Improve your Tactics with Puzzles!
"Chess is 99% Tactics." - Richard Teichmann

Improve your Tactics with Puzzles!‎

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14 | Chess.com Help

Tactics are short term opportunities to gain material, checkmate the enemy king, or force a draw in an otherwise lost game. Most chess games are decided based on tactics, so it is vital  to recognize common tactical patterns in your own games, taking advantage of the ones that turn the tables on your opponent while deftly avoiding falling into any traps yourself! By far, the most effective way to improve your tactical pattern recognition, speed, and calculation is by training with Puzzles!

Chess.com offers three ways to enjoy training with Puzzles: Rated mode, Learning mode and Puzzle Rush. You can also review your Stats and create a training plan for yourself!

Quick Links

Chess Puzzles
Select your training mode on the main screen.

Rated Mode

If there is a "default" training mode for Puzzles, this is it.

Select Rated practice when you want to focus and solve Puzzles selected for your current skill level. That level of skill is represented by your Puzzles player rating (shown next to your profile picture to the right of the board). In Rated mode, your performance vs the Puzzles you encounter will affect both your rating and the ratings of the Puzzles themselves. This is great for serious improvers who want to face puzzles that provide the optimal level of challenge and adapt as they get stronger (and also when they are having a rough day). Also, although it's not as important as accuracy, Time is a factor in Rated mode; the faster you solve, the better your score. Here's how it works...

As soon as you click Rated, you will get a new puzzle that is adapted to your level. (The more Rated practice you do, the better the server becomes at choosing appropriately difficult Puzzles!)  At the top right of the screen, you will see your rating and a clock to show how much time you have spent thinking so far.

Chess Rated Puzzles
Rated mode gives you an accurate rating of your solving abilities.

When a Puzzle appears, you will first see your opponent's move, and then it's your turn! Make the best move on the board! Some Puzzles can be solved with a single move, but many require several moves to solve. 

During your attempt, you may become stumped and have difficulty selecting the next move. If that happens, you can either make a guess and hope for the best - OR give up and hit the light-bulb button to see the next move. For scoring purposes (see below), revealing the next move ends the attempt, just as if you had made an incorrect move at that point. But if there are more moves to make, you can still figure out the rest of the sequence on your own!

For each Puzzle, the attempt will end immediately if you A. solve it or B. make an incorrect move. In either case, you can Retry the Puzzle (or even analyze it!) freely in Unrated mode, without further impact to your score or rating. This is an important part of getting better: Don't just pass over Puzzles you don't understand!

Your performance vs each Puzzle is given a percentage score, first based on how many moves you got correct and then adjusted based on how long it took you to solve it. For instance, if the Puzzle is four moves long and you get 3/4 moves correct before making a mistake on the last move, you would get a base score of 75%.

How does Time factor in? Well, for each Puzzle you have a Target Time to solve it. In general, Target Time is around 10 seconds multiplied by the number of moves in the Puzzle. However, if the Puzzle is of a significantly higher or lower rating than the player, then Target Time will be lengthened or shortened accordingly! If you solve the Puzzle within the Target Time, then your score is unaffected. But as you go beyond the Target Time, your score starts to be gradually penalized as more time passes. Don't stress though! -20% is the maximum penalty for thinking time, so even if you think for a LONG time, a correct answer is still worth 80%.

Once you have a score or result vs a particular Puzzle, the server adjusts your rating accordingly. In general, your rating will rise with successes and fall with failures, but there are cases where your rating might go up even with a partial success vs a high-rated Puzzle.

When you complete an attempt, the sidebar will change to show you information about your attempt and about the Puzzle itself, including its current rating, how many times it has been tried, its overall pass rate among all players, your time and the Target Time. The top part is about you! See a graph of your rating progress in your current session, and hover over or click on the dots to review the puzzles you have already attempted!

chess puzzles on chess.com
The sidebar provides insights into your performance and the puzzle.

