The Questions are as important as the Answers

16th June 2020

"It's not the answer that enlightens but the question"- Eugene Ionesco

Everyday chess players are engaged in solving puzzles, making decisions and finding answers.

Puzzles serve as a window to the human mind helping us better understand our own thought process and the thought process of those we teach and sometimes even why we think.

White to play and win.

A Kasparian study which illustrates the strength of a knight over a bishop. He has composed many studies of the same nature. Although the puzzle says white to play and win, this question does not help us find the answer.

The right question to ask here would be, 'What would my opponent play if it were his move' is a good place to start your thought process and with a little bit of imagination, you might be able to arrive at the solution.

White to Play and Mate in 3.

A beautiful study composed by Johann Nepomuk Berger and many people I have shown this to have solved it at varying speeds.

The position is deceptively simple and the sheer number of possibilities/ candidates make it difficult for white to arrive at the right move. Especially, as only one move achieves the goal of mating in three moves.

Instead of forcing mate on the opponent, it helps to get into black's head and see 'Where the black king would try to escape if it were his move?'

In a more open position with more than one good answer the question becomes subjective as well allowing the player to express himself.

During a practical game a strong player would think only when something is bothering him, only when he is trying to find an answer to a question in his mind.

White to Play
Carlsen Magnus-Hikaru Nakamura Tata steel 2011.

A complex double edged middlegame from a Sicilian Najdorf and both sides are trying to stir up counterplay on both wings.

White aims to play Nd4 here and the question to ask is 'What does black intend against Nd4?'

If you can’t find the solution of a puzzle after prolonged effort and thought, don't fret as you can still find the question that arrives at the answer.

Finding the answer improves your skill and finding the question improves your understanding !


1.Kh1 ! placing black in zugzwang as 1...Kxd4 loses to a6 and any bishop move loses to a knight fork.

2.Black to play the best way for him to avoid quick mate would be take the king to d4.So white in preparation for that play 1.Rf1!! Kd4 2.Qd3 Ke5 3.f4#.A truly extraordinary study.

3.Black achieves some counterplay after 1. Nd4 with 1...Nbc4 2.Qe1 Qb6 3.Bc1 Na3 4.Ka1 Qxd4! White avoids all of these complications with 1.Ka1 !


The Questions are as important as the Answers
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