No matter what level chess you play, I’m sure you’ve been privy to the “What should I learn first?” question that plagues beginning and even intermediate players. While I’m not a master, the answer to me seems like a logical one:
We need both.
Okay, so on the one hand, we’ll never reach an endgame if we don’t survive the opening. This is fact. So learning endings first seems like a silly thing to do. What good is it for you to know the Lucena position or what files draw in king vs. lone pawn endings if you lose your games before move fifteen?
On the flip side, you can study three or four openings and know them all thirty moves deep in seven variations and it won’t help you a smidge once you achieve the winning position you weren’t entirely aware you were playing for. If I had a nickel for every won opening that was lost in the ending, I’d live in a bigger house.
Therefore, I feel the proper way to study chess is a well-rounded approach. If you would like to play 1. d4 as white and 1... Nf6 against anything as black, you must take some time to study those lines. That goes without saying. But it’s also a great idea to study endings and tactics during the same time frame.
Have you ever thought of a grandmaster as being weak in openings or endings? I sure haven’t. So it stands to reason that they are all pretty darned wicked in every area of the game. Some are better than others, sure, but they are all well rounded players. You aren’t going to earn a FIDE title because of opening or ending knowledge alone, I can tell you that much.
So if you are serious about your chess and you study often, study all stages of the game. Maybe alternate from openings to endings to tactics for each study day. Or spend one week on an opening, and the next on endings--preferably, endings that commonly flow from your chosen opening.
New players far prefer studying openings. The reason for this is very likely the ‘zaps and traps’ and ‘quick kills’ that are so much fun when we start out. Logically, why would anyone want to play a 49-move slugfest when they can end the game before move 20 with a spectacular-looking attack? Then, as the player advances in skill and experience, it becomes necessary to study tactics and endings.
Some folks swear that we should all learn endings first, while others say openings are fine. This article won’t put that debate to rest. The aim of this article is simply to suggest that studying them both, at the same time, mixed with regular tactics practice, might be a great path to quick improvement.
So hit those opening and ending books and videos, and I’ll see you all next time. Good games!