Think Before You Move

I organised a practice tournament at a school recently and observed quite a few of the children just couldn’t help touching the pieces as they decided what to do next. Some seemed to want to move so quickly they immediately grabbed a piece as soon as their opponent had moved. But instead of moving it to somewhere decisively they tended to dither over the move, even picking up the piece and hovering it over various squares – and probably observing their opponent’s reaction – until they finally dropped it somewhere. Or, picking up another piece altogether and doing the same thing all over again.

This is excruciating to watch in so many different ways! I set myself the task of ignoring what is going on in the positions on the boards and instead just identifying which children have this bad habit and trying to give them tips on how to stop it. They already know what the touch move rule is, but this still happens. Perhaps they forget or think that their opponent will not mind – but invariably they do.

My advice to them has been something along the lines of, when it’s your turn to move…

– stop

– think

– don’t touch a piece until you know where you are going to move it to

– don’t take back a move once you let go of the piece

I thought this advice would solve the problem. But if only it was that simple… Instead what tends to happen after their opponent has just moved is….

– immediately grab a piece

– think while holding the piece

– hover it over several squares while driving your opponent crazy

– put it back where it was (or even better on a different square)

– and then move a different piece, illegally, hoping your opponent won’t notice.

Thankfully we are still just training for a tournament and not actually participating in one yet. It is just as well, as these problems seem so embedded (for some) it is going to take a while to replace them with the good habit of thinking before you move. My latest attempt to sort this out is to challenge them when they do this to:

– sit on their hands, or

– fold their arms

to actually make it impossible for them to move before considering what to move and where to move it. Hopefully this will work, otherwise straightjackets may be required…

I am ever hopeful that fixing this problem will lead to an improvement in their level of play as well as making it a more pleasant experience for their opponents.

Angus James