600 Modern Chess Puzzles


If your eyes are usually in front of a screen, switching to reading a paperback book helps your vision. If you choose the book 600 Modern Chess Puzzles by Grandmaster Martyn Kravtsiv, your chess vision improves too.

600 Modern Chess Puzzles

On page 5 of 600 Modern Chess Puzzles, Martyn Kravtsiv writes, “This book is aimed at chess-players of a wide variety of levels, from near-beginner to those close to master level. It contains 600 exercises mostly from recent games.” I don’t think the book is for near-beginners. I struggled with some of the problems at levels 1 and 2, which are the easier puzzles. The first chapter, Warming Up, has puzzles of levels 1 and 2.

Here is one that I missed, #33 of the 71 puzzles in the Warming Up chapter. It had the hint, “How does White hunt down the black king?”

chess diagram

As White, I would like to play 1. Rd3, to bring a rook to the h-file, but then 1…Rxe1#. I thought about 1. Re3, but then 1…Rxe3. I considered trading rooks. I considered 1. h4, so I could either play 2. Qg5+ or break open the h-file. None of my ideas worked.

The correct answer is a quiet move, 1. Re5. It seems to give Black a free move. However, Black can’t use that move to counter-attack. Black is powerless to stop 2. Rd3 with the idea of 3. Rh3#. The best Black can do is 1. Re5 Rf8 2. Qh4+ Kg7 3. Re7+ and White wins material.

The hardest puzzles are level 5. Here is puzzle #292, a level 5 puzzle. White has just played 22. Ra4. The hint is, “How can Black gain a big advantage?”

chess diagram

In this case, I could only see the correct first move! It seemed obvious to exploit the pinned pawn on c4 with 22…b5. However, my follow-up was incorrect. I played exactly like Black did in the game. Black was rated 1567 and drew his opponent, who was rated 1629. The game continued 23. Nxb5 Bxc4. 24. Rxc4 Qxb5. Just as in the previous problem, I missed a quiet move, 23…Rdc8.

chess diagram

Apparently, I need to work on seeing quiet moves: moves that are not a capture, check, or immediate threat to the opponent. Among other attributes, quiet moves can set up a winning attack (#33) or may convert to a winning endgame (#292).

The book’s diagrams are large. I did not have to strain to see the chessmen, which is good. Each puzzle’s solution is clearly explained. If you are looking for a challenging and well-formatted puzzle book, 600 Modern Chess Puzzles is a great choice.

WIM Alexey Root, PhD

Alexey Root is a Woman International Master and the 1989 U.S. Women's chess champion. Her peak US Chess rating was 2260. She has a PhD in education from UCLA. You can find her books on chess on Amazon.com.