Why are easy chess puzzles sometimes hard to solve?

Chess puzzles are a great way to improve important chess skills.

By solving chess puzzles you train 3 skills at the same time:

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  1. Tactics skill (recognizing tactical themes and patterns.)
  2. Visualization skill (visualizing pieces in new positions.)
  3. Calculation skill (training to calculate forced variations.)
  • calculate tacticsa
  • calculate tacticsb

In the position above, black played Bd3! This move protects the Nc2. At the same time it threatens Rxe4! and if white plays Bxe4? then Bxe4# is checkmate.

White stopped black’s threat by playing the simple h3 – opening an escape hole for his king. Click the “next” arrow in the above chess puzzle diagram to visualize the moves -> Bd3 h3. How should black continue? Try to find the answer.

I find it amazing how we sometimes think a puzzle is impossibly difficult, yet when we see the answer we can’t help but wonder why we never found such a simple move.

The Solution:

chess puzzles solution

Black simply plays f5! Winning the Ne4, since moving the knight allows Re1+

The puzzle in question is supposed to be quite easy, but most chess players have a tough time with this puzzle. If you found this puzzle quite hard, you are not alone. I will tell you why this happens and what you can do to overcome it.

3 Reasons why easy chess puzzles sometimes appear hard

  1. The theme (pattern) used in the puzzle is not fixed in your mind. Maybe you are familiar with the pattern but you have not seen it often enough in order that it became a second nature to you.
  2. You didn’t follow the correct calculation method! I wrote an article about the correct calculation method. Click the link if you need to check it out -> chess calculation technique.
  3. Forgetting pawn moves in tactical combinations. This is what the example above mainly illustrates. Tactical combinations mainly involve pieces and it is easy to overlook pawn moves that can be effective in a tactic.

How do we solve this “hard chess puzzle” dillemma?

Quite simple. Follow the correct calculation process!

The correct calculation process requires that you consider all the threats and captures that can be made by your piecea and pawns.

In the article about calculation I suggested that you look at the candidate moves of all the pieces. Start with moves of the queen, then the rooks, bishops, knights, all the pawns and the king. If you make this order an automatic part of your thinking process then easy chess puzzles will always be just that – easy!

The simple step of checking all the candidate moves with the pawns too, would have revealed the very strong move f5! And the move could be found without much sweat. That is the power of applying the correct calcualtion technique.

And be reminded that even though pawns are not as strong as pieces, they can sometimes be effectively used in tactics!

Comments

  1. Frank Bunge says:

    Hello Louis,
    thanks for this article. I think a good one.
    This sort of information is especially usefull also for not advanced players. I will try and hopefully be more sucessfull also in solving checss puzzles than before.
    Frank

    • Hi Frank, yes the hardest part is to make a habit of this way of thinking. It is so easy to fall back to the old ways. One needs to force yourself to follow good thinking habits until it becomes a true skill.

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