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Teaching chess to kids?

  • #1

    A friend of mine wanted me to teach his son (4 year old) how to play chess. I have never done this before.

    Is 4 year old too young to start chess? How do I keep him interested?

    How would I go about doing this?

    Should I start with a computer software or start with simple endgames first?

  • #2

    Well first you would have to show him how to correctly set up a chess board with the pieces in the right order, once he's got that right then show him how the pieces move and what's more powerful than the other.

  • #3

    I would start with a simple introduction to the game.  Tell him a short story about chess.  Then introduce the pieces to him.  Remember hes 4, short attention span, and you need to gage if hes even interested in chess.

  • #4

    I've tried to teach chess to a friend's 6 year old. I found it very difficult. I think you need a special talent.

  • #5

    He is not  too young to start learning about chess, here try this forum and see if it help, 'click here'

  • #6

    How young is too young depends on the individual child.  If they can remember how the pieces move, they can play the game.

    The most important rule is: Don't ever LET them win.  They will feel like you're looking down on them.  They WANT a challenge.  They WANT to beat you.  And if you LET them win, the challenge will be gone, and the victory will be hollow and meaningless.

    Whenever I teach a child to play, I always use the same approach:  I open up with the Scholar's Mate and beat them in 4-5 moves.  We reset the pieces, and I open up the exact same way - over and over again until they 1) learn to think beyond their current move, 2) anticipate what my next moves will be (eventually they will see the pattern), and 3) learn how to defend against it.

    Once they've figured out how to recognize and defend against Scholar's Mate, I tell them this: "I am going to give you the OPPORTUNITY to checkmate me.  I am going to use the "Sandbag Openings," which will essentially give you a 2-move head start before I try to figure out how to get myself out of trouble.  After the first 2 moves, I am going to play to win, but I guarantee you the OPPORTUNITY to checkmate me."

    Then I flip a coin twice to determine which of the 4 Fool's Mate combinations I will be opening with.  I let them know that these are the worst possible openings anyone can open with, and no serious chess players will ever open this way.  We continue to play the "Sandbag Openings" until they finally see the Fool's Mate and win in 2-3 moves.

    Because of this, my daughter was able to identify weak openings and how to take advantage of them, so that she not only beat all of her friends in class, but a couple random users on Yahoo as well.  She called me up at work one night exclaiming, "Daddy, Daddy, I just beat someone on the computer with Fool's Mate and you said that NEVER happens in real life, but IT DID and I WON!!"

  • #7

    thanks a lot everybody - I will try it out and let you know

  • #8

    first tell him how each piece moves and how  to set up the board the teach him tactics the endgames then have him analys a simple game then have him play harder and harder games to his level.

  • #9
    rich wrote:

    Well first you would have to show him how to correctly set up a chess board with the pieces in the right order, once he's got that right then show him how the pieces move and what's more powerful than the other.

    I like this, but I would also do a bit more:


    you see, I have never coached a child, but I would imagine it would be just like... hmmm.... let's say piano.  Older students are ready and more prepared(due to the level of maturity, attention span, etc.) to move to harder things quicker, and may grasp on to things quicker than little children.


    After they know the basics, I would start with a scholars mate.  beat them in about 4 moves until they see what they are doing wrong, how to block it, how to see it coming, etc.  Maybe in the future move to the Blackburne-Shilling gambit, and teach him how to do it.  I would also show him some videos(instructional, sample games, tactics, etc.).


    But ultimately, I do think he is a little young if he doesn't have a natural talent.  Though I started learning when I was about 7.

  • #10

    Yeah okay. But I wouldn't go for the Scholars mate, because then he/she might think it's a real good opening and use it against class mates and other people really no serious chess player does this.

  • #11
    rich wrote:

    Yeah okay. But I wouldn't go for the Scholars mate, because then he/she might think it's a real good opening and use it against class mates and other people really no serious chess player does this.

    I see your point, but at a beginner level they do.  It teaches them to target week squares, develop some pieces(even if it is queen out early), etc.

    Just think, when they take the tactics and strategy from the scholar's mate, they can apply the same thing to Traxler, Ruy Lopez(very late in the opening), Italian, and so on.

  • #12

    Well I suppose. But the first opening I was taught was the Kings gambit!

  • #13

    Thank you all for your inputs.

