Richard James On Junior Chess

Here’s a must read article for anyone seriously interested in junior chess in which he explains why much of the accepted thinking is wrong. I’ve long admired Richard’s deep and thoughtful writing and have frequently turned to his Chess Kids site for insights into how and why to teach my own son.

I have taught chess at a couple of schools and on both occasions I was happy to give it up. Most of the kids just weren’t very enthusiastic and those with promise were led away by the ‘anti-chess’ peer pressure that developed through the element of compulsion and this being ‘school stuff’.

When you force kids to do something that they’re not really that keen on a degree rebellion starts to set in.  Now they may toe the line in order to please their teachers and parents but that’s not going to develop a life long interest. Indeed as Kevin Spraggett points out here, 99% of all children who are taught chess in schools in North America stop playing the game within three years.

So why is there a huge Chess in Schools campaign here in the UK with the stated goal of teaching every child to play chess? Frankly I think they lack Richard’s, experience, insight and willingness to look critically at the studies which claim unilateral benefits for kids. We live in a World of poorly conducted studies used for propaganda purposes, and when enough uncritical minds accept their dodgy findings these can lead to the formation of government policy.

Accordingly I would like to see the various dignitaries who support compulsory chess do a compulsory statistics course and follow this up with a ten week stint teaching compulsory chess in an inner city classroom. After that I’ll be willing to admit that they have at least some qualifications for getting up on a podium!

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About NigelD

Nigel Davies is an International Chess Grandmaster living in St. Helens in the UK. The winner of 15 international tournaments he is also a former British U21 and British Open Quickplay Champion and has represented both England and Wales on several occasions. These days Nigel teaches chess through his chess training web site, Tiger Chess, which has articles, recommendations, a monthly clinic, videos and courses. His students include his 15 year old son Sam who is making rapid progress with his game. Besides teaching chess, Nigel is a registered tai chi and qigong instructor and runs several weekly classes.