Some important questions about chess for children answered
I receive questions countless questions from parents and coaches across the country every week. Here are some of the most popular questions. I may have touched on a few of them in the past but they are important so I will bring them up again.
Q: My daughters really love chess. However, because of the ratio of boys versus girls playing chess (about 10 to 1 in their school), they got frustrated and no longer want to play outside of our home. What do I do?
A: Unfortunately, there is no magic wand that can change this instantly. I am trying to correct this problem by creating programs and tournaments specifically for girls. I will post as much information as possible on my blog.
Girls and boys approach the game very differently. Many boys see chess as a form of competition and brute force. They want to win at all cost! Many girls view chess as an art form. They are less worried about the results and more concerned with the beauty of the game.
I was the same way; I did not perceive chess as an egotistical competition as did many of my male counterparts. I wanted to win just like anyone else, but that was not my top priority.
Many girls also like to attend different tournaments to meet and make new friends. By understanding girls have different priorities and interests, it may make it easier for parents to motivate their daughters.
Q: How can I attract my children to the game, maintain their enthusiasm and make chess fun, too?
A: That is an excellent question, one which has been asked by many parents. First of all, it depends on the ages of the children. From the age of 2 or 3 years old, you can start teaching the children the names of the pieces. Use fun terminologies such as “Horsie” and “Castle” rather than Knight and Rook.
At the ages of 4, 5 or 6, children can learn the rules of chess and basic puzzles such as checkmate in one, pins, forks, etc.
The most important things are to frequently motivate your children and always make it fun and exciting. Reward instead of punish. If they do not find a solution, you can help them with some small hints rather than getting upset or frustrated.
Q: What book or DVD do you recommend to teach children the basics of chess?
A: For a DVD, I recommend “Learn Chess in 30 Minutes – Chess for Absolute Beginners.” On this DVD, I teach beginners basic chess knowledge including pieces, points, rules and moves. I, along with my animated teaching helpers set a fun stage for kids to learn chess.
For a book, I recommend “A World Champion’s Guide to Chess: Step-by-step instructions for winning chess the Polgar way.” They can all be found at www.ChessMaterials.com. You can also download a free training guide by visiting the SPICE Web site at www.webster.edu/spice.
Q: Can chess software help my children improve?
A: Yes! One of the main reasons why today’s children improve at an earlier age is because of chess software. Many programs have fantastic features to educate your children and to keep them busy and excited for a long time.
Q: My children know the basic rules of chess and how the pieces move. What is next?
A: This is one of the most frequently asked questions. Teach your children fun, exciting and challenging things such as tactics (pins, forks, discovery, etc.), combinations, checkmates and basic endgame puzzles. These are extremely important areas, and you can give your children some from each category daily. This will keep them from getting bored.
My son Tommy at the age of 4 or 5 was doing up to 50-75 of these puzzles daily. He absolutely loved it, and constantly asked for more puzzles. He enjoyed them so much that I used them as a reward.
Q: Can a chess coach help my children? If so, how do I select a good one?
A: Yes! A good coach can help a great deal. There are many things a coach can offer that you cannot get from a book or software.
It is a challenge to find a good one. Start by looking for a coach who has experience with children and a good record of positive results. Some coaches are good with adults but not with kids. If the coach does not have the patience to deal with children or the ability to connect with kids, it will not work.
The drawback of hiring a private chess coach is the costly expense. Private chess coaches can charge anywhere between $40 an hour up to $150 an hour or more based on their experience and credentials. To solve the financial burden for many parents, I created not long ago an online training course (www.PolgarChessUniversity.com) in three different levels (beginners, intermediate, and advanced) for less than $2 a week.
Q: How important are chess ratings for children?
A: My answer may be unpopular but ratings are not very relevant at an early age. The problem is that many parents are so concerned about the ratings their children become too timid to play “proper” chess in order to improve. They are so afraid of losing that they play not to lose instead of playing to win and this can seriously hinder the development of their children.
While in the short term ratings can satisfy one’s ego, it is better to look at the long term outcome.