Chess studies and mating problems are composed of positions – they have been made up and have not actually happened in a game, as most puzzles – where you will need to discover the only way for white (usually) to win or make a draw. In this sense, they may sound very similar to the usual puzzles, but they are, in fact, very different. The solution is always unique and usually based on beautiful ideas that are not obvious to the eye in the first place. Because of this, the thought process is usually very different as well. Some players love them, others don’t, but most of them agree on the fact that solving studies can be highly beneficial to your chess improvement. Here are some reasons why:
1.They help you train calculation.
From training your ability to identify all candidates moves in a position to calculate long, forced variations, studies and problems have them all.
If calculation is one of the parts you need to work on and improve, you could add studies and problems to your daily solving scheme. You could start with some easier mates in two problems, for example, and then gradually increase the difficulty level.
Even so, solving mating problems must not be underestimated. Most mistakes happen in the first moves of the variations and solving mating problems, especially in two or three moves, will help you improve your calculation of short variations. Developing this skill together with the ability to take into account the best possibilities available to your opponent will help reduce blunders in your games.
2.They teach you to look for all candidate moves, as unlikely or unnatural they may look.
Identifying all the candidate moves is one of the biggest problems in the calculation for most chess players. Unlike in a game, when solving studies you know there should be only one solution, while other apparently good moves should fail, for some reason.
What you need to do is identify that reason, hence search for all candidate moves for your opponent as well. Failing to find those is another common mistake in calculation, but in compositions, you are basically forced to scan and consider all possible defensive ideas for your opponent.
3.They teach you to search for hidden ideas.
When most natural, sense-making moves fail, you have to consider everything. Most of the times it is exactly there where hidden ideas lie.
Again, you have to apply this process for both sides and, if things look too easy, that’s probably because you’ve missed something. Once you understand that, you learn to search for deeper ideas and new moves will surface.
4.They help you train and improve your imagination.
Studies and mating problems are not just simple puzzles; their solutions are usually beautiful and paradoxical. You will have to use your imagination and come up with possible mating nets or winning/drawing ideas and then try to make them work. When they fail, you have to search for others.
Imagination and the ability to set up the desired position or a possible trap during a game is an important feature in chess and doing this type of solving can help you improve it.
5.You learn basic, important patterns.
When it comes to endgame studies, you will see that many of the solutions are based, in fact, on important must-know patterns or theoretical positions.
For example, many pawns endgame studies are based on triangulation or bodychecking the rival king or knowing the winning ideas in the queen versus the rook’s or bishop’s pawn on the 7th More than just improving your calculation skills, solving studies can help you brush up your endgame play as well.
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