The Most Useful Puzzle I Have Ever Seen

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I am curious to know if there are others like this out there. Do you remember the most useful puzzle or position you have ever seen?

For me, it’s this one:

The idea behind this puzzle was eye-opening and has helped me navigate many strategic ideas throughout my games in the five years since I first saw it.

The game is Donner – Smyslov from Havana 1967. This is the first position in the book Strategic Chess Exercises by Emmanuel Bricard.

I will spare you all of the analysis here (buy the book! Seriously, buy it now!) but the idea is that Black would like to own the d file. So how does the former world champion accomplish that?

Like this:

1…c6 with the idea to take away the b5 square. 2.Rfd1 preparing to double, but wait. 2…Be6 and now the queen must move. 3.Qe2 Bb3! and that’s it. The d file will now belong to Black.

I would imagine that most titled players likely think of ideas like this without much trouble, but to me, this was like a lightning bolt from the blue. The idea that I could use a bishop to hit a square on a file so that I could own the file was not something that instantly sprang to mind until I first read this one.

Have I said that you should buy the book? You should buy this book.

For those who would like to see the entire game, here you are: Jan Hein Donner vs Vasily Smyslov (1967) (

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott