Bulletin No.61 – lichess, the gift that keeps on giving: Puzzles!
Martin Clancy kindly wrote this informative bulletin about the lichess puzzles and some of its innovative features that may help us all improve our skills.
Please note that all the blue headings in this bulletin are clickable links that will take you to the relevant lichess pages.
lichess really is “the gift that keeps on giving”. In this article, I will be focusing on their Puzzle offering for players, but I cannot resist giving a quick summary of its role in chess during the pandemic first. From its Wiki page it is described as a “free and open-source internet chess server run by a non-profit organisation of the same name”. The quality of the software and its response to the pandemic in my opinion has been exceptional.
You can see the impact of the pandemic on lichess in the following chart showing the growth in games played per month over the period of the pandemic.
Perhaps given the increase in the number of games played it might be better described as lichess’s impact on the pandemic!
For me personally it has provided a platform to continue playing with the members of the local chess community during the pandemic via events organised by the following lichess teams:
- Ringwood Chess Tournaments – especially the fortnightly Monday night battles
- 4NCL_Wessex_Some_stars – for the online national 4NCL league
- Dorset Rapidplay Events – which has organised a rapid play Swiss tournament with cash prizes.
So I was already a lichess enthusiast even before it revamped it’s Puzzle features.
lichess Puzzle offerings
From the lichess main menu, settle your mouse over the PUZZLES tab to see the available options.
Historically there was only the first option available but with lichess releasing batches of puzzle over the last year more options have developed (see below).
I don’t use all the options but will describe all of them as they may appeal more to you!
Selecting this option provides an initial puzzle based on your current puzzle grade and the puzzle’s nominal grade (difficulty).
The board is presented and the last moved played is shown. (In this example Nf8 has just been played). To “solve” the puzzle you make the move on the board. If it is correct but more moves are required the next move will be made automatically. In this example after Be4 and Qxe4 the final move is Rxe4 giving the position below.
The points gained or lost is shown on the left. The points reflect success or failure and a partial score is also possible if more than one move is required. Also on the left-hand side you can include/exclude puzzle themes and increase/decrease the level of difficulty (+-300 and +-600 gulp! )
You get to like or not like the puzzle and move on to the next puzzle on the right-hand side of the screen. An option allows you to immediately jump to the next puzzle, but you do miss seeing your score!
This is an interesting option, and it will be intriguing to see how it develops. My suspicion is as the technology evolves it will prove useful for people trying to improve. Selecting the option gives the following screen.
On the main dashboard you have the option to change the analysis period from 1 day up to 90 days and to replay the puzzles. From changing the period, the scores are convincing over time. For example, I consistently score higher for middlegame rather than endgame.
On the side menu the first option gives you access back to “Puzzles” and the second allows you to focus on a large puzzle set for a particular theme. Options 3 and 4 show you your strengths and weaknesses and both give you the opportunity to focus on puzzles reflecting the themes.
Puzzle history allows you access to the puzzles you have attempted before so you can get them wrong or right at a second attempt.
The last option is interesting and shows puzzles from your own games that made the puzzle dataset. I have got 75 in the set and until it is proven otherwise, I am assuming that I had the opportunity to play the combination and did!
Personally, I like this application. The only criticism I would have is that the early puzzles are too easy, but that is inevitable given you want the test to be comparable across all players.
This is a set of puzzles against the clock which focuses on finding the correct move. You have 3 minutes to complete as many puzzles as possible and you get a point per puzzle solved. You gain times bonuses by playing “correct moves” and lose time for incorrect moves. In any run of Puzzle Storm you get to play White all the time or Black all the time so you don’t have to mentally adjust to the board flipping.
The scores at the bottom are your own best score s for all time, monthly weekly and today respectively. The button View best runs shows your best performances. The button About Puzzle Storm provides the detail about how bonus time can be won or lost and tries to answer other FAQ!
This is similar to Puzzle storm and a point is scored for each correct move. The objective is to get as many points as possible in 90 seconds. You can compete in the race “publicly” against others or restrict it to friends. All players get the same puzzles and you always get the same colour. The About Puzzle Racer tab gives details about how to win extra points.
As you can see at the bottom it really is a race!
The above all use this database freely available from lichess. It contains more than a million puzzle positions which took over 35 years of CPU time to assemble!
Also on this link is a set of interesting projects based on this database and other lichess data.
Play for Free or Get Your Wing
As I said at the top lichess is the site that keeps on giving! Fortunately, they do provide a facility to give something back via their patron page which allows you to donate to the cause. Doing so gets your account the coveted lichess wing next to your username (see below).