Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Chess Puzzle Learning Levels, Volume I

I love playing chess, but studying chess has always been a chore.  Most chess books are terribly boring, especially the ones heavy on puzzles.  I enjoy Silman's chess books because he adds enough humor to make his lessons palatable.  But I had never met a chess puzzle book I loved (or even liked) until I met Wyckoff's Chess Puzzle Learning Levels.
This 175-page book is divided into four levels, Level 1 is for players rated 400-999, Level 2 is 1000-1399, Level 3 is 1400-1800, Level 4 is 1800+.  Wyckoff gives puzzles for each of these levels, and ends the book with fun puzzles from an assortment of levels.  The format is pleasantly simple; there is one puzzle per page, with a title and a hint.  Turn the page, and you'll see a diagram with the answer and explanation.

Considering my dread of puzzles, my game plan was simple: go through 10 pages a day to finish in 17.5 days.  That didn't quite work out--I was through 50 pages in one sitting!  Since I'm rated 1699, Level 1 and much of Level 2 was very easy.  But the second half of the book slowed me down with some problems too difficult for me.

Featured in the puzzles were games from Fischer, Bill Gates vs Magnus Carlsen, an X-Men movie, various world champions, and compositions by the author.  Hints and titles contained references to history and literature--your knowledge of the fate of Anne Boleyn could be a great help in solving one puzzle!  Wyckoff gives just enough hints to make almost every problem solvable--thanks to his hints, I even was able to solve a mate in 10.

Also included are obscure chess terms and crazy trivia.  Do you know what Allumwandlung means?  How about Novotny?  Have you ever played fairy chess or heard of a knight becoming a nightrider?  Can you solve a mate in 5 from pieces formed into a letter of the alphabet? How about solving a puzzle to stalemate yourself in 4? 

One warning: the author does have predilection  for under-promoting knights to force mate, so by the end of the book beware--you may be tempted to promote every pawn you see into a gallant knight.  But if you search for beauty in chess, this is the book for you.  The puzzles and mates presented delight the aesthetic mind.  

This book is available at


  1. Sounds like a winner, Bethany! Would it be a good one to teach chess to our grandson (14)?

    1. It would be good to help him improve if he already knows the basics. But if he hasn't played any chess at all, he would need an introductory book first.

  2. Oh my. This one is probably beyond me. But you never know. Maybe I'll get wild and crazy and decide to learn chess. Life is like that.

    1. Heh! Well, should you ever need a chess puzzle book, here it is. ;)


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