Coaching children - Help?



I have recently taken up coaching middle school children at the local school chess club, non of whom are very good, and I was wondering if it would be prudent to let them win occasionally. They seem to become discouraged easily, and I am worried that if they lose all the time to me or the other coaches, they will be turned off chess.

There are not that many kids in the group, so they almost always get paired up with another coach, and I don’t think they play a lot among themselves.

They act as if they know as much about the game as the teachers, and when I try to teach them, they become slightly defensive. Is there are method for teaching them without letting them know they are leaning? Besides just playing, of course.

Any help would be greatly appreciated,


If you dress up as a clown it may break the ice...make balloon animals and use hand puppets...... Kids really get on my nerves nowadays so i'm not much  help here............


I have some ideas; showing them GM games, giving puzzles, if they are all kind of even maybe ranking them somehow could cause more competition.  I would never let them win, rather you could give them games with better positions and maybe switch who gets the better game.  i recomend morphy for an example because he really plays exciting games.  you could set up group games like 2vs2 to really encourage position analysis because of debate.  have both players describe the game and their moves and plans to maybe even the playing field for coaches vs students.  try to get them interested in chess theory and then get back to standard games maybe using tournaments.  while talking about games you could try saying things like "I think" or "maybe" to give a feeling like you are not sure of yourself so then maybe the child can help to confirm or dismiss what you said (you could say bad ideas from time to time).  i think there are a lot of ways to get kids in a chess club interested in playing chess; it is the kids that are not there that would be a real challange.


Interaction with kids is an easy way to teach. You don't always have to take a direct approach to them, let a puzzle or a professional game prove your point. Don't try to force the learning on them, let them learn themselves by asking questions, such as "why did you do this move?" and "Why do you think this GM did this?". You still however need to be there for them, don't let the masters to all the work! Tiny prods in the right direction are fine for the children, you shouldn't let them win though because all it does is reinforce their belief that they are always right. Remeber to make chess fun, as it should be, and not just boring lectures. Letting them do hands-on application is the best way for them to learn and give them the satisfaction of contribution. Smile



Knightly wrote:

They act as if they know as much about the game as the teachers, and when I try to teach them, they become slightly defensive.

can you elaborate on that?  it's rather intriguing.  with examples if there are any in mind :)

there is always the possibility you have kids who simply aren't interested in learning (or in studying chess), in which case you aren't going to be able to force them.  still, try to represent yourself as a coach rather than a teacher, it's much easier to establish a rapport that way.  most intelligent kids don't take teachers seriously.

your current goal may be to get them good and infected with the sickness.  get hold of a copy of fire on board or tal's life and games and show them the pretty kills.  competition works, try a ladder.  if there's another school nearby you can play matches against, consider setting that up too.

akibathepenguin wrote:
can you elaborate on that?  it's rather intriguing.  with examples if there are any in mind :)

I try to do what you guys have suggested, like showing them small steps in the right direction, and when asking questions, letting them do the work, in proving it, or telling me I am wrong. I try to give them small tips like:

"I like to keep my king protected. A good way to do that is not to move these pawns out right here.....See if I did that...I'd be in a heap of trouble!"

I'm trying to show him a weakness he has in using an example on my side of the board, but even then, he comes back with something like: "I know that! I win against the computer all the time!" or "Yep, I've always known that."

Is that simply the way kids are going to respond? Even to small subtle hints?

Or does it even matter just so long as they're leaning?


tell them "knights on the rim are very dim" that's something i learned way back in like 2nd grade, and its the only thing i remember from chess club :P


I would agree with those who say never let them win. This will make them less likely to listen to you, as they will think they can beat you. they will have realised that you made a mistake, and will subsequently assume that whenever they disagree with you that you are making a mistake. 

A better solution would be to give them positions where they are at an advantage, and see can they win from of that position, like joshgregory7 said.

To Knightly: 

I’m a former middle school teacher. Middle schoolers act the way you describe but underneath they really want to be taught. I’ve been teaching kids at the local library once a week for several years.


I do what I call a ‘training game’. This means I tell them they will win, because during the course of the game, I explain what the main principles are during each of the three stages, i.e., Opening; middle game; endgame.


By the end of the game, they see the overall pattern of a correctly played strategy.


With younger kids you say, “let’s do a training game. You’ll really learn a lot.” With middle schoolers, it can’t quite be that open an invitation. It is hard for them to admit in front of their peers that they need anything from an adult. Therefore you say, “This is part of my program. This is what I do with students. If you want to play with me, you will need to go through this once or twice. It will help you win most of the time over guys who haven’t done this, so let’s do it.” It’s something between an invitation and a simple declaration of the way you do things. This lets them save face before peers.


By principles of the three stages I mean: Opening (development, control of center, open with pieces of least value); middle (find opponent weak point; focus; breakthrough sacrifice) Endgame (opposition, triangulation, square of the pawn).


Once they get this, you will be knighted with the honorific title of ‘cool teacher.’

P.S.- I NEVER let anybody win...except during 'training games' where that is planned. I might give a handicap of all my major pieces or something but wins are always earned.


