This page is rather long. Starting your children on chess is not something you should go into
light-heartedly. You might like to print it off and read it at your leisure.
If you have any problems using chessKIDS academy please go to our HELP page.
What's this site all about?
This site provides online interactive lessons, games and quizzes for kids learning to play chess. It also acts as a resource centre for
parents and teachers, providing more detailed lessons which can be printed off and used at home or at school and a scholastic download pack to help schools running chess clubs, as well as advice about all aspects of chess.
As the site is based in London much of this advice will be geared towards the UK market, but appropriate
links will be provided for visitors from the US and elsewhere. (Parts of the site are written in UK English and parts in US English.)
If you are new to this site go here for background
information about who we are and what we do.
There are lots of sites which teach chess. What makes this one so special?
There are many sites which teach you how the pieces move. There are also sites which provide coaching
material for more advanced players.
This site is specifically designed for young kids learning how to play. I have been teaching chess
to young children for nearly 40 years, at all levels from beginners to world champions (I helped prepare Luke
McShane for the 1992 World U10 Championship) and in a wide variety of environments: individual tuition, schools
and, between 1975 and 2007, at Richmond Junior Chess Club,
for many years the leading chess club for kids in the UK.
The biggest problem faced by young beginners is that of seeing relationships between pieces. Children can
learn to do this by solving simple tactical exercises. This is how the Polgar sisters learned. And this site
will give children the opportunity to spend time every day solving different puzzles at increasing levels
What do I need to use this site?
To read the offline lessons you'll need Adobe Acrobat Reader. You can download the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader for free HERE.
To use the Scholastic Chess Package you'll need the appropriate diagram font. You can
download it here and install it in your fonts directory. (Permission granted by ChessBase.)
Or, better still, download
ChessBase Light and you'll get the font along with a free, fully-functional chess
What's on the site and how do I find it?
The chessKID project
A complete website for anyone learning chess. It's aimed mostly at younger kids but can be - and is - used by beginners and improving players
of all ages. The basis of the site is a series of short, simple lessons designed to be followed on your computer screen.
Each lesson incorporates a quiz to check that the lesson has been understood.
Pupils who score 100% in the quizzes receive a certificate which they can print off and keep.
But, much more than this, the course is enhanced by quizzes, movies showing animated games, exercises, games and videos to develop
cognitive skills and much else. You can access it via the menu on the left of the home page.
A series of unpublished books comprising lessons suitable for printing off and using at home, at school, or within a chess club. There are lessons for players
at all levels from beginner to moderately advanced. All these books are absolutely free for non-commercial use. You can also produce a personalized book featuring your child as the hero/heroine of the story. All you do is enter your child's name and away you go. A very special gift for a child learning to play chess - and again absolutely free!
We have five chess programs on the site, three of which run in Java:
Links to other chess sites where you can learn, play, find out the latest chess news, or look up your nearest
chess club or tournament. At present these are geared more to the UK market, but if you live in the US or
elsewhere we can still help you.
Studies carried out in many countries have repeatedly shown that SYSTEMATIC STUDY OF CHESS leads to improvement
in children's educational attainment.
Chess also helps children develop:
Responsibility for ones own actions
Acceptance of success and failure
... and much else besides.
It also provides opportunities for friendship with like-minded people, an outlet for competitive urges,
a heritage dating back hundreds of years and a literature unrivalled in its breadth and depth. Successful
players have the chance to travel both nationally and internationally to take part in matches and tournaments.
Chess provides tremendous intellectual stimulation as well as the opportunity to escape from the drudgery of everyday
life into another world. Don't believe anyone who tells you chess is boring. It can be played at any speed from
bullet - each player has one minute to complete the game, to international correspondence chess, where
games can last several years. And if you haven't witnessed - or experienced - the excitement of a time
scramble, with both players rushing to complete the game before they run out of time, you really haven't lived.
Quite simply, chess is the greatest game in the world. You owe it to your kids to give them the chance
to try it out for themselves.
At what age should they start to learn?
An important - and controversial - question. The trend in recent years in both the UK and the US has been to
start kids playing younger and younger. In England children typically join their school chess club at the age of 7.
In many schools, especially in the private sector, they start at 5 or 6. This seems to be part of a general
trend which applies not only to chess. But in a number European countries children start chess - as
well as other educational subjects - later. The theory is that if they start too soon they might find the
subject too difficult and switch off.
According to the Kasparov Chess Web Site (it no longer exists, so you can't look it up): "Most chess instructors say that it's a rare child
who can focus on chess well enough to learn it capably before seven or eight years of age. And it's
doubtful that an adult who learned chess at five will have any real advantage over one who learned at nine.
While there are many opinions on the matter, if a consensus can be said to have been reached,
the right age is nine or ten years old."
Personally, I wouldn't disagree with this, but I guess there are two ways of looking at it. You can either see chess
as something you take up when you are old enough to have acquired the necessary attributes, or you can use
chess as a means of acquiring these attributes. To put it another way, the younger you start the more difficult you
will find it. One aspect of chess which non-players usually fail to appreciate is that it is relatively easy
to learn how the pieces move but very difficult to play even a tolerably good game.
