12- Basic endgames
The final stage of the game when only a few pieces are left on the board is known as the “endgame”. The subject will not be discussed at length but some of the basic endgames, and how they differ in Chess 99, will be briefly mentioned.
In standard chess, the two-knight endgame cannot be won. As for the two-bishop and knight-bishop endgames, there are so rare that many players will never bother to learn how to play them. They are far more common in Chess 99 – since pawn promotions are limited to bishops and knights – and even the casual Chess 99 players should take the time to familiarize themselves with the basic endgames.
These endgames differ for the simple reason that in Chess 99 one is only required to mate, not checkmate, the opponent to win the game. And that it is markedly easier – but not necessarily easy – to do. Note that doing so will require that the opposing king be forced towards the edge of the board, a skill that every players should acquire.
Two bishops on opposite color squares can checkmate a king. Two bishops on same color squares is never discussed in standard chess as it could only arise as a result of an under-promotion – an unlikely scenario – and this combination cannot checkmate a king anyway. In Chess 99 however, where all bishops are initially on dark squares and promotions are limited to the minor pieces, a two-bishop-on-same-color-squares ending is a very real possibility. Although it is always possible to move one of the bishops to the squares of the opposite color – via castling – it is not necessary to do so as they can still force the opposing king into a mate position.
Knight and bishop ending:
The knight and bishop checkmate is generally considered the most difficult one to master. Although those two pieces can force a checkmate, the king must first be pushed into a corner of the same color the bishop is on and doing so may require several extra moves. In Chess 99, all four corners are dark and should the bishop be on light squares, it would not be possible to checkmate without first moving the bishop to the dark squares. But there is really no need to do so since it is still possible to force a simple mate. And even though it will require some effort and application, it is nowhere as demanding as checkmate.
The two-knight ending is never discussed in standard chess since two knights cannot force a checkmate. But they can force a simple mate. Chess 99 players would do well to study how two knights – with the support of their king – can force the opponent’s king against the edge of the board and then proceed to mate him.
Single rook ending:
A lone rook can easily force both a checkmate and a simple mate but either way it needs the help of its king. (Players must keep in mind that the lone rook must not be sacrificed in the course of capturing the opponent’s king or the game is a draw.)
Although the paladin can checkmate a king all by himself, it cannot be forced. But a lone paladin with the help of his king can force a simple mate. (Once again, the lone paladin must not be sacrificed in the process.)
The queen can force a simple mate all by herself – no assistance required from her king. (And she is the only piece that can do so.)
See section “Puzzles” for examples of endgames.