Chess: Let Your Child teach You

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Many children learn to play chess at home.  You, the parent, teach them how to move their pieces, set up the board and begin play.  Depending on your skill level these lessons may be rudimentary, but know they are invaluable.  You have started him down an exciting path.  Inevitably he will venture off and play others in school or perhaps even take lessons.  As this happens expect him to come home one day and beat you.  As he continues to learn and expand his knowledge those victories may become commonplace.

How you handle these losses will determine your child’s future in chess.

If you are upset in any way your child will probably give up playing chess rather than risk hurting you again.  Count on that.  If you are elated and proud, you will give him the greatest win of his life.  Just try to stop him now!

When your child is trouncing you consistently, that is the time to allow him to teach you something about the game.  Yes, it may involve swallowing your pride a little to allow your cute little nine-year-old child to show you the ropes of this ancient game, but you will actually be continuing his instruction in the best way possible.  And he will in fact be able to help you improve your game.

When anyone is given the opportunity to teach someone else a skill, their ability improves in that area.  Teaching is a powerful way to learn.  Breaking down a subject so that someone else can grasp it involves a challenging process that brings about a greater understanding for the teacher.  It is truly a way to master a subject.

Last month I put out a promotion offering our local parents a free 1-hour lesson in exchange for a coffee and a scone.  It was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I hoped someone would take me up on it.  When I received numerous enthusiastic replies I decided to extend the offer. 

I discovered that some parents were taught by their parents and some learned from a two-page instructional sheet they got from a recently purchased set.  Needless to say there were some misconceptions and missing information, which were then passed down to our students.  I’m sure you can imagine the confusion it created for the kids.  

Here are two common misconceptions I uncovered:

(1) You can capture the king.  NO!  You never take the king off the board.  Checkmate is the only way to win (unless your opponent gives up).  Checkmate simply means the king is in danger and can’t get out of it by any means.

(2) A pawn can only be promoted to a piece that has been captured.  NO!  You can promote a pawn into anything but a king.  You may have multiple queens on the board!  Some sets provide you with 2 queens, but if yours doesn’t simply flip a captured rook over and voila you have a queen.

Congratulations on having a brilliant chess champ in your family!  Their victories on the board will translate into life wins, which will carry forward into adulthood.  Remember your child’s victories are in fact yours.

Laura Sherman is owner of Your Chess Coach, a company devoted to teaching children how to play chess. We teach private lessons locally, group classes in schools and lessons over the net to remote locations. For more information please visit www.yourchesscoach.com

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