What I'm convinced is wrong is to teach children how the pieces move and then throw them into the competitive
environment of a chess club without giving them the opportunity to study or practise in a meaningful way. One of the
main aims of this site is to enable parents and teachers who may not themselves be very knowledgeable about
the game to provide constructive help for their children.
What attributes and qualities do you need to play chess?
To play chess successfully at Primary/Elementary School level children need five main attributes:
A strong logical-mathematical intelligence
Exceptional maturity, both intellectual and emotional
A high degree of competitiveness
Access to a knowledgeable and empathetic chess player
Of these, the second, maturity, is often the greatest problem.
As children get older, the logical-mathematical intelligence and competitiveness are still required. The maturity will no longer be an issue (and this, of course, is one problem with children starting young). By the age of 15 or so they will be able to teach themselves to a certain extent so will need less input from adults. Eventually they will be old enough to enter and travel to competitions on their own without relying on their parents.
Why do so few girls play chess?
There are several reasons.
Firstly, society sees chess as a game for boys/men. In my experience of
school chess clubs, a new intake would typically be 40% girls and 60% boys, but I usually find that
most of the boys are already playing at home whereas the girls are totally new to the game. It is hardly
surprising that the boys tend to stick with the club while the girls drop out.
Secondly, boys are more likely to be attracted to chess than girls. Stereotypically, boys tend to be competitive
while girls tend to be collaborative, (although we've all met highly competitive girls and non-competitive
boys). And chess is, by its very nature, competitive.
Thirdly, if there are only a few girls in a school club they will find it difficult to continue. My experience
is that girls do much better at chess - and are much likely to retain an interest - in single-sex schools.
But they can also do well in mixed clubs if there is a large enough group of the same age who are all interested.
Finally, success at low level chess is largely based on spatial awareness, and boys tend to be better than
girls at spatial awareness. Having said that, though, I don't believe there is any reason, academically, why
girls cannot play chess at least as well as boys. In England, most of the top girls come from families where their parents
and/or siblings also play. In many cases the girls play better than their brothers.
What about joining a chess club?
Unless the Club specifically offers facilities for beginners I'd recommend starting at home by learning
the moves, practising playing and going through some of the lessons and quizzes on this site before joining a Club.
The system we, in theory, operated here in Richmond worked like this:
Learn the basics at home.
If you've got the idea of how the pieces move join your school club.
We would very strongly encourage all children who are interested in chess to join a Chess Club outside
their school. Here's why.
Children who only play at school usually give up when they leave. If you want chess to be a lifelong
interest for your children you really have no choice.
At chess clubs you'll meet a wider variety of players with a wider variety of styles
At chess clubs you'll meet stronger opponents and have more chance to improve
At chess clubs you'll have the chance to make friends who share your interest in chess
Should my kids play in tournaments? If so, when should they start?
Yes, definitely, when they've gained fluency and confidence by playing at home and at school. But again, and this
is to do with emotional maturity, the first time they play in a tournament they'll be competing against more
experienced players. They mustn't expect to win, or even to do well, in their first tournament. With experience their results will
improve. Start them off by playing against children of their own age, or at their own level. Most tournaments
use chess clocks (typically you have half an hour each to make all your moves) so try to get some experience
in using chess clocks first.
Is it worth considering private tuition? If so, where can I find a reliable teacher?
Although your children will be able to learn a lot from this site it will never be the same as one-to-one
tuition. If they are serious about doing well and you've taught them as much as you can it's well worth
considering private tuition on either a regular or occasional basis. If your children are serious enough
to be playing in tournaments and writing down their moves, it's a good idea to give them the chance to go
through their games with a stronger player. Contact your local junior chess organization for further advice or, if you're in the South West London area,
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for more advice.
How much time should my kids spend on chess?
In principle, the more the better, as long as they're enjoying it. If they are starting to find things difficult
don't be afraid to hold back for a bit. But it is, of course, possible to overdo it. You'll want to ensure,
firstly, that homework comes first, and, secondly, that they maintain a wide range of interests. We would
perhaps compare learning chess with learning a musical instrument and encourage a similar level of commitment. Many experts such as the renowned American chess teacher Maurice Ashley recommend between half an hour and three hours a day playing chess, as well as following a daily program of concentrated learning (which you can do here!). Not many parents will want to do this, but only those who do will give their children the chance to reach their full potential.
Should I encourage my kids to read chess books? If so, which do you recommend?
In the early stages there's no need for them to read books, but if they want to do so it should certainly be
encouraged. Anything they enjoy reading is fine, but bear in mind that most chess books are written for an
adult readership. Avoid anything too specialised, such as books on individual openings. As an alternative
numerous chess videos are now available, but again avoid anything too specialised.
Where can I get chess equipment and books?
Equipment is more important than you might think. It's well worth getting a full size set and board, preferably with
notation co-ordinates on the board. Plastic sets and roll-up boards are readily and cheaply available from specialist chess
suppliers, but are probably not on sale in your local shopping center. We strongly recommend that you visit our chess shop.
I'm a chess teacher. Can I contribute to this site?
Certainly, as long as you are prepared use our templates. You will need ChessBase, a graphics program and some
can't afford to pay you but will give you full credit for anything you contribute.