Tips for coaching my 7-year-old

  • 7 years ago · Quote · #1


    She's been playing chess for about a year and a half, in regular rated tournaments for almost a year.  USCF Rating at just above 900.  I'm the only coach she's had.  Despite the mantras, she still has trouble hanging pieces on occasion and not paying enough attention to what her opponent is doing and threatening.  She understanding the definition and half-pawn value of the Bishop pair, for example, but this type of knowledge is obviously not going to help her much if she's dropping pieces and Pawns.  For her age, she's got a really good grasp of tactics and strategy, the tricky part seems to be in helping her recognize and meet threats. 


    Any chess exercise recommendations and other tips on how to help her get to that next level, where her game is relatively solid, would be much appreciated.    Also, dos and don'ts for coaching a kid of this age and playing strength would be very helpful.

    Thank you


  • 7 years ago · Quote · #2


    Well the things she must know is the openings rules, the value of each piece and capturing, and she needs to play many games of chess, ofcoarse.

    For her dropping pieces and not meeting opponents threats , it shows that she still needs a lot improvement in tactics. You should give her exercises of looking for hanging pieces, finding forks/skewers etc.

    I think it's easy for a young 900 rated player to improve. And if you be patient and not expect drastic results she would quickly improve to about 1300 ratings in some months.

  • 7 years ago · Quote · #3


    My just turned 8 year old daughter just started really getting into chess about 5 weeks ago, courtesy of the web site, which I *highly* recommend for tactical training.  However, its not true that hanging pieces necessarily = tactical weakness.  My daughter has already gotten to 1160 on chesstempo, and the problem ratings are based on the performance of real humans using a Glicko rating system, so its a (somewhat) real tactical rating.  However, in her last 3 games against shredder, she lucked through a win at shredder set to 906, and got owned twice against shredder set to 925.  Maintaining proper concentration and thought process for a whole game is an entirely different issue then solving chess problems, and something that clearly hasnt really soaked in yet.  

    Here is my philospophy on it - yes, teach them a proper thought process, but dont get too worried about it.  You have heard the saying a "rising tide lifts all boats"?  Well I figure that as general chess ability improves, the ability to focus throughout a game will just sort of naturally take care of itself.   

  • 7 years ago · Quote · #4


    For free? You want advice from the Masters, International Masters, and Grandmasters, free of charge? Hmmm... I like your first tactic: 'It's for my 7yr. old daughter'. Very nice. Appeals to the heart, especially during the holidays. Say things like: "She loves Bobby Fischer". I guarantee you will have some Masters thinking "Movie deal!" Also say things like: "We can't afford a chessboard, so I made one for her." Think of it like a game of chess! Use different strategies and tactics to make a National Master weepSmile

  • 7 years ago · Quote · #5


    I'm not sure how to teach it, but after you have it down it's as if pieces are "touching" squares so to speak.  For example when a white knight lands on b5 you can bet for any experienced chess player the squares d6 and c7 "light up" in their minds.  If there was a target on a6 or a good outpost on d4 the player would immediately become aware of them as well.  I would try playing a practice game every now and then where the child has to physically touch or call out the name of every square your last move attacks.  If it also uncovers an attack they should do those as well.  This will force them to become conscious of these squares, something that happens automatically for more experienced players.

    As for hanging pieces that has to do with them being undefended.  If you don't play chess yourself you can get real game positions for free from somewhere like which is a free database of games.  I would suggest setting up a random position from the game and have the child identify each undefended piece.  This may take awhile at first, maybe just have them do one position, but when they get good they could easily handle one position per minute. The very heart of tactics have to do with first finding undefended pieces (and/or a weak king) so this is very useful for later improvement in tactics as well.

  • 7 years ago · Quote · #6


    orangehonda wrote:

    I would try playing a practice game every now and then where the child has to physically touch or call out the name of every square your last move attacks.  If it also uncovers an attack they should do those as well.  This will force them to become conscious of these squares, something that happens automatically for more experienced players.


    I really like this suggestion.  I will work it into our routine. 

    I believe your second paragraph affirms something I already do: as we review her ICC games & her tournament games, and as she and I play OTB, I frequently ask her to show me the loose pieces.  "LPDO."

    I am optimistic that your suggestion can help her recognize new attacks and threats made by her opponent's last move, but I think this can be thought of as only half of her piece-safety problem.  She also, not prompted by a new threat, simply moves her piece to a square that is not safe - weather removing her own guard, moving a pinned pawn, allowing back-rank mate, etc., or simply moving her piece to a square controlled by her opponent once but not defended by her. 

    She'll drop, on average, two to four pieces per five-game tournament, which is better than much of her competition.  Her rating is now just over 1000.  So, like I was saying, she's doing a lot of things right.  But material safety, and sometimes the recognition of mating threats, is definitely the weak link in her game right now.  When I review her losses, all too often she beats herself with an otherwise winning position.

