Chaotic Chess Puzzles: Tactics Or Positional Play?

Chaotic Chess Puzzles: Tactics Or Positional Play?

| 16 | Strategy

I’ve long insisted that the best way to improve (aside from playing stronger players) is to look at reams of master games. Most games between titled players have some important lesson hiding behind the moves, and I decided to make it easy for you by offering up a series of puzzles that can be either positional or tactical, quiet or dynamic (just like in real life!).

Many solutions are quite hard, but DON’T let that worry you! I have annotated all the games and pointed out the key instructive moments. So, give it your best shot, then look over the notes and see what you did or didn’t understand. Please keep in mind that the notes are the key components of this article, so DO look them over!

Once again: the point of this article isn’t really about you solving or failing to solve a puzzle. It’s about learning something. In a way, the only reason to try and solve the puzzles is to help you become more intimate with the position. That way the notes will mean much more to you.

Puzzle 1:

White’s a pawn ahead and Black’s kingside dark-squares are compromised. However, there was a method to Black’s madness: White has tripled pawns on the c-file. The question is, are those pawns strong or weak? The fact is that the trips give White two open files to use (the b- and d-files), and moves like ...b6 and ...d6 trades off a healthy pawn for the lead tripled pawn.

I think it’s clear that White is better, but how can Black stay in the game?

Puzzle 2:

As is usual with Ms. West, we have a state of chaos. She’s a pawn up, but Black is threatening both ...Bxa1 and ...Bxh2+. What should White do?

Puzzle 3:

The system with 5.b4 is rather popular, with Magnus Carlsen and Aronian leading the pack. White covers some important squares, with c5 and e5 taking main stage. And, of course, White enjoys a queenside space advantage with the thematic c4 begging to be played.

In this particular position (after 6.Bb2) I’ve given you three choices: 6...Nb6, 6...0-0, or 6...a5. Which one is best?

Puzzle 4:

Black has just attacked White’s Queen with 12...h4, daring White to take the pawn on g7. Should White capture that pawn? If not, what would be White’s best reply?

More from IM Silman
The Downs And Ups Of GM Elmars Zemgalis (Silman's Last Article)

The Downs And Ups Of GM Elmars Zemgalis (Silman's Last Article)

How To Build Winning Chess Positions

How To Build Winning Chess Positions