Tag Archives: puzzles

Storming the Castle (2)

We all have one or more memorable games or combinations close to our heart to keep as jewels forever. How does your chess jewel look like? Is it a well rounded game where your plans went so well, it felt like your pieces were alive and moving alone? Was it maybe the combination of a lifetime? I have a few of each and I bet you all do have them too. Of course we are just mere mortals compared with Fischer and his “My 60 Memorable Games“; still do not sell your jewels short as they also are shiny and memorable. Teaching chess helps me and you rediscover some of these jewels and display them with pride in front of our audience. They are special because they are ours and also because we can add to them all sort of unique details about those moments and thoughts at the time.

A few years ago I discovered the following jewel from a game played in Heidelberg 1946 between what it looks to be two members of the same family. I do not have much more information on it and if anyone does, I would gladly hear from you and do a follow up article on it. Anyhow, here is the position for you to look at and try to figure out what White should do here to amazingly win the game!


It is an interesting position for sure. Let’s have a closer look at it:

  • the opposite-side attacks situation is easy to see and Black has clearly made more visible progress. The a2-passed pawn is a game changing force, especially because of being supported by the Qa3 + Ra8 battery. Black has full control of the queen side
  • the center is pretty much blocked with Nd4 and Nd5 in perfect positions to help the operations on either flank as needed; White has no time to think about doing anything there given the situation on the queen side
  • there is hope for White on the king side with Qe3 attacking the h6-square and the h5-pawn supported by Rh1; however with Black threatening to trade queens, there is an urgency to find something decisive there

How bold are you? Do you have a flare for vicious attacks and decisive sacrifices? If you do, you should feel right at home here. What piece(s) can you think of sacrificing? Do a quick overview and don’t be surprised of what you will find!

How do you feel solving a 9 moves checkmate? It must feel like Superman for a few minutes, doesn’t it? Come up with this in any way, shape or form (including take backs and help from kibitzers) and you have your jewel for life. Now think about coming up with this in an OTB game. The length of the combination makes it a very hard task. The fact it starts with a queen sacrifice makes it even harder (up from very hard?…) because there is no way you can pick up Qa3 and then some; that means you must reach checkmate! Of course the once in a lifetime opportunities do not come around in easy-breezy situations. What do we learn out of this? The length of a combination could feel like a burden; in fact it isn’t a burden as long as you have a clear goal in mind. Knowing what you need to accomplish is of utmost importance, then you also need will and sheer calculation to keep it going. This time it ends up beautifully. What do you do when it does not work out? Well, at least you gave it a shot. That is worth almost as much as solving it. Like Pink Floyd lyrics say:
Don’t give in without a fight

Valer Eugen Demian

100 Chess Tests, Basic Tactics

“100 Teste de sah, Procedee tactice elementare”/ “100 Chess tests, Basic tactics”, ISBN 978-606-8298-58-0, Editura Unirea – Alba Iulia is the third book in Romanian by MF Marius Ceteras (ROU), a follow up on the previous two very popular ones for beginner and intermediate players. His books are recognized by Romanian Ministry of Education and are officially used for teaching chess in schools across Romania and Republic of Moldova. The success of those books can be measured by the public positive response and desire for more of the same: they asked Marius to help them get more puzzles for practicing all the concepts presented. This third book is in response to that request.

The book is divided by 3 levels of difficulty plus one final review chapter and it is suitable for players rated around 1200 to 1600. Although it is written in Romanian, this book can be used by anyone rather easily. In today’s day and age the online free translation services solve decently any language barrier, including here for the rather minimal use of Romanian language in the description of each test. The puzzles are simply illustrated with their item number and either letter A (if White moves first) or N (if Black moves first). The solutions for all puzzles are located at the end of the book and checking them requires minimum effort even if you don’t know Romanian. The Romanian chess symbols for the pieces are (you can also Google them):
C = Cal (Rou) = Knight (Eng)
N = Nebun (Rou) = Bishop (Eng)
T = Turn (Rou) = Rook (Eng)
D = Dama (Rou) = Queen (Eng)
R = Rege (Rou) = King (Eng)
An English speaking reader might get mixed up at the beginning by the use of “N” or “R” (symbols for different pieces in English), but with a bit of practice things will work out well. I still get mixed up occasionally when translating between Romanian and English; this comes even after using both languages for many years!…

There are 100 tests of 6 puzzles each for a total of 600 puzzles. IMO this is a minimum number of puzzles any club player should solve on their own in order to get better. The puzzles are grouped by the tactical procedure required to solve them, as well as by level of difficulty. This aspect of the level of difficulty cannot be stressed enough! The internet is full with countless puzzles and sites offering puzzle solving; where the majority of them fall short is having those puzzles logically arranged in a meaningful and helpful progression. It is of very little use (sometimes no use at all) to try to solve a puzzle suitable for a 1600 level when you are under 1000. If you don’t even realize the puzzle is not suitable for you, there is a danger of turning an engine on to solve it for you; in that case you would learn nothing.

Levels 1, 2 and 3 have 30 tests for a total of 180 puzzles each, while the final review chapter has 10 final tests for a total of 60 puzzles. Marius personalizes all tests with a couple of nice local touches: all of them are from games played by Romanian players from Romania and Republic of Moldova; also their skill level varies from promising juniors to Grand Masters. There are tests where a tactical procedure is revisited as part of the same or a different level; the distinction between them is made by labeling them with letters such as: (A) for the first test and (B) for the second test.
Example I: level 1, test 6 deals with the “discovered attack” and it is marked (A), while test 7 also deals with the same subject and it is marked (B).
Example II: along the same idea level 2 has test 34 about “Attraction” (A), test 44 “Attraction” (B), while level 3 has test 66 “Attraction” (C) and test 76 “Attraction” (D).
This is a bit confusing and I am sure it could be improved in future. The number of tests per each tactical procedure has been chosen based on a statistical analysis of the frequency each might appear in a game, as well as how complex the procedure is. I believe this also is an important qualitative aspect of the book.

The solution of each puzzle could lead to the following possible outcomes for the side moving first:
– forced checkmate
– winning material advantage
– winning attack on the oppposing King
– won endgame
– winnning position
– draw if that is the best possible outcome
This book also covers the following tactical procedures not included in the previous two books; for each one I have added a sample puzzle to better illustrate what to expect:
1. The X-Ray attack (level 1, test 18)


2. Taking control of a square (level 2, tests 68 and 78)

3. The intermediate move (level 2, tests 69 and 79)

4. The counterattack (level 2, tests 70 and 80)

Other suggestions for improvements could be related to the layout: for each diagram it might be sufficient to have the lines and rows marked only on one side of the board (instead of both) to save space; also instead of using the letters A (if White moves first) or N (if Black moves first), it could be simpler to use an empty circle (if White moves first) or a dark circle (if Black moves first). It would go along the Informator type of layout and make it more appealing to a wider audience. The book can be purchased in local bookstores if you happen to visit Romania or online HERE. Hope you found this short review useful plus the offer interesting chess-wise (quality of material) and price-wise (18 Lei is approx 4.21 USD or 3.98 euro). An interesting interview with Marius will follow up in another article.

Valer Eugen Demian