How To Get The Most From Chess Puzzles

| 5 | Strategy

Chess puzzles.  Ya gotta love’em.  Speaking personally, I can’t get enough of them.  Nothing satisfies the soul like solving a chess puzzle that you deem truly worthy of your intellect.

Working chess puzzles actually can give a serious boost to your chess game – but like anything – certain rules have to be observed.  When handled carelessly, chess puzzles can actually HURT your ability to play good chess.

So, along with all of the excitement about chess puzzles – there are some caveats too.  Not just things to think about – but things to take serious consideration of whenever you sit down to solve a chess puzzle. 

Chess puzzles can be a learning experience – or a bug hunt – your choice.  Like jigsaw puzzles, just solving them doesn’t teach you anything.  It’s HOW you solve them that makes the difference.

It is my feeling that most people choose the “bug hunt” methodology to solve chess puzzles.  They mull over the position, moving pieces about in their mind – try out a promising path – and if that path fails they choose another.  After all, it’s just for fun – and if they wanted a serious game they’d go find one.  At least – that’s the way I used to feel about chess puzzles.

But chess puzzles ARE serious – and that’s exactly the point that this article wants to make.  They are serious forms of training – and they have serious impact on your behavior at the chessboard.

Here are some things to remember when working with a chess puzzle…

1)  A major weakness of chess puzzles is that you already KNOW that the solution IS on the chessboard. 

That’s not bad – but if you don’t stay clear of mind, you might be tempted to take half-way measures.  Don’t just jump in where you are turning pieces about in your mind until they all fall together.  This is a bad habit to fall into – and it can devastate your chances of winning an actual chess game.  If you do this now – you can’t be sure that you won’t succumb to the temptation to do it later.

The solution?  Treat the puzzle as if it WERE an actual chess game.

Make the next move YOUR move.  Don’t just accept the scenario as is.  Try to understand how you got there.  Understand WHY you should be making your next move from the STRATEGIC point of view.

Like a puzzle cube, or the daily crossword – learn to see the solution – not fall over it - and you will get much more out of the process of solving chess puzzles in the bargain.

2)  The next point?  Chess puzzles are predetermined, leaving the solution as the only thing that you will need to “think out”. 

This in many ways encourages you to dispense with thinking for yourself.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Just play by the rules – which should actually be part of your chess habit anyway.

Don’t cut any corners just because the game is in an advanced stage. 

Make your knight color scans.  Check for tactical opportunities.  Acquaint yourself with the board position – including the pawn structure.  Take the introspective view to puzzle solving.

3) Remember that whenever you make any move on the chessboard (puzzle or no), nothing relieves you of the responsibility of approaching your next move from the beginning.

That means that you must ALWAYS preface your review of the puzzle scenario with a solid scan for every check and capture – from BOTH sides of the chessboard.  A strong temptation might be to go directly for the solution, turning the critical pieces about in your mind, but don’t succumb to it.  You might save yourself some time – but you will be teaching yourself a seriously bad habit at the same time – a habit that might become very difficult to break.

4)  Play the puzzle out against a computer or a person.  That way, there is a penalty for making a wrong decision.  Besides that, the puzzle will be in front of you as a formal game – instead of a picture in a manual – and you will be more likely to treat it as such.

So, those are my tips to getting more from your chess puzzles.  When you approach a chess puzzle – try to approach the scenario as if you had no idea that a predetermined solution was imminent.

Anybody – given time – can trip over the answer to a puzzle (even a cube puzzle) – but can that person then re-scramble the puzzle and get to the solution again?  Likely not, I should think.

Take puzzle solving to the next level.  Learn to solve the puzzle by application of the rules of chess.  Have fun – and learn something – all at the same time.

Good Luck!


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