Learning From Your Students

Life teaches us plenty of lessons along the way. One such lesson is to be open minded and actually listen to the feedback your students give you. Here is a simple scenario: you present a puzzle for solving and the students get started; some will do it seriously, excited by the challenge in front of them. The vast majority will start pestering you with questions from the simplest ones (who moves first?) to the most challenging (is this first move the solution?…); of course a small percentage will simply do not care and wait for the solution to be presented.

Paying attention to the questions asked is key in my experience! When I started teaching chess I was pretty much decisive: “No, that is not it. Have another look!”. That does not help anyone and of course could be done by anyone. Hey, the software does that too when you try solving puzzles on your own. I am not a piece of software!

Here is a mate in 4 puzzle I challenged by students to take upon during their summer vacation to stay in touch with chess until we resume classes. Give it a try as well!


I chose it as appropriate for the next level we are going to study together in the upcoming school year. Now some of the students have failed to pass the graduation test back in June and will have to take it again in September when we start again. This is a good opportunity to use the knowledge they have so far and practice for the test. One of the students who is in that boat has emailed me his solution:

You already know that is not it, right? What do we do with the kid though? He moved the white King back and forth; that is of little value. Hmm, he got aggressive with the black King, right? Hey, if you look careful that is actually a nice help mate, ain’t it? Don’t you think the kid has some ideas running through his mind? I do! Here are a couple of pointers;
1. The kid actually achieved a mate in 4
2. His solution shows ingenuity; help mates require effort and out of the box thinking. Here we can actually think the first 2 white moves were in a way done similar with gaining the opposition, don’t you think?
3. There clearly is desire to do the work
Would you give him a second chance? Probably it depends if you found the solution by now. Have you?

Valer Demian

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About Valer Eugen Demian

The player - my first serious chess tournament was back in 1974, a little bit late for today's standards. Over the years I have had the opportunity to play all forms of chess from OTB to postal, email and server chess. The journey as a player brought me a lot of experience and a few titles along the way: FIDE CM (2012), ICCF IM (2001) and one ICCF SIM norm (2004). The instructor - my career as a chess teacher and coach started in 1994 and continues strong. I have been awarded the FIDE Instructor title (2007) for my work and have been blessed with great students reaching the highest levels (CYCC, NAYCCC, Pan-Am, WYCC). I am very proud of them! See my website for more information. I have developed my own chess curriculum on 6 levels based on my overall chess knowledge and hands-on experience. A glimpse of it can be seen in my first chess app: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/chessessentials/id593013634?mt=8 I can help you learn chess the proper way if this is what you seek!