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My Puzzle Rush Climb Strategy

My Puzzle Rush Climb Strategy

clickchemist
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Hi everyone! In this post I want to share with you my experience of puzzle rush climb. I will mention some strategies and useful tips first, and then some background of my way from 42 to 55 in 5 min and to 51 in 3 min.

1. Analyze your mistakes after each run

This tip is pretty obvious but should be mentioned first. Try to solve all the missed puzzles again after your rush is over. The exception should be just easy puzzles which you solve immediately after you missed them, or early mouseslips.

Improve and adjust your analysis for your current skill. If you're a beginner in puzzle rush, start from clicking on "X" icon of the failed puzzle and then "solve problem". When you get more experience, try to solve failed puzzles blindfold after a rush. This is a very useful approach I learnt from Hikaru's puzzle rush streams. He often did it during a rush, but if you're concerned about reaching records do it after a rush. This won't distract you from solving next puzzles. If you are thinking for a while and cannot see why was your move wrong, use engine analysis.

2. Combine different styles

This needs explanation. Why, for example, is the puzzle rush world champion Ray Robson (@spicycaterpillar) so exceptional? He is very dedicated to puzzle rush and he is nearly a 2700-rated GM, but this is hardly the main reason. Since the first attempts, he stick to playing puzzle rush as consistently as possible.[1] This style allowed him getting quickly to the top in 5 min and keep his rank until present. I would take his perfectionist strategy like a model for 5 min puzzle rush.

All changes if you consider 3 min puzzle rush instead of 5 min. In 5 min solving harder puzzles quickly enough and without mistakes is crucial, and speed in the start is not. The slowest step of the process is rate-determining (this reminds me a principle from chemical kinetics). In 3 min it doesn't work like that - in a short time control speed is more important, at any stage.

When only 5 min puzzle rush existed, I played it the same way as @spicycaterpillar, with aim to solve as many puzzles as possible each run. In my first thousand runs this allowed me to improve and break 50 in 5 min for the first time. For 3 min puzzle rush I modified my strategy. I got much faster, and in the first 35-40 problems I am relying more on intuition than thinking and checking possible move candidates. In 3 min it is more important to stay consistent with your speed, not with final scores. 5 min rush is good to improve your tactical vision with learning new complex patterns, and 3 min can help to bring your pattern recognition skill to almost automatic and intuitive.

To summarize - play 5 min consistently each run to make stable performance, and 3 min as fast as possible and forget about average score. Combine both time controls to bring your tactics to another level! I can recommend warming up with a shorter time control, and then playing more rushes with a longer one.

3. Abandon quitting


You can quit your puzzle rush after an early or not so early mistake. A lot of players (including very successful players!) do it. In my opinion, this is more a delusion than strategy. When you quit a rush after only 20 solved problems you are only getting better in the range from 0 to 20. And when you quit most of your rushes, you spend most of your time on solving back-rank mates and so on. This can be a reason of stuck with playing puzzle rush without any improvement. Quitting will just throw away your remaining chance to proceed further with a clean run. Your chance to break a record reduces after a mistake, but not that much. I had a lot of runs with 1 or even 2 early mistakes when I could focus later and get very decent (even record!) scores. 

"Never quit" is not a dogma of course, and many players improved even with quitting early all the time. But if you always quit after just 1 mistake, the same progress will require many more attempts and more time. Quit can be useful in special cases. Playing in a competition with limited time (puzzle rush championship or flash mob), when you urgently need a very high score is an example. I don't believe early quitting helps to get faster. It gives you more freedom for making mistakes in the beginning, but you don't need to waste your rush at all. Try to stay calm or even speed up instead after a mistake. Sometimes you will strike out early, but if you maintain a good speed without 2 more mistakes this is a great extra chance! happy.png Just don't be afraid of striking out!

If you are used to quitting and do not find appropriate to switch from "quit after 1 mistake" to "never quit", I can recommend you a milder alternative. Quit only after 2 mistakes in the first 20 problems, but not after 1 mistake. This will be already a huge improvement.

4. Use timer tracking 

Try to follow how many puzzles do you solve in 1 min, 1.5 min, 2 min, etc. and remember what is your common score and the best score. If your speed is good, keep playing more rushes this day. When you know that you are in excellent shape, stop timer tracking - you will be more concentrated. Thus, you will have more chance to reach records. When you are tired and your performance is below average, do not keep playing in a bad shape. Puzzle rush performance highly depends on your mood

5. Adjust your technical settings

This is not related directly to chess but about optimization of your settings to playing puzzle rush. First, disable all animation of pieces. The animation alone can decrease your speed very much.

Second, reduce your board size to be able to move a mouse faster. For me the best board size is the same as the size of window popping up when you finish your rush.