Knightly: maybe this link will give you some ideas:

Also, the former Soviet Union had a program to teach chess in schools, starting from age 8-9. The purpose was to bring the students up to 2000-2200 ELO in 12 school years. I think you can find some books/manuals which reflect this program.


kids are h


I wouldn't recommend letting them win, however, it is very instructive to give them advice during a game, and allowing them to take back moves if they desire.


i do not reccomend letting them beat you in a math, especially when they already think they are as good as you.

instead let them play eachother (it doesn't matter the teachers don't get to play, as long as the children do).

another thing you might like to try is to organise a small tournament on the school you teach, perhaps just among the kids who are in your clas or perhaps among the whole school (be carefull chess could be concidered dorky ;P). perhaps you can give away a small price.

i remember back when i used to play tennis, one day we were going to play a small competition between the kids (i was 13 back then:P) in my group and the winner got the small price of a set of tennis balls. i didn't win, but it is one of the best practices i ever had :).

perhaps giving them puzzles to solve at home could work (only if they are into it though).

i'm not completely sure about the part of showing them GM games, afterall they are just children and might not understand the deep concepts going on in a GM match.

i think the most importent part in one of these teaching sessions is to let them play eachother, that way they get exited about winning and get to play opponents of their own level. and every once in a while you (the teacher) can get the group together to teach them about the end game, and thinking ahead (very important for beginners to learn).

from what i get from your first post is that you are trying to get everyone to play (teachers+students) but the important part is that the students play, only if the students have no-one to play (i dont think your group is less then 3 right?) then the teachers can play them in a fun game.

And when you do, ask them after they have played a move, what they think you could respond to that. that way you teach them not only to think of their own move, but also of your move.

i hope this post helped :)

EDIT: i might have misuderstood the whole school part, english is not my first language so please excuse me if i did (a small tournament is still a good idea)


Thank you all, for the wonderful advice. You've been very helpful!


Another idea may be to offer small prizes or awards for the kids beating each other in games and maybe a MAJOR prize for beating the teacher/coach in an official rated match with no help. The major prize would be a one time expense that the kids would love to have and would prize the opportunity to beat you to get it. Then you can analyze the game afterwards and encourage the kids by showing them how they almost had you or if they had done this instead of that, they would've won the prize. They'll all study then.


Another thought:

Make the MAJOR prize matches into sort of a tournament. Let the kids know that they can play you for the prize in say the month of May on Fridays only. That way they have to schedule the game with you and it gives them a target date to get their game tight. First one to beat you gets the prize. You can have them draw numbers from a hat to see who gets to play you first, second, third... If nobody beats you, the prize goes away until you decide to have another tournament. They won't know when. That way they're always off balance and they have to keep their game tight.

I hope to be able to coach or teach chess one day. 

Knightly wrote:  some things i'm about to reply to.
  There are a lot of things in chess that the student must simply accept in order to later understand.  these must be experienced to be true, but can only be experienced after accepting on another's authority that they /are/ true.  your stubborn kids who think they know something are suffering with this, i think?  probably not wholely unfairly, they're likely smart kids surrounded by notsosmart kids in an educational programme that doesn't challenge them.  most of us thought a lot of ourselves at that age.


  If they are learning, even with the pigheadedness, there's an argument to be made to carry on much as you are and work slowly on maturing them out of the behaviors that hold them back.  that said, don't show them your mistakes, that seems like eggshell behaviour, just show them their mistakes.  constructive criticism allows you to be extremely direct.  if they say, "i already know that" you reply, "you know it but you aren't doing it".

  the thought occurs that they may be underexposed to chess culture and would certainly benefit from the experience were it possible.  within a fortnight of discovering my school's chess club I was playing graded games with adults in seriouschess conditions.  the grading list was a long list of names with me near the bottom, consequently i didn't bring much of my (substantial) ego into chess.  i had respect for the game and the community and i was surrounded by exemplars who showed me the appropriate way to behave...aiui there isn't so much local league chess in america, so your opportunities may be limited :/

  final thought, back when i was young and had the energy to coach, i liked playing games where my student had the option to turn the board around on move 10, 20 and 30, it creates something of an equaliser and allows you to get more meaningful chess into a game (as opposed to you getting an advantage very early and knocking them over).  i also had students tell me what they were thinking on every move and correct whichever mistakes i thought appropriate.  both of these ideas are taken from Silman with very small modifications...come to think of it, Silman is the King of coaching children, he has a website you should probably visit :)


I would beat them at any chance possible. My chess coach in elementary school did that to us, but he helped us understand why we were losing. It became more fun that way-who can beat the crazy guy first?- and was also slightly based on embarassement- God, you got beat by a wacko adult!


I have been running a board game club for several years at the school where I teach.  Go was primarily my game so that was my focus and we had a competitive Go team.

This year at my new high school club, many students have expressed a good deal more interest in Chess than in Go.  So, now I'm learning how to play Chess and will sponsor a team for the kids next year. I will probably be trolling this site for tips on running the club although hopefully my experience with Go and other games will aid me in the organization.


Hmmm I think it would be better tell them about some successful chess champions. It might inspired them and change their attitude.