Teaching Chess

I'm a bit of a chess evangelist and will always be willing to teach new people the rules.  I'm still not sure what the best approach is, or even if I'm any good at teaching.

I'd really welcome any useful tips and advice.  I realise that perhaps the most important thing is making the process interesting to both the learner and the teacher.  (Ever had that bored feeling as the learner randomly pushes pieces round the board?)

Also, how merciful (or not) should you be?

Once a learner starts improving how much tactical advice should you offer?

And one last question, are some people simply unable to do more than learn the moves in chess?


  • 6 years ago


    Hi Chopwood

    Your comments ring very true.  Oddly enough I have just been camping with four of my kids, and three nephews (altogether three girls and four boys, ages six to fifteen).  And chess was a very big feature.  There's something great about getting out a chess board. But when you get out two chess boards something magical happens.

    I was amazed by the progress people made and also by how much everyone enjoyed it.  The reason I made this post was to try and improve how I taught chess, but when the group situation arose it answered itself.

    One other thing I observed is that it is worth teaching very young kids the moves; it makes it easier for them when they're older and ready to learn properly.

  • 6 years ago



     I think everybody starts at a place no real chess player wants to be- better to get a group and teach them what you can. Then you can go around (all in the same space) and police things. Tell them about en passant, and castling out of check or across an attacked square when the situation arises, after, of course telling them before, when they are not listening. It's a tedious process, and only a few will take to it, but it's very rewarding when even one does! 

  • 6 years ago


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    Carlos B taught me Chess last summer. I'm in my mid-thirty's but have been fascinated by the game since a teenager but had never found a suitable tutor until Carlos. he helped me get beyond just pushing the pieces around the board to actually playing the game, but my problem was that i wasn't looking and kept making blunders.

    With other people before, there was always a certain tension, a rivalry to the game that made it unpleasant and playing became a chore. But with Carlos every game was a fun adventure, even though he wiped the floor with me every time, but he taught me the most important lesson: Chess IS fun.

    and i think if you can convey and teach that to a person then you've taught them well



  • 6 years ago


    Hi Carlos,

    I also have recently become involved with coaching less experienced players/complete novices.

    I find a good way to teach is to start with just queens and pawns so that novices can get to grips with how these pieces move and to practise capturing other pieces. You can then move on by introducing the other pieces before finally explaining things such as checks, castling etc etc.

    The important thing the student (whatever age!) needs to understand is that they have to put in some practise away from your coaching sessions so you might want to set up a few lessons where they then have to go and practise what you have taught them and then demonstrate this to you the next time you see them. This is not always possible especially with really young kids but you can give it a try!

    If someone knows how the pieces move and is at the stage where they can play a game then being merciful is entirely down to you. Some coaches will never let a student beat them. I try to land somewhere in the middle. I'll play a "weaker" move to try and set up simple combinations depending on the strength of the student. Remember though, it's not always about playing games... students can play as many games as they want in their spare time over the internet - and of course they should always record the games so that you can look over them afterwards. I'll sometimes leave my students a mate in one to see if they can spot it - invariably they won't!

    I try not to teach them to swipe all the opponents material before getting a bunch of pawns queened either - I try to teach them to spot checkmate opportunities; my philosophy being that their opponent won't necessarily spot it and it also teaches them to look for familiar patterns (eg a rook and bishop, rook and knight etc etc.

    On teaching the basics, some things I have found helpful:

    Knights: Place a knight on the board and get the student to place pawns on all the squares it can move to.

    Bishops: set up various positions where the bishop can skewer or pin, eg, check the king and win the piece behind it on the same diagonal, skewer a rook and knight etc.

    Rooks: As per bishops but also demonstrate how to checkmate using rook & queen (overlapping method), two rooks (overlapping method but having to recognise the rook is under attack from a king and needs to move), one rook and king vs king, how to force a king backwards (kings opposite each other then check with the rook etc).

    Queens: Attacking multiple pieces, check the king and win another piece etc, checkmates as per rooks. Demonstrate that it is easier to get stalemate with a queen than a rook.

    Set up positions and get the student to point out all of the:

    a) attacked pieces (no matter how stupid the actual capture would be)

    b) undefended pieces (whether they can be captured or not)

    c) checks, pins, forks, skewers with all pieces

    Finally, get yourself some books aimed at junior players such as: "how to beat your dad at chess", "chess for tigers", "tips for young players" etc etc, there's plenty out there.

    You can start then to teach the names of some of the openings with the first two or three moves and build on from there.

    Hope that helps and of course, if you have any methods of your own, I'd be interested to know!

    There is lots more with regards to simple tactics etc, but hopefully the above will keep you going for a while!

    As to your last question: No, ALL players have the scope to improve because we are all human and all have the capacity to learn. The rate and level of improvement is largely down to the student and their willingness to listen to and take advice. Many players will hit a certain level and either not wish to or be unable to improve from and this might be down to external factors as well as the availability and access to proper coaching. For myself, I'm trying to improve but am at a stage where I have to transfer my theoretical knowledge into over the board performances!

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