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Chess Problems, Puzzles, and Studies
Do you know the difference between these three chess terms?

The chess terms problem, puzzle, and study are sometimes used interchangeably. Although they all have something to do with finding the best move in a given position, they have different meanings.

The terms problem and study apply to compositions. They are positions that have been invented by a composer to illustrate a surprising aspect of the way pieces can interact with each other.

The terms puzzle and study apply to positions that are strategically probable. They might well occur in a game between two reasonably competent chess players.

The following table shows the differences in a matrix format.

Puzzle Study

One entry is missing -- a strategically improbable game position -- because it is a self contradiction. These positions could only arise in a game between beginners who know little or nothing about the strategies of chess. An example would be a game between two computer programs that can generate all the legal moves in a given position, but which choose their moves at random.

For a more detailed definition of each term, see the following entries from the About Chess Glossary.

For examples of chess puzzles and chess studies, see the link box at the bottom of the page. For examples of chess problems, read on!


The following positions are taken from two books of chess problems by Burt Hochberg : Award-Winning Chess Problems and Outrageous Chess Problems. From more about these books, see our review (link box again).

From 'Award-Winning Chess Problems' (no.1)
I.V.Diaconu, Der Waarheid 1967

White to move and mate in two

From 'Outrageous Chess Problems' (no.2)
Karl Fabel, Weltspiegel 1946

White adds a Pawn and mates in two

If you have trouble solving the first problem, ask your computer to help. If you have trouble solving the second, you're on your own (unless you have a copy of Hochberg's book). The only hint you'll get from us is that the White Pawn must be placed somewhere near the Black King (but you knew that already).

For a few more examples of Hochberg's outrageous problems, see our forum discussion titled 'Self-working Problem' (link box again).

 Related Resources
• Puzzles
• Studies
  Book Review:-
• Problems (Burt Hochberg) (offsite)
• Chess Glossary (A-Z) (offsite)
• Chess Glossary Articles (offsite)
 Join the Discussion
• Self-working Problem