After Karpov’s retirement from professional chess, he made a killing by licensing the use of his name to be used by authors to produce a dizzying amount of literature with his name on it. “Karpov’s Endgame Arsenal!” is one such book. It is a collection of endgame studies, with some endgame positions taken from Karpov’s games as well. The book is organized into chapters such as “Geometry of the Chessboard” and “Studies and the World Champions.” It’s difficult to say if there is any practical value in studying these types of positions for class players. Recently, I read in an advice column that studying endings at all is purely academic, because the trend towards faster and faster time controls, especially in American tournaments, makes it rare that anyone will have time to really ponder complex endings when they do occasionally occur.
Nonetheless, these kinds of studies are enjoyable to look over for anyone who cares about chess, and perhaps there is some redeeming scintilla of knowledge to be gleaned from them. As a taste of what this book offers, here are three studies I picked to give a flavor of the book’s content. I have intentionally chosen endings that seem practical, though the book is full of very interesting academic studies as well.
In this first position, it is white to move and win. The first two moves are not that difficult to find, although the follow up is a nice mate which takes a minute to see. Look it over for a minute…the pgn below gives the solution.
In this position, it is white to move. A key tactical resource allows white to queen. I like this study by Alekhine immensely, because it illustrates a very practical tactic in a realistic rook and pawn ending.
This final position, taken from Euwe’s rematch with Alekhine, is a rich position. Immediately, I sensed that white should be able to hold because his rook is more active compared to black’s. In rook and pawn endings, it’s incredibly common for the weaker side to compensate with an active rook, while the stronger side resigns himself to having a passive rook in order to hang onto an extra pawn. The finesse in this ending, however, is not obvious.
Overall, I give the book 3 stars. 1 star is for it’s thematic layout, which builds upon themes and grow in complexity, and the other 2 stars are for its awesome retro cover art of a king blasting off the chess board like a rocket.