    I tried teaching Alex last weakend - we played a game to see how fast each person can set up the chess board.

    After about 5-10 mins, he was more interested in what's on the tv next door - I guess the chess lesson will have to wait. Unfortuanetly, I didn't get to show him how the pieces move.

    I am not sure when I will get to see Alex again - hopefully he still remembers the chess lesson!

  • #14
    rich wrote:

    Well I suppose. But the first opening I was taught was the Kings gambit!

    Actually I was taught the Guicco Piano first. It was the most logical it strikes at the weak f7 square and helps me watch for it.

  • #15

    I see a number of the points above, and I agree with some and disagree with others...

    First, the "never LET them win" principle... I think you should give them a challenge, but unless you let them win some of the games (without being obvious), they are likely to be discouraged, frustrated and lose interest.  At an early age, it is very important to capture their interest and then attention... Win some games and lose some games... let them take some of your big pieces, but take some of theirs too. 

    Second, just play.  For beginners, trying to "teach" them will again cause them to lose interest.  They want to play... only after playing for awhile will their interest grow to the "want to learn" stage.

    Finally, I find that the biggest problem that kids just starting out have isn't necessarily the openings (which starting with the rook pawn seems to always be the favorite)... it is understanding threats and knowing when they can capture.  This is also not easy to teach.  I try and teach this concept by mixing in "puzzle games" with the regular "just play and have fun" games.  For example, my kids are playing around with the K vs KRR endgame and K vs KQ endgame.  Removing a most of the pieces and telling them to "come get me" can be just as much fun and allows a little learning to sneak in.

    Anyways, those are some of my thoughts.

  • #16

    I don't know if they'll allow an outside link on here, but this is an absolutely fantastic site for teaching kids the game:


  • #17

    I also recommend the following book from Dan Heisman, which gives pretty good guidance on teaching kids how to play chess:


    (Note: I have not fully read this book yet, but I bought it with the intent on using it as one of my teaching aids for the kids)

    Also, we have Tic-Tac-Chess, a 4x4 chess board and each player having only a pawn, knight, bishop and rook.  The object is to place the pieces on the board or move them (if they are already there, and per regular chess rules) in such a way to create a 4-in-a-row situation and win.  Captures are permitted as well.  Another easy way to simplify a chess game and teach them threats/captures and strategy.  My 6 year old has gotten REALLY good at this game, to the point that we can't beat each other any more.



  • #18

    When I taught my son to play he was 3.   We started with just the pawns and that lasted a few months.  When he got the hang of the pawns we introducted one new piece at a time.  He's now 5 and gives me a run for my money !

  • #19

    I have an almost five and an almost 8.  I have not gotten so far with them, but here are my thoughts:

    (1) never let them win is just dead wrong, at least for my kids.  if they never win, they have no interest.  I do tell them I am not trying my hardest, they understand that on some level but still get excited when they win;

    (2) wait on teaching checkmate.  Its a totally unnecessary complication at first.  All our games end with the king being taken.  It may make sense to teach how to checkmate first to an older kid, but its going to bore and frustrate the young.  

    (3) "problems" are not something they are generally into...they want to play with all the pieces.  About the only thing I insist on sometimes is a knight mini game (because moving the knight is hard) ...I put 4 or 5 pawns randomly around the board and give the older one 20 moves.  I have also done a hit-every-square minigame, using checkers to note if the knight has hit that square. 

    (4) I just play like a moron, leave a ton of pieces hanging for lengthy periods (including my king), and try to kill as many pieces as possible with my king.  I give a few super-basic tips now and then (dont just move your pawns, take your pieces out) and occassionally say something like "oh no!  I made a terrible move" and then help them figure it out.  Some tactical learning is taking place, I'm sure of it.  Everything else can wait.    

    Thats it.  Yesterday I "won" by taking my youngest's king with my own king.  Fun was had by all.   

  • #20

    my brother learned chess at the age of 3 from me.... he played his 1st tournament at his age 4 which was the only tournament he dint get any place. he has won more than 15 prizes in chess tournaments till now...

    i used to give him chocolates for playing... no matter win or lose he will get chocolate which made him play continuesly.

    at 1st i made him arrange pieces in borad then we used to play like carrom, the player having more pieces at the end wins.. again we will arrange and so on... strart with pawn and teach one by one... only few children like chess... 

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