ECF Book of the Year 2023

The four books on this year’s short list illustrated the wide range of current chess publishing which made the final choice difficult. The book chosen showed the amount of hard work that an author can put in to produce a volume that will richly reward the reader if they put in a similar effort.

A Matter of Endgame Technique
by Jacob Aagaard
Quality Chess pp896 £39.99

The first thing that strikes the reader is the mammoth size of the book – 896 pages in all. Why so large? Let the author explain – ‘There is an unquestionable need and desire for books that can teach even grandmasters something … endgame topics covered in depth with unapologetic attention to detail’.

The quality of the book is in the explanations and analysis given of the endgame chosen. The positions chosen are from contemporary play (Aagaard believes he is short-changing the reader by repeating published classics). The result is an insight into current tournament play with a focus on a player’s practical problems at the board with the chess clock ticking away. Many of the examples included are long and complex and the reader is drawn into the narrative waiting to find out whether the superior side can win or resilient defence can hold out.

Aagaard writes fluently and well. As an experienced trainer he brings out the learning points clearly. Of course, Aagaard has used a powerful computer to help with the analysis, but he is very good at drawing out when a player, should or could not, reasonably have reached the same conclusions.

This book is not suitable for beginners, and a knowledge of basic end game theory is assumed. However, it is valuable for an ambitious player who wants to learn how to play endgames against capable opponents during competitive games. It can also be used as a reference book for specific subjects, for example two bishops versus two knight endgames, or just enjoyed for the quality of the writing and analysis.

Aagaard writes, ‘I am of the firm conviction that chess is a difficult game to play, but not too difficult to explain once you have analysed the games thoroughly’.  In respect of end games, Aagaard has fully achieved this aim.

Ray Edwards, Jovanka Houska & Sean Marsh, September 2023