Teaching Chess

Mar 20, 2009, 12:57 PM |

Why is it that most chess teachers are extremely rude?

Recently, I had the privilege to play one of the best players in the country.  So as not to embarrass that person I will not name them.  I am just a novice and my opponent is ranked well above 2000.  Needless to say the games were not at all challenging for the person sitting across from me and so they decided to give me a few tips.

"Promise not to challenge what I say.  Do not take what I say personally."

Now that statement can either be benign or malevolent however as the conversation continued it unfortunately meant the later.  I responded by saying that any questions I ask are not meant to challenge there authority but rather to understand better.  This person went on to tell me that I was dropping pieces left and right and that I needed to stop.  I completely agree.  However, my teacher thought I was losing pieces just to lose them.  Being so outgunned I often found myself sacrificing a piece in order to avoid checkmate or thinking I had them cornered only to realize that I hadn't considered all the pieces on the board.  I was outmanuvered at every turn ... but I was learning just by playing.

As the conversation went on, my now teacher became quite frustrated with me although my responses were respectful and inquisitive.  I was told I had no right to speak of things like chess psychology, piece values, centralization because I lost to their skills so easily.  Was there ever any question who was going to win?  No.  It was if I had a broken arm and I was having to arm wrestle a gorilla.  There was never any question.

Now I learned quite a bit from this chess giant but alot of assumptions were wrongfully made upon my skills as a chess player and so the tutelage I received was tainted with a level of arrogance that I find all to common in the chess world and frankly made me not want to come back to the chess club.  I find chess to be quite enjoyable and fun.  I enjoy the mental exercise it gives me.  However after that conversation I felt like not coming back.

Why are most of those who teach chess so arrogant?  Does the game of chess suffer from these kind of teachers?  Does the negative presentation of material turn potential players away?  I think so.

Now, I know something about teaching.  I've taught K-8 and if I had presented the material with such arrogance I know the students would of been turned off.  Questions should be welcomed.  To use a paraphrase, "Questions are shortcuts or secret pathways to understanding."

Maybe chess would be more popular if most of those who taught it didn't discourage questions or belittled their opponent.