What could possibly be the benefits of trying to make some sense from a completely senseless position? I would never encounter anyway, in real practice, such meaningless dispersion of the chess pieces. I would never gain anything, right? There are no patterns, no strategical ideas, no real plans, just some mating idea which could give you nightmares if you don't see it fast enough. At least this is what I thought for some time...and only because I was getting bored in buses or just to try something different, I looked upon such diagrams. After all, it is fun.
Studies are different, I thought. Yes, there is some logic over there, sometimes these ideas can be seen even in 'normal' games, so this I understand it might be useful. But mate in two, in three, in four, or even much worse: in five or six?? To get a headache for nothing? No thanks!
But I've changed my mind, of course. Otherwise I wouldn't be writing this post:)
Here is an example from John Nunn's book, 'Solving in Style':
|White to move, mate in two|
Giorgio Guidelli, 2nd Prize L'Eco degli Scacchi 1916-17
Many times I hear (which happens to me as well): "I simply 'forgot' about my pawn on the other wing"; "I missed that check on the fifth rank"...horizontal, backwards, intermediate moves, we all miss them sooner or later. It's not that easy to see all the 64 squares at once! Our attention is limited and it is often dragged by some 'interesting' area on the chess board, neglecting the others. And than we wonder: how could we miss this or that move?
This is the moment where mate in 'n' problems might help: to grasp the sometimes very surprising way that pieces can interact with each other. You are literally forced to consider all the corners of the board, to ask yourself questions: why is that pawn doing over there? is this really the best defence?
After the first shock, after the first sigh (which could be translated as: what the hell is going on?!), you realize that you start to understand something. That you start to grasp the hidden ideas and eventually get to the essence of the problem. And voila: you succeeded to coordinate your pieces, to see all the pins, intermediate moves, checks and tricky annoying traps.
I believe it is an excellent exercise for the brain, to make him used to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. And when you'll be on the board, playing the so called 'normal' game, you'll simply drop the pieces and they will fall on the right squares! That's because your gray matter will be fit and alert, in order to see the geometry behind all the squares and pieces.
Plus, if you give it a chance, you will discover another world of beauty, another way to approach chess. And, without any exaggeration, some of these problems could be considered an art form!
No wonder that Vladimir Nabokov wrote about the "originality, invention, conciseness, harmony, complexity, and splendid insincerity" of creating chess problems and spent considerable time doing so.
I am not claiming that this way of training your brain is better than others or the best. It is just a way. Another way.