Sixty four squares and fewer pieces than usual
Miss B has just started back at school and in her first week she brought home a list of clubs that were available. Most are limited to children over a certain age, so her choices were very limited. Still, we signed her up for what we could.
One of the clubs she wanted to join was chess, but they only accept kids starting from the year above Miss B’s class. That’s a shame, but I guess it’s probably fair enough. She did ask if I could teach her the game, though, so that she would be able to play when she was old enough to join the club. Marvellous, that’s something I can probably do.
I’m only a passable chess player (any club player in the country would be likely to make mincemeat of me) and I’ve never taught the game to anyone before, so I wasn’t really sure where to start. The usual trick of looking on the web yielded lots of advice to spend ages making sure the child can remember the names of the pieces and where to put them, then how the pieces move, then play a game… Aww, nuts to that! I can’t remember how I learned the basics, but that sounds extremely dull. Time to think of something else…
So we got a chess set out and chatted about the pieces, their names, and how many there were of each. I got a board and showed Miss B how kings and rooks move before setting up her king and two rooks against my lone king. After a quick chat about “catching” a king, I set Miss B a challenge: see how many moves it takes her to capture my king.
This really didn’t take very long, so we swapped the rooks for bishops. Quite a few moves later my king was still evading capture, so I gave Miss B a queen to play with too, allowing her to finish the job quite rapidly from there.
After that, Miss B wanted to know about knights, so we tried something different. This time I set up a row of pawns across the board and challenged her to capture them all with a single knight. This took quite a few hints but eventually this was done. Miss B quite enjoyed this, so she set herself another puzzle with pawns distributed around the board which she steadily managed to hunt down with her knight.
Then it was time for dinner, so we had to stop.
I think we might continue in this vein for a bit, gradually adding pieces on both sides. We’ll have to learn about pawns soon, too, and I have a few ideas about asymmetric games we can play to learn about them. If you have any experience of teaching chess to a young’un I’d love to hear it.