Both the tag and the tag seem to have very similar definitions, with being a little broader - perhaps ought to be a subset of ?

A chess problem consists of a board position and a task. Most often the problem asks to find a line of play that mates black in a given number of moves, or to find a combination that guarantees a winning position. There are many other kinds of problems, some far removed from standard chess play. Tournaments and championships exist for both the composition of original problems and for speed-solving."

A problem in which a tactical or positional solution is required, like 'White move and gives mate in two'.


3 Answers 3


Good question; one of the items on my TODO list was to organize these in a better way, together with the related tags (where it concerns endgame studies) and .

In my opinion, we should follow the Wikipedia definitions. This article lists a quite exhaustive type of chess problems, of which the most common are:

  • Directmates (straightforward mate in n)
  • Helpmates
  • Selfmates

That list contains endgame studies, but they are (in my opinion) sufficiently different enough to warrant their own tag. Note that the tag excerpt for is actually something that I would definitely call a 'problem', and Wikipedia agrees with me:

Problems can be contrasted with tactical puzzles often found in chess columns or magazines in which the task is to find the best move or sequence of moves (usually leading to mate or gain of material) from a given position. Such puzzles are often taken from actual games, or at least have positions which look as if they could have arisen during a game, and are used for instructional purposes. Most such puzzles fail to exhibit the above features.

Puzzles would be a good for the (often) tactical middlegame puzzles 'White to play and win', where the solution is often a line winning a piece or so. On the other hand, it's also a good determiner for chess-themed puzzles like this one. I haven't found a good solution for this problem dilemma yet.

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    I completely agree with you, except that the example you give of a chess-themed puzzle is very definitely a retrograde analysis chess problem and I am sure the author (who I know) would not call it a puzzle, because of his artistic intent. “Rebuses” are a well-known sub-genre.
    – Laska
    Dec 13, 2019 at 0:19

I'd say that "puzzle" should be the broader term. Puzzle is not a term in chess jargon, so it is as generic as it is in English.

A chess problem is much less generic, e.g. it has very strict goal (a problem would say "Mate in 2", a position with the stipulation "White to play and win" is a puzzle but not a problem).

Studies are puzzles, but not problems.

So the definition for puzzle should be improved.

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    Puzzle is a word which composers avoid using to describe their work because it kinda denies their artistic intent.
    – Laska
    Dec 13, 2019 at 0:21

From a problem composer's perspective, "problem" = "composition" means something that someone has made with artistic intent. In contrast, composers use the word "puzzle" to refer to (usually tactical) conundrums which are intended to show good plays in the game, or how to win. This is not intended to be pejorative: there are some really good and taxing puzzles around, e.g. chess.com. These two areas of chess endeavour have been essentially separate for 150 years,

But composers would say that their work isn’t “puzzles” - a puzzle to them doesn’t have artistic intent. So the word “puzzle” is not available as a cover-all term.

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