The final part of a chess game is known as the endgame or ending. It is the stage of the game where only a few pieces are left on the board. Usually in the endgame, the stronger side (the one with more material using the standard piece point count system) should try to exchange pieces (knights, bishops, rooks, and queens), while avoiding the exchange of pawns. This generally makes it easier to convert a material advantage into a won game. The defending side should strive for the opposite.
Many people have composed endgame studies, endgame positions which are solved by finding a win for White when there is no obvious way to win, or a draw when it seems White must lose.
By studying endgames, you learn the tactics needed to successfully thwart your opponent.
There are many endgame strategies that depend on which pieces are left on the board.
King + Two Major Pieces against a lone King
With two Queens or two Rooks, this is a great position to be in. The strategy is to put the two major pieces on adjacent ranks or files and gradually force the king to the side of the board, where one piece keeps the king on the edge of the board while the other delivers checkmate.
King + One Major Piece against a lone King
King + One Minor Piece against a lone King
This always ends in a draw. There is not sufficient material to checkmate the opposing King.
King + Two Minor Pieces against a lone King
If the two minor pieces are bishops on opposite color squares, checkmate can be easily made. If the two bishops are on the same color, checkmate cannot be achieved.
If the two minor pieces are knights, it is possible to checkmate, but it requires the opponent to fall into a trap. This is called the Two Knights endgame. A king and two knights cannot force checkmate against a lone king.
Studying the endgame is a key way to improve your chess game. There are many chess problems that are useful to study to help understand useful tactics to win. Below are a few interesting endgame reviews.
The above video is a great lesson in chess “geometry.” At first glance it seems that White is lost. White can’t hope to catch Black’s h-pawn; it’s too far advanced and will certainly promote. So the only choice for White is to try and promote his own pawn as well. However, that pesky black king is well-poised to snatch the c-pawn, and with it White’s only remaining hope. (Notice that the white king is outside of the h-pawn’s queening square. The black king, however, is closer to his prey.) How can White possibly hope to draw?
The answer, amazingly, is that White is able to execute both plans simultaneously, namely chasing the h-pawn and protecting the c-pawn. By walking the diagonal, the white king gets closer to both pawns! If Black responds by simply pushing his h-pawn, then White can reach the c-pawn and ensure its promotion. And if Black spends two tempi moving his king and going for the c-pawn himself, then White just turns south, having gained the extra moves needed to catch the black pawn.