Teaching chess to children

The other day I was wondering how to teach chess to my son without brainwashing him with the various movement of the pieces and check mating. Things he does not appreciate too much. So I started searching methods and by asking questions on a large chess forum, I harvested some very valuable advice.

One grandmaster who gives lessons to children aged 5-6 advises to play games with reduced hardware. For example play a match with 8 pawns against eight pawns, the aim being to take all the pieces of the opponents, and where pawns can promote. Or play a game with reduced chessmen, eg queen and three pawns against knight, bishop and three pawns. Children are interested in taking (eating) the pieces of the opponent, the concept of mat is too abstract for them.

And as children also want to play with all the pieces, you can try to play one time (10-20 min) and then they count the points when the time is elapsed: 1 point per pawn, 3 for a bishop or knight, 5 for a rook and 9 for a queen. This chess teacher states to start small, first a match rook against rook and then add pieces, bit by bit. Queen, rook, bishop is easy, then the harder pieces in small games and later the chessmate. A tip: do not show en passant, it is too complicated!

Another recommendation by a specialist is to use handicrafts. Bring colored pencils, a sharpener, an eraser, and a notebook and it goes very well. If small kids do not yet know to move the pieces, add color to some of the boxes or trace a path (especially for the knight), etc. Generally, everything is based on equipment (scissors, crayons, erasers, post-it on the board wall to mark the boxes, etc …) and works fine at this age to learn a game like chess. Otherwise try to think of memory games like reconstruction of a single position that was on the wall board. Along the same lines, ask them to place on the chessboard a position of mate with a tower, or a queen, after having defined the patterns in a  previous meeting .

A panel discussion raised the question of whether we can really teach the rules of the game and chess and mate to kindergarten children? There are published chess handbooks for teachers, and many grandmasters are known to have learned the game around 6 years old. There is also a very simple version of a chess instruction book for kindergarten children. But some people are skeptical and think that it is better to teach other simple games first, like dice, poker or bridge. They think that in kindergarten, it is impossible to learn properly even just the rules of the game in 16 meetings (on a 1 hour per session, which is the maximum time for children ages 5 to 6 years on a single subject before they start to flutter to something else).

The only notion of checkmate, although it is the object of the game, is so complex to understand for children this age. Even after 30 sessions of one hour over the year, only 10 to 20% of children confusedly perceive what the checkmate is all about. One should therefore be aware that at that age, more than learning chess, this is an awareness of the game of chess that you can provide, and chess is then effectively a support to introduce notions of official instructions like two-way table entries, location in space and geometric concepts associated with socialization.

Is there a big difference when children reach seven years? Yes, when children are 6 years old, they develop a real capacity for learning and attention. It is not by chance that basic skills are fixed at this age. 20 minutes sessions are recommended, knowing that a child this age can really mobilize for only 7 minutes, but a 7 years old can stand a learning session lasting 45 minutes which appears as largely sufficient. While some students can assimilate some rules of the game it seems difficult. However, learning in a club with children this age, in a motivated public place, is in turn possible and successful. One way to teach is first to show how to move the pieces properly and then approach the checkmate. But ignore the en passant capture. Then provide group lessons with the whole class involved,  lasting about thirty minutes. After that the children play by 2. A session can last an hour. It is true that their attention is limited to ten minutes, but it varies, if they are interested in an activity it is more.