I heard an interesting comment on UK junior chess in that few of the players seem to have much common sense in the opening. From what I’ve seen it does look rather true, players can know the names of openings and ape a few moves but often don’t have much of a FEEL for how to develop their game.
I think this is a direct result of attempts to take the short cut of teaching specific moves and traps rather than principles, plans and ideas. And it’s a road that leads nowhere except to some mediocre short term results. Players have to learn to think up their own moves and understand the process through which this is done. And if it doesn’t look too good at first then it’s just normal, as players grow within the game it will get better.
Do I have a better approach? I believe so, but I haven’t seen any literature which specifically recommends what I think should be done. I like the idea of showing kids lots of games, and perhaps being encouraged to guess the moves, but it shouldn’t just be any old game. They need to have clear strategic and tactical themes which means a strong player has to hand pick them.
When someone sees enough of these they’ll start to understand what they should be doing. And I have a finesse in mind which will help build a specific (if loose) ‘repertoire’.