At the bottom of the sidebar you also have also some other options:

  • Retry the puzzle to find the correct answer
  • Analyze the position with the analysis board editor to see each variation
  • Download the FEN or the PGN to save it for later analysis
  • Discuss the puzzle with other members
  • Change which mode you are using to train

Learning Mode

The puzzles in Rated mode are adapted to your level as chosen by our system. You need to be ready for anything! However, in the Learning Mode, things are a bit more chill - and a bit more "directed." First off, there is no pressure; time doesn't matter in Learning Mode, and your Puzzle rating is not at risk! Secondly, you decide what kinds of tactics you want to practice!

Learn with chess puzzles
In Learning Mode you can pick the topics you want to train.

Once you select Learning, you'll see a list of important tactical themes in the sidebar. By default, all themes are selected, but you can choose one or more specific themes to train on. And at the top of the sidebar, you can also choose a rating range, allowing you to focus on problems of a particular level of difficulty - and even elect to focus on Puzzles you failed during earlier sessions. Think of it as personalized tactics training!

Not sure what to focus on? Well, if you've done some Rated training, you'll see a column of values to the right of the themes themselves. This represents your average rate of success vs Puzzles containing this theme. And the list is sorted with your weakest themes near the top!

Once you've configured your Puzzle Set, you're ready to go! As you train, a simple system of 1-3 Crowns will help you visualize your performance vs each Puzzle: Get three for solving it on your first try, two for making one mistake (or getting a hint) along the way, or just one if you ran into multiple problems. If getting fewer than three crowns doesn't sit well with you, here's a trick: Just retry the Puzzle and do it perfectly this time: You'll get the three crowns. Don't feel guilty. This is actually good for you.

Below the crowns, you will see your current Puzzle filter (as configured above - click on the header there to change it at any time), and below that, your streak of previous results. Even further down, there is information about the Puzzle, and if you're a real tactics nerd, you can pause here to agree/disagree with the Puzzle's current themes, or suggest one that you think is missing. (Thank you!)

correct chess puzzle
The sidebar contains valuable information about the puzzle.

Puzzle Rush

Caution: Puzzle Rush is one of the most addictive chess games on the planet! The goal is simple: Solve as many puzzles as you can in five minutes. If you get three wrong answers, it's game over! And they get harder as you go.

Chess Puzzles Rush
Check out the leaderboard (total, by hour, of your friends...)

Puzzle Rush is so much fun, you might forget it's "good for you." There is no break between Puzzles; they just keep coming until the time is up or you make that fatal third mistake!

You can track your progress against your own previous best, or see how you stack up against your friends - or against some of the best players on earth! The Puzzle Rush Leaderboards make it easy to compare and see different time-frames.

Puzzle Rush Leaderboard
Some of the players on the Puzzle Rush leaderboard are players with 2700+ ratings.

How does Puzzle Rush feel?... Check out Hikaru Nakamura's reaction when attempting to break his own record... Then try it for yourself!


Puzzle Stats

Every puzzle attempt is stored so you can keep track of your progress and view your stats. Check out your current tactics rating, your career highs and lows, your current rank among your Friends, and the total hours you've spent training so far. 

Chess Tactics Stats
Review your performance in each puzzle mode.

Scroll down the page and below you will find your performance by themes, so you know exactly which areas to work on.

Chess Tactics Themes
You might be great with Mate in 1, but need to work on your defense!

You can also review your history of your recent puzzles and puzzle rush attempts.

Puzzle Rush Attemtps
Analyze your performance and see how you have improved over time.

Puzzles & Membership Plans

Because each type of Puzzle training is quite different, all Chess.com memberships include daily access to all three Puzzle features. 

Membership Rated Puzzles Learning Puzzles Puzzle Rush
Free 5 / day 5 / day 1 / day
Gold 25 / day 25 / day 5 / day
Platinum Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Diamond Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited

If you want to sharpen your play and win more games, practicing with Puzzles is one of the best things you can do. (And it can take as much or as little time as you like!) With Rated mode, Learning mode and Puzzle Rush at your disposal, we hope your training is as fun as it is powerful. Good luck!

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