Improve Your Chess With Puzzle Rush
In a rush to improve your chess?

Improve Your Chess With Puzzle Rush

| 124 | Tactics

A couple of months ago, I wrote an article about Puzzle Rush. Even though I could see its educational value right away, to me at that time it was mostly a new and very addictive toy. These days it is a must-have training tool for all my students rated below USCF 1800.

Of course I recommend it to all my students regardless of their rating, but the lower-rated players, especially those below USCF 1200 will reap the most of the benefits. As I mentioned in my first article, solving Puzzle Rush positions is all about your ability to recognize typical tactical patterns and this is what less experienced players need the most! 

puzzle rush

In the comment section of the original article, our reader goodSirN wrote: "You should make it possible to watch top solvers do this live, just like it's possible to watch the top games live." I cannot agree more! I don't know if it is technically possible, but it would be very interesting and educational to watch Hikaru Nakamura in action. Since we cannot watch top Puzzle Rush players yet, let me share my own experience with Puzzle Rush. 

First of all, I am not even close to the top Puzzle Rush players since my personal record is only 43. You can say that by my own scale that I introduced in my original article I am barely a grandmaster. But I don't think you should use your top score as an indicator since it could be a major outlier. Also your average score can be very misleading. For example, my average score is 30.13 and it includes the scores of some of my students who played on my computer.

Also, I like to demonstrate typical tactical patterns to my students and of course Puzzle Rush is truly invaluable for doing this! So, I show a position, explain what's going on there while the clock is ticking and as the result I am able to demonstrate just  five to eight positions before my time runs out. So, as you can see, the average score can be very misleading. What I recommend to do if you want to measure your Puzzle Rush skills is play three to five times in the row and then check the average.

That should give you more or less the true picture. I tried it myself and in three consecutive attempts my scores were 40, 40 and 33, which gives a 37.66 average, about right for me. By the way, you can see that by my own scale this result is below a grandmaster's level, so I should either admit that I am very slow or that you should take this scale with a grain of salt. 

Now let's talk about the best feature of the Puzzle Rush: your ability to analyze the positions and see what was good and what went wrong. As an example, here is a basic analysis of my last attempt where I scored just 33 points. The first eight to 10 puzzles are usually very basic and all you need to do is just pay attention. Like this one for:

Even when you get to 20, the puzzles are still fairy easy for experienced players:

Yes, this is a basic pin. So, if it is that simple, how do you make mistakes? Easy, you just stop paying attention at some point! Here is one of those positions:

So, how can you possibly screw this up? Here is my blunder:

Despite stupid mistakes like this I still had 33 puzzles solved and almost two minutes left, so I thought I had a pretty good chance to at least cross 40. This is the puzzle that ruined these hopes:

Not that difficult, isn't it? Here is how I botched it:

Yes, when I played 34. Kg2?? I completely missed the opponent's idea 34...Bf5! followed by the 35...Be4 pin. It is easy to call it just bad luck and start a new game, but as I said, if you use Puzzle Rush correctly, it can underline your chess problems and help you improve your chess. In my case both mistakes have something in common: I completely missed my opponent's ideas. If you see that you make the same kind of mistakes again and again, then this is probably the area you need to work on in order to see improvement in your chess.

I wish you a lot of joy playing Puzzle Rush and hope that it will make you all better chess players!

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