6. Puzzle rush is not a fight - benefit from it!

This is a psychological moment. Chess is a game of 2 players fighting against each other. Unfortunately, to be a chess professional it is not enough to have a good chess knowledge, understanding and skill, but you have to be a fighter (I recommend this great article).[2] For me this was always a stumbling block, because I'm a pacifist and also I do not have much endurance and iron nerves. And in real life I'm a scientific researcher, not a professional chess player. I guess I'm not alone with it.

Puzzle rush is unique in chess-related stuff. It's a game for one player, and the fighting part is almost eliminated! It is only you and puzzles here. Leaderboards can make puzzle rush a competition, but not a fight. You will neither be a killer nor a victim. You never need to be scared of mistakes, like in a real game. This way you can improve with each and every run!

F.A.Q. about puzzle rush

1. Is puzzle battle useful? It depends on you. If you are a true chess fighter or you play a lot of puzzle rush and it became your comfort zone, then yes. Also players who quit many rushes can improve after battle, because battle enforces to take each run seriously. I was not impressed by puzzle battle idea (the reason is point 6 above) and played it occasionally. When you have a diversity of strategies in puzzle rush and you don't quit, you don't really need puzzle battle for a balanced progress.

2. Is puzzle rush a memorization game? In my opinion, it is not. True that pattern recognition and memorization of positions are different. Pattern recognition is a type of skill, because patterns are frequently seen. Recognition of one pattern can help you with mastering many similar positions.[3] This should be also useful in chess. Memorizing unique positions with unique solutions will not give you trumps. Very high scores from dedicated players with many puzzles remembered did not last long when the database is enlarged. Only your pure skill stays now. Unintentional memorizing was a part of the game for many top players in the first 2 years, when the database has too few hard puzzles and they repeated. Thanks to the last database enlargement rush is not a memorization game anymore. Do not waste your time to memorize problems, try to master typical patterns, improve your speed of thinking and calculation. 

A little bit about me and my puzzle rush climb

I'm a 23 years old 2076 fide rated player, and I play puzzle rush for 3 years with breaks. During this time I completed over 10 thousand puzzle rushes. My records are 51 in 3 min, 55 in 5 min (I did 56 once but it did not count, unfortunately), 95 in survival, 32 in 1 min, 40 in 1.5 min, and 21 in 30 sec.

Just after the puzzle rush launch (approx. 200 attempts) I started with modest 42 in 5 minutes. Not actually bad, but this means a long way ahead to improve my tactics! One day I upgraded my account to have unlimited attempts. Puzzle rush was my inspiration, because playing chess without stress and fear of fight[4] is my dream. A famous chess.com article writer GM Serper considered rush like one of the best ways to improve pattern recognition, and tactics in general.[5] My first 1000 attempts was a kind of adaptation, when I figured out the best conditions (tip 5 above) to play and broke 50 in 5 min for the first time. 

Next, when new time controls appeared I found a new fun in 3 min rush. I understood I need a slightly different strategy for it and went from 44 to 48 in 3 min. Then combination of both 3 min and 5 min modes led to 51 in 3 and 55 in 5 after 4000 total attempts. This brought me to 7th place in the global 3 min rank. 

At the end of 2020 I got busy and inspired with doing my PhD in chemistry. Thus I did not have much time and motivation to play puzzle rush, and I left for a 9 months break. In summer this year, on my holidays time I returned to chess.com. In my first day of return I scored just 45 in 3 min, which was rusty, but then I got quickly to 48. With a new database, when no puzzle repeats or memorization involved, achievements are more valuable and inspiring! After 3 months I got back to my best speed (32 puzzles in 1 min and 40 puzzles in 1.5 min) and my record of 51 in 3 minutes. This took time to get into shape after a long break, but thanks to the updated database my result was up to shared 4th place in the world rank. 

One very dedicated player asked if I improved my chess together with puzzle rush. At this moment I don't know, because I was not playing tournaments for a while. But while watching top players' games and reading chess stuff I'm happy to see tactics, including some hidden resources, much better and quicker. This means puzzle rush had a real positive effect. I'm curious about playing some OTB tournaments when I have more time available.

Thanks for reading my blog and I'm wishing you success with puzzle rush climbs!!! Feel free to leave your comments below, share your own experience of puzzle rush climbs and send me friend requests. Hope you find the mentioned tips useful. And I would be grateful for sharing this post! 

References

1. Stream by GM Ray Robson (@spicycaterpillar), start watching from 2h10min https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szE0HlJisrg&t=7808s

2. GM Gregory Serper https://www.chess.com/article/view/is-chess-barbaric

3. Blog by @gejimayu: https://www.chess.com/blog/gejimayu/master-a-single-pattern-with-lots-of-variations

4. GM Gregory Serper https://www.chess.com/article/view/dont-be-lazy-in-chess

5. GM Gregory Serper a) https://www.chess.com/article/view/improve-your-chess-with-puzzle-rush

b) https://www.chess.com/article/view/are-you-addicted-to-puzzle-rush

6. Some of my puzzle rush records are on my youtube page.