames should serve as encouragement for all.
2. 定式殘局 ---- 殘局的基礎
Fixed endgame scenarios --- the fundamentals of endgame theory
Fixed endgame scenarios are various endgames whereby the outcomes are known if both player play the best possible moves. It may be either a win or a draw but there are principles to be abided. The are the simplest of endgames to study but are also the most important ones to begin with. They are the product of extensive studies of endgames throughout the centuries and have very high educational and practical value.
Only through learning these endgames can one start to learn how to analyze the game properly and make the correct decisions. They are the fundamentals, and one should begin his Xiangqi journey here.
Learn as much as possibile various endgame tactics
If the strategy aspect of Xiangqi is the soul of the game, then the tactics employed to achieve or realize the strategy are the essence of the game. Endgames are mostly tactically inclined and each chess piece can live up to its fullest potential in the endgame.
There has been a huge amount of endgame studies since the ancient times, with many well known endgame scenarios representing its era. The tactics shown in each of these endgames show how Xiangqi tactics have evolved through the ages. Although some of these endgames may be very old, the tactics employed show the wisdom of top Xiangqi players of their respective eras and are worth the effort to learn and use in your game. One can be easily mesmerized by the wisdom of the the ancients just by going through them.
As Xiangqi tactics grew both in scope and depth, many different combinations and new tactics appeared. However, for the beginner, the topic of Xiangqi tactics can be simply categorized into tactics that are concerned with attacking and tactics concerned with defending. And all Xiangqi tactics can be boardly categorized into one of the following three :
a) Sacrifice 棄子
b) Exchange 兌子
c) Maneuvering or Deploying 運子
(Jim: GM Wan Chunlin has an extra class of tactics in his series of books, the tactic of capturing your opponent's material 奪子. Be it 3 or 4 categories of tactics, it is more important to learn them, rather than be overly concerned with the classification. )
As a beginner in Xiangqi, as long as one learns the various endgames seriously and meticulously, and always tries to improve, one would have a strong foundation in Xiangqi endgames and tactics for that matter in a short period of time. And as one slowly chalks up experience, one would be able to choose and employ the best possible strategy for any particular combination on the board at will. With further practice, one would be able to identify easily the similarities of the same combination in different scenarios and thus be able to read the game more precisely and make the best possible decision.
In short, learn as many endgames as possible, master them and soon your Xiangqi abilities would improve by leaps and bounds.
4. Learn and study how the experts play in actual endgames
A great portion of Xiangqi endgame knowledge is derived from actual games played. Watching how the experts play the game, reading the comments provided by other masters and comparing them with other literature on the subject is a sure way to improve.
In comparison, if one learns endgame theory by just playing, the information or knowledge gained would be scattered or disorganized, and would be very limited. The lack of organization would also greatly decreased one's efficiency in learning. To date, there are still very limited publications focusing on pure endgame theory alone.
After learning some fixed endgame scenarios and fundamental knowledge, the beginner is greatly encouraged to study in depth the endgames played by the experts. These experts represent the best of their generation and the quality of play are higher and better, and the endgames they play are a good place to start. Learn to think like the masters and grandmasters, and you would not do too badly.
When learning from the greats, it would be advised to do the following:
1) Try to obtain as much variety of endgames as possible, from different combinations to different positions. That way you would not be limited. Compare these different endgame scenarios and try to draw conclusions, and never restrict yourself. For very practical and educational endgames, draw your conclusions and memorize them.
2) Classify them, categorize them and try to collect as much of the same type of endgames as possible. One could also compare one category of the endgames with similar categories to obtain a wider view.
( Jim: I believe a good translation would be something of the effect of studying each tree carefully, but never forgetting the forest.)
3) Ask questions. Why did that player make the move? Are there other possibilities? What other moves could his opponent have countered with? ...etc. Consciously compare and analyze and put to actual play. In no time, your calculations skills would greatly increase in precision and you would be able to analyse each game better.
Another two things to take note off when learning endgame theory is to base the learning on your own capabilities. Start easy before going deep. Learn step by step and do not try to run before you can barely walk. But never stop learning or moving forward.
The second thing that one must remember is that theory and actual play are linked. Only by constantly putting the things you have learnt to actual practice would you be able to know that what you have learnt is correct or incorrect. And never hesitate to correct inadequacies or mistakes.
To facilitate the beginner in their pursuit of the more practical and correct concepts of the endgame, we have tried to include in the syllabus the following things:
1) the most commonly seen and practical fixed endgame scenarios, including ancient examples and modern day examples. A portion of these endgames are derived from actual games played , and these examples would help the beginner appreciate the endgame more.
2) as the times have changed, so has the depth of the endgame study. Our book will try to encompass the latest in endgame theory and we will try to explain them in as succint terms as possible.
3) Taking into consideration the effect of the 1999 rules on the outcome of these fixed endgame scenarios, we have tried to make the necessary adjustments. (Jim: oops, an ever newer set of rules were out a few years ago, and the Chinese rules are slightly different from the AXF rules...but it would be sufficient to learn everything there is in this book...)
In conclusion, the examples presented have been chosen meticulously and they represent what we hope the beginner should know. There may be a few examples which seem tough like 1c1p vs 2a2e or 1r1h vs 1r2e, 1h1c vs 1hxaxe... but as long as one studiously goes over them, one would be able to master them easily.
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First created: 6th Sept 2012
Last updated: 6th Sept 2012
GM Liu Dianzhong for making learning endgames a much easier job!
Mr Felix Tan for advice in various aspects of the game.
1. <<象棋新編教程--象棋殘局基礎>> by GM Liu Dianzhong 劉殿中, Qi Jinan 齐津安.
2. <<象棋辭典>> by the late legendary Master Tu Jingming 屠景明
3. <<跟我學象棋 初級教程>> by Wang Guodong 王國棟, Fang Shiqing 方仕慶, Li Yangui 李燕貴
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