We do a lot of tactics training with our kiddies in the chess club. This one was a real migraine maker for them, none found the solution. (I'm not 100% sure if I remember each piece correctly, but it suffices.) White to move forces mate.

[FEN "2k2r2/R2p4/N3p3/4Ppq1/3R4/P5p1/1PP2B2/5K2 w KQkq - 0 1"]

I didn't find it either, and our youth trainer had a field day since he found it with 500 Elo or so less than me. (In retrospect, it is idiotically simple.)

Please try it out first yourself. Do you run into the same block as I? The generic verdict would be "not considering a candidate move", but why don't you consider it? Which mental obstacle is to be overcome? (I already have a vague theory.)

  • 1
    I'm not too sure what your question is asking, to be honest. After looking at a position (this one or otherwise), considering and vetoing candidates is a core part of analysis. Over time, it becomes easier to veto moves that don't win immediately, especially within the context of solving tactics puzzles. Perhaps this mental obstacle is not one to begin with, but rather a lack of fundamentals in position analysis. In my opinion, it all boils down to two questions: (1) Is there a threat? and (2) Can I ignore it? Sep 3, 2022 at 17:47
  • In regards to this particular puzzle, it wasn't difficult for me to see that we have two forcing lines resulting in mate in 3. Perhaps your question is about an overall approach to solving tactics puzzles? Sep 3, 2022 at 17:58
  • Is it Rc7 and R7d7 followed by mate next. Maybe because intuitively we go for Rdxd7 thinking that both rooks on 7th rank is the way ?
    – cmgchess
    Sep 4, 2022 at 5:01
  • @cmgchess: That is my theory too: R4d7 vs R7d7 is so "unnatural" that it falls through the candidate generation. (Posed as "#3" I probably would have found it sooner or later since "unnatural" moves are common in chess problems!) Sep 4, 2022 at 7:54
  • Rd7 (either rook) doesn't lead to a quick mate, black can defend with a queen maneuver Qc1+ Qxc2. I just checked with Stockfish to confirm. Sep 4, 2022 at 8:01

1 Answer 1


So I hope I don't make a fool out of myself, because I didn't verify whether my solution is even correct, but I want to give my 5 cents here, though this is only very anecdotal, as I consider myself neither a good nor an experienced player, but I did manage to solve this puzzle (I guess).

Rc7 jumped to my head as a candidate move right away for some reason. Probably because the puzzle was introduced as leading to mate and then I start with the most forcing move.

After this, Kd8 is forced.

The next step was trickier. Somehow I feel an inner resistance, moving the same piece twice in such small steps, so R4xd7 felt more natural. But there after following the possible responses, I realized quickly, that the Queen protects any threats from my rooks.

So how about Rcxd7? Ke8 leads to Nc7# which is good, but what about Kc8 again? This looked odd, because, what had changed since the last time the king was there? Won't I just be repeating moves if I go Rc7 again? But then it dawned on me, that there is no pawn anymore and the King can't move, so it's check mate.

So to answer the question, on my side there were two mental obstacles that I had to overcome:

  1. Moving pieces multiple times in very small steps. Normally this feels wrong to me so I was hesitant here and about to disregard that move.
  2. Not envisioning the board as it will look like after some captures. This missing pawn made a huge difference but there was still the initial picture of the board in my mind.
  3. (Not fully appreciating the power of the knight to jump around like crazy sometimes, and then covering spots that seemed impossible, but that is a bit off here I would say)
  • Your answer vindicates me: I was very reluctant to post the question - I thought, if it has a sensible answer at all, then "auto-doubling on the 7th", neglecting R4d7. But evidently that wasn't the only potential block. Sep 6, 2022 at 10:30

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