Coaching Newcomers

Kids play chess for different reasons initially and gradually they develop their interest in chess. Capturing or liking the shapes of pieces could be one of the reasons to learn chess. I’ve found that compared to adults it is really hard to teach chess to kids, but the attractive point is that the market is huge with great potential to develop. Here I am sharing my own experience for the coaches of newcomers which might be useful to them.

Board arrangement and pieces identification:
It is easier for kids to remember when you teach using some stories and tales. For example while explaining where to arrange queen and king on the chess board, we often ask the question.’what ladies do’? Aha they do matching so the queen goes on her own color. Or you can teach with the help of poem like ‘Monkey speaks hoofs and this is rook’. An important consideration is the local culture when using this approach.

How the pieces moves:
It is easy for us and horrible for children. As I am getting more and more experience in coaching kids, I have come to know that it is better to teach the rook, bishop first then queen and then pawn. The reason is quite logical in that rook and bishop moves are simple to explain. While teaching queen you just need to focus that she is having combined power or rook and bishop. It is better to teach pawn and knight later on. Here I have developed a unique method to teach how the pieces move; it is unique as I haven’t read this to any books or somewhere else. See the example below for the rook.

You can see that rook moves are highlighted. You need to ask children to count total number of option that rook is having once you explained how rook moves.

Second stage is to arrange same color pawns in the rook’s way (the rook cannot jump!). Once again I ask the total number of option the rook can go to.

The third stage is to arrange the opposite color pawns in the rook’s way and repeat the questions. Surprisingly this Q & A method works very well for total newcomers, I’ve been very successful with it.

Attack and capture:
It is very important to explain the difference between attacks and capture to kids otherwise they will move the same piece 2 steps in different directions in a single move. For example if your rook is on a1 and the target is b7, and if your student is not aware about the concept of attack and capture, they directly capture the pawn on b7 via Ra1-a7-b7 route in a move when you asked how an attack could be created.

Workbook selection:
It is very much vital to practice things which have been taught. And my search ends when I have found Chess Camp series and Learning Step series. They work well together, a good practice book for kids and guidance for chess coaches.

I hope this will prove useful to those who teach kids. It’s good to think about these things and come up with creative ideas.

Ashvin Chauhan