Why Kids’ Chess Teachers Need Patience

A major problem faced by those who teach chess to children can be the apparent slow progress of their students. Why do they get better so slowly?

Well this is the nature of any art form whether it be music, painting or chess. Yet these days we are very used to things happening quickly, instant gratification. Why bother with a mere game that requires a lifetime to master? What’s the point?

Sadly these questions are impossible for someone to answer unless their audience appreciates the value of self cultivation. As someone develops their chess they also develop themselves, intellectually, physically and even spiritually. It’s not what you get out of it, it’s what you become.

Parents who don’t understand this will be looking for quick ‘results’, and this in turn will put conscious or subconscious pressure on the teacher to provide them. Many teachers who specialize in ‘children’s chess’ might even advertise their services based on ‘results’ and promptly teach them some short cuts such as the Fried Liver Attack (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5 6.Nxf7).

It has shocked me to learn that this opening is in the repertoire of junior players the length and breadth of the UK. And then counter measures are also being taught, such as 4…Nxe4 hoping for 5.Nxe4 d5 which recovers the piece. I once got shown this at a seminar and after 2 seconds thought pointed out that 5.Bxf7+ Ke7 6.d3 (or maybe 6.d4) is just horrible for Black. Some people in the Nottingham area will hate me for pointing this out.

Unfortunately none of this nonsense helps develop chess skill, in fact the message that one must ape particular moves for ‘success’ is even destructive to the thinking process by suggesting the use of memory over mind. Accordingly I would urge people to abandon the teaching of these silly tricks and instead focus on universal qualities such as sight of the board, principles and ideas. Your students may fall for a few tricks in the short term but they will cultivate themselves far more effectively. And they will be more likely to form a lasting relationship with this beautiful game of ours.



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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.