How I Teach

It occurred to me some time ago that I don’t teach chess, I teach children.

The first thing I ask is whether chess is an appropriate activity for your children at their current stage of life. In many cases the answer is no – they’d be better off playing simpler strategy games and moving on to chess when they’re a bit older.

Then I ask whether or not I’d be the best teacher for your children: sometimes the answer is yes, but in other cases another teacher would be a better fit: it depends partly on your children and partly on your expectations.

It’s also possible that I might be the right teacher for your children, but chess might not be the right subject.

Here’s how I teach chess.

I prefer to start children on complete games of chess later rather than earlier: the advice of many international experts is that younger children should start by playing minigames using subsets of chess before moving on to a full game – and the longer they spend on these activities the better they will do in the long run. The best teachers at this level are, in most cases, parents and schoolteachers rather than professional chess tutors.

Once children are ready for a full game, again I teach slowly and simply. I believe that true mastery is about doing simple things well. Pianists practise their scales over and over again. Golfers practise short putts over and over again to make sure they never miss.

Learning any skill-based activity requires constant repetition and reinforcement, so parents who want their children to gain full benefit from their lessons will need to be proactively involved in the learning process.

So I’m not going to teach you how to set traps, how to think 20 moves ahead, or how to play like Magnus Carlsen.

Instead, I’m going to teach you how to win simple endings, how to spot simple tactics every time, how to avoid unnecessary mistakes, and how to play simple openings well.

If you like the sound of this, do get in touch.