When Should Kids Start Writing Down The Moves?

An interesting question for those involved in kids’ chess, as either a parent or a coach, is when the kids we’re responsible for should start writing down the moves. On the one hand it can be useful to go through their game afterwards whilst on the other it can be a huge distraction, especially if they’re not that fluent.

My personal take is that it tends to be encouraged or required way too early and with time limits that are way too short. Complex tasks, such as tournament chess, should be broken down into component parts whilst each of these is mastered separately. So being reasonably competent at the game itself should precede using clocks and then writing down moves should be practised without the clocks at first.

What would be the right time to put them together? When the youngsters concerned are playing LONG PLAY games (which should also probably come later, when they naturally start using more time) and when they’re great with all the elements. This means never forgetting to press the clock and writing down the moves without error. At this point these tasks will no longer be distracting because fluency has been achieved. And it’s probably worth playing some ‘dress rehearsal’ games with clocks and writing down the moves before introducing the potential pressures of a tournament.

Are the kids concerned then missing out on having their games examined? Well first of all there might be times that their games can be recorded, for example playing on the internet allows you to download all of your games in pgn (portable game notation) format. There are other exercises which can be useful too, for example going through a game and asking them what they’d do and why. Then you can suggest alternatives, possible improvements and explain how you might do things.

It’s also important to handle all these things with sensitivity and care, kids can love playing chess but be turned right off it if stress is introduced. Unfortunately there can be a lot of stress, especially when adults are unable to handle their enthusiasm in a calm and controlled way. And this might explain why the many kids that start playing chess early on have given up prior to their teenage years.

 

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About NigelD

Nigel Davies is an International Chess Grandmaster living in Southport 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 he teaches chess through his chess training web site, Tiger Chess, which has articles, recommendations, a monthly clinic, videos and courses. His students include his 14 year old son Sam who is making rapid progress with his game.