Learning to Play Better Chess

| 4 | For Beginners


One of the first things a teacher does with a new student in elementary school is assess their existing level of knowledge. In literacy this is done with an IRI (Informal Reading Inventory). What does the student know about literacy? What skills are already in place? What reteaching is needed? Once these questions are answered teacher is better equipped to create a plan for growth.

One of the first things a coach does with a new student in chess is assess their existing level of knowledge. In chess this is done with an ICS (Informal Chess Survey). What does the student know about Chess? What skills are already in place? What reteaching (or even unlearning) is needed? Once these questions are answered coach is better equipped to create a plan for growth.

The basics for beginners in chess include chess notation, the rules of the game, and an introduction to chess terminology plus a brief look at tactics. Wow! That sounds easy. ^_^


Timmy: Professor Chess? How can I become the World Chess Champion in three hours?

Professor Chess: Don't be silly Timmy, it could take days even weeks to become the next World Chess Champion.

Poor Timmy. He is a complete novice, an utter tyro, an total beginner... a patzer.

Timmy: But Professor Chess, I've noticed that I didn't get my Bishops out before and now I move them as soon as I can.

Professor Chess: Poor, useless, pathetic Timmy, you aren't a professional chess professor. You may have corrected what you thought was the problem but have you corrected what actually is your problem? Huh? Have you? Well?

Poor, inevitable-loser, Timmy. Next thing you know he will try to memorize opening lines.

Timmy: Hey Professor Chess, I've started memorizing opening lines!

Professor Chess: Don't make me smack you Timmy.


As any Chess Professor will tell you. The fastest way to improving understanding of chess is to study the endgames. Endgame study allows the Timmys of the world to see how pieces behave to control squares as in Bishop and pawn endgames; how they work to counter each other as in Rook vs. Bishop endings; and how they coordinate with other pieces as in minor piece mating patterns. All of the understanding gleaned from endgames transfers into middle game and the opening.

Timmy: Even drawing with a rook pawn vs. a Queen? How do I use that in an opening, Dr. Checkers?

Professor Chess: *SMACK*


A new chess player is not equiped with the proper tools for assessing their own weaknesses and strengths. For example: Many players believe they are strong endgame players. This is a logical belief because they are stronger in the endgame than in the opening or middle game. This is because the sparser boards allow for greater accuracy in judging the position for new players (indeed for all players). But if EVERYONE is stronger in the endgame...

Do not waste time reinventing the wheel. Hire professionals to help you. If you cannot invest the money then get advice from superior players but DO NOT assume they know a lot about chess just because they know more than you do. Even some MASTERS have blindspots in chess. But most chess players will be happy to try their best to help you grow as a player.

Another example: In chess we follow some general rules such as not moving the pawns in front of a castled King. But as a player grows in chess skill he will learn that these guidlines have times when they can be ignored. Wouldn't it make sense to move one of those pawns to capture a free Queen or to stop a checkmate? So even after you've learned everything that everyone ever wrote in a chess book (half of which seem to be written by Fred Reinfeld) you will still have to THINK to win games. Wouldn't you like to have a variation named after you?

Timmy: Golly gee willikers! The Timmy Variation of the anti-neo-orthodox-Dragon Sicili...

Professor Chess: *SMACK*

[I told you this conclusion was DEADLY serious.]

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