What should a Chess Instructor be able to teach a student ?
This important and basic question often times is over looked by parents and school administrators when they are presented with slick advertising and hyped up claims of a company that is hiring novices off of Craigslist. If we believe that chess study is an important logic and skill building exercise for ourselves and our children then we must take care to insure instructors and coaches are able to properly present the concepts and have mastered the basic building blocks of chess.
This list is intended for the coaching of absolute beginners through intermediate level players. Prerequisite knowledge for coaching of more advanced tournament players (ratings higher than 1200) is naturally a more extensive list.
1. They are able demonstrate all of the basic rules of chess: Movement of the pieces including all the conditions of castling, checkmate, check, all the conditions of a drawn game, how to properly set up a chess set and last but not least the rule of Enpassant.. I am always saddened when I go to scholastic chess tournaments and I see how many children have not been properly taught how to even set up a chess board.
2. A chess instructor should be able to demonstrate all of the minimal checkmate techniques of the game. How to checkmate with King and Queen vs. King, King and Rook vs. King and even the more difficult King +Two Bishops and Bishop +Knight vs. King. Ask your current chess coach how to demonstrate these four basic scenarios and you may be surprised at his our her's lack of knowledge ! If they can not teach you how to win the most basic situations then how is it possible for them to help you graduate the novice stage.
3. A chess instructor should be able to teach the principals and basic stratagems of the three phases of the chess game (opening, middle game and endgame). The mastery of these three parts of chess should be the meat and bones of any chess education. More books have been written on these elements than almost any subject ! The strength of a qualified coach will rest in his ability to convey the principals and analysis of these elements. So good questions to ask would be, "What am I trying to accomplish in the Opening ? What are the typical plans for both sides in a certain Middle game ? What factors should I take into consideration when I am playing the Endgame in chess ?"
4. A chess instructor should teach proper conduct and sportsmanship. This one should be obvious, but sadly I have witnessed many coaches (and parents and players) place the value of winning above all other things...including following the rules! Chess is only a game and potentially a wonderful way to mold our minds into being more logical and creative. Keep the game clean and remember that there is more to chess (and life) than winning at all costs !
Carl Boor is a proffessional Chess Instructor who teaches online, in person and in schools and community centers.