RCI Puzzle Solving Procedures and Concepts.

Puzzle solving is an important part of a chess player’s growth.  I’d like to relate a few fundamental things about puzzles for your encouragement and better understanding.  Most puzzles that you will solve come from Grand Master (GM) games.  If you can see the accurate solution, technically speaking, you are working at the GM level.  For this reason alone, there is never any real justification for fearing an opponent.  We are convinced that fear at the chess board is always related to an inability or an unwillingness to calculate variations!!  Translation, if a players knows how to and is willing to calculate the coming moves, the only fear that could ever exist is that your opponent will continue to see and respond with the best reply.  That type of fear, for most chess players would be a welcomed relief to the other types of fear we have all experienced.

There are 2 elements of calculation that are essential to a players growth and enjoyment at the chessboard.  Visualization and Stamina.  When players say I can’t see that far ahead, what they are actually saying is, ” I can not hold the imagined future position in my mind accurately enough and/or long enough to feel comfortable that I have not missed something while deciding on my move”!!

Your work at home in your laboratory is always supposed to be better than the work you do at a tournament!?  Yes I know how crazy that sounds but in your laboratory you can create the ideal circumstances for concentration and you get to move the pieces back and forth without consequence.  When you leave your lab, you go to work under what is best characterized as field conditions!

The types of puzzles you choose to solve make a really big difference.  We’ve all finished a puzzle where it says, “… and white wins.” , or ” … and black wins.”.  We look at the position and think, “yeah if you’re a GM”!  To eliminate this type of uncertainty and confusion while training your visualization you must begin to solve checkmates exclusively!  Here’s why.  Checkmate is concrete and absolute.  It either is checkmate or it is not.  If you are trying to train your visualization, you must become good at chasing the slowest pieces 1st!  The slower the piece the easier it is to visualize where it can go.  This is why many trainers start with chess endings when they teach chess.  To the fast learner studying endings will be boring and discouraging.  Studying checkmates has the versatility of being able to have a few or a lot of pieces on the board at the same time and therefore has universal appeal and won’t bore!  The other important part of checkmates is that you are chasing something that can not be taken, it must be trapped!  This is the fundamental difference;  Becoming good at 2, 3, 4, and 5 move checkmates will teach you force, time, space, mobility, and sacrificial techniques that you can use to trap other pieces.  You will learn when you can and cannot take something a lot faster this way than if you tried to study any one of those elements individually!!  Learning combinations is traditionally taught one motif at a time.  Learning to trap the king would still have to be studied!

Let’s set up your lab RCI style, and see what kind of results you get.  This is the RCI Puzzle Solving Method.  This is a visualization and stamina exercise!

1.) You will need a chess board, a notebook, a pencil, and a clock or timer.

2.) Write the date, book you are using, and the diagram or page number

3.) Set the position up on the board and start the clock or timer

4.) Attempt to solve the puzzle.  You must not move the pieces at anytime while trying to solve the puzzle.  When you think you have solved the puzzle, write the answer down.

5.) Once you are 100% sure you have the correct answer or you have decided to give up, write down how much time you spent on that puzzle. Always give a puzzle at least 10 minutes before giving up!

6.) Now check the answer to see if you got it correct.  If you did not get the answer correct, or you gave up, write the answer down now.

7.) Now, put the pieces back to the position in the diagram.  Look at the board and see the solution and/or solutions to the puzzle.  If you are having any trouble seeing the solution then make a half move( a half move is for one side or the other not both) and try to see it. Keep making half moves back and forth until you can see the whole solution without moving the pieces.  When you are 100% sure that if someone showed you this position again or one just like it, you could solve it,  you may move on to the next puzzle.  This is the most important step!! If you skip this step, you’ve blown the entire exercise!!

There are no failures at this type of work!!  It does not matter if you are getting the answers right or not.  If you follow these steps, the solutions will become easier and easier to see.  Like magic you will begin to see 3, 4, 5, and 6 move combinations of every kind faster and easier than you ever have before!


If you always know the solution by the time you get the board set up, the material you are using is too easy!

If you are writing accurate solutions in less than 90 seconds, the material you are using is too easy!

Always give a puzzle at least 7 minutes before giving up and always write at least a partial solution.

Remember, you are in your lab.  There is no time limit for solving a puzzle or making sure you can see it before moving on!

Sit correctly, still, and quietly while solving puzzles.  No talking, no tv, no radio, no eating, and no interruptions once the clock has started!

If you follow these guidelines you should be able to complete 4-6 puzzles per hour.  If you ever get faster than that, you are skipping steps or the material you are using is too easy.

Solution to puzzle:

1. d2-h6!!  h7-g8  2. h6-h8!  g7-h8  3. f7-h6#

1. d2-h6!!  g7-h6  2. f7-g5!  h7-h8  3. c7-h7#


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