    Ironically, when the sequence of exchanges is more complex she invariably does not lose material or suffer a surprise matting attack.  Her blunders usually consist of 1) missing a straight-forward threat, 2) missing a simple tactical threat (though she knows tactics inside and out (usually around 1625 - 1700 Chess-Tempo Blitz), or 3) as mentioned, moving her piece to an unsafe square, when there was no threat.

    Any ideas for exercises to combat number three would, of course, be much appreciated. 

    Thanks for your thoughts, orangehonda, and thank you all for your input as well


  • 7 years ago · Quote · #7



    this is a good topic, since all of us (as chess lovers) want our children to enjoy the ultimate game.

    my 2 cents, as a professional educator, is to focus on motivation. yes, i'm sure your daughter likes chess, but she needs to remain motivated to want to play and to learn. hanging a piece (for example) could be boredom, frustration or another problem. i'm sure she knows not to hang pieces, so the issue is concentration or motivation, not actually skill based.

    since she's ranked, she's obviously playing in tourneys and comps. playing against her father at home is probably also fun for her. so you need to find extra motivation to keep her enthused about the game. children's attention does tend to wane quickly and chess is definitely a difficult game to master ... which is the crux of my point.

    a reward system would work well here. if your daughter achieves a certain level in a tournament, or improves her overall rank significantly, she can receive a reward. sometimes the reward can be chess based (a new board or a promise to go to a big long distance tourney) or it can be non-chess related (books, toys, a visit to disneyland, a ferrari).

    this isn't bribery, which some people will try to claim, but an external motivation. she needs to see benefits for trying and improving. of course, improving is a benefit itself, but it's harder for a child to gauge. rewards and benefits need to be tangible for children to appreciate them.

    overall, i'm envious that you have started your little girl on the road to chess stardom. my girlfriend and i are contemplating marriage and children aren't yet in my life. but the second i can justify it, i'll get a chess set in front of them!! :)

  • 7 years ago · Quote · #8


    Since you say she has trouble dropping pieces then tell her this "after your opponent moved look at the piece he is attacking now, not then, but with this move. Another way is to use really simple mate in two problems that are fast to solve but require a small "aha". Another way is to (when playing a game), if she makes a blunder then stop the game, and tell her to re asses the position. This can help drastically.

  • 7 years ago · Quote · #9


    BDV wrote:

    . . .she knows tactics inside and out (usually around 1625 - 1700 Chess-Tempo Blitz), or 3) as mentioned, moving her piece to an unsafe square, when there was no threat.

    Hmm, that's a tough one Smile.  I'm sure in any case this will be less frequent as she gets older.

    It sounds like she has a good grasp of calculation when squares have something on them, but empty/disembodied squares are harder for her to notice.  This also explains the mate threats, a rook threatening Rd1# when nothing is on d1 is hard to understand.

    Assuming this is the case your task would be to try and give these disembodied squares a memorable feature.  Weather you use another game or not, you could try talking about such squares as "booby-trapped" or "claimed territory"  yes the square is empty, but it's like an invisible danger because the enemy knight is "claiming as his territory" or "threatening" that square and you can't move there without checking to see if you have backup from your friends/teammates first.

    A game would be when it's her turn to have her place little pieces of colored paper/cloth/small crackers ... something... to mark each empty square that an enemy piece has "booby-trapped" or is "claiming as their territory" if so remember to call for backup!

    Again I should mention I've never tried this with kids, but it sounds half way fun.  Hopefully by adding a back story or subtext like this the disembodied squares will suddenly have some sort of feature to catch her mind's eye.

    Solving mate in 1 / mate in 2 puzzles would essentially do the same thing over time but have the added benefit of learning common mating patterns.

    All the best! Smile

  • 7 years ago · Quote · #10


    BDV wrote
     (usually around 1625 - 1700 Chess-Tempo Blitz), or 3) as mentioned, moving her piece to an unsafe square, when there was no threat.

    This is so interesting to me.  I am in that same range on chess-tempo blitz, and in the 1740-1840 range on chess tempo standard, yet I achieved 1913 USCF during my playing days.  Obviously as an adult, I am patient and a good strategic thinker, but still pretty striking.   

    Honestly, I think here rating will skyrocket no matter what you do as she gets older.  That said, my best guess is she is totally bored playing much weaker players, and you should have her play UP, as in seriously up.  She obviously has the capacity to bag some 1400 players or higher if she has a good game.  I wouldnt think she could learn a darn thing from playing sub-1200's at this point.

    My other suggestion would be to have her stop playing blitz.  Blitz may be good for pattern recognition, but she has that already.  It is NOT good for proper thought process, and could even be counterproductive there.   

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