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I am looking for some advice and pointers on teaching young kids about endgame ideas. (Say for children ~8 years old). I am asking specifically regarding my nephew, but I have seen this happen to other kids as well. Often, they know how to mate with K+R vs K, K+Q vs K and similar.

In their actual games, they will get a good position (often even a piece advantage) and then they are just meandering instead of casting a mating net. Here's the interesting thing, if my nephew is shown a mate in 2 or 3, he'll usually figure it out. But in his own games, he seems happy to just keep making the moves.

Any suggestions and link/book pointers from parents, coaches welcome.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

One great resource for teaching kids chess is www.chesskid.com. In particular, if you want to learn more about teaching the endgame to children, you can checkout chesskid.com's articles on endgames. A simple google search will yield you a ton more results, but this should get you started.

In my opinion, the reason why kids and adults in general solve tactical problems in isolation, but fail the same tactical problem in an actual game is for a variety of reasons, some of which may include and in no particular order:

  • Nerves - Solving an endgame puzzle with no time to worry about or no opponent staring you down is a lot easier. It is the only goal. He is not looking to beat someone.
  • The goal is to solve the problem in an isolated endgame puzzle, but in an actual game, the goal is to win, therefore, he might get lost in the position and forget about the endgame pattern.

  • Learning to recognize endgame patterns in an actual game is also key to learning how to solve it during a game instead of with just a few pieces on the board.

One idea is after he has played a game, if he missed anything or even if he did not, go over the endgame with him and see if he recognizes it.

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It looks like he didn't quite integrate that the point if it all is to win the game in the end.

A piece advantage is just a means of capturing more of an advantage (often, a queen via promotion), to easily crush defenses and mate. At least, that's what I'd go for with a piece advantage. If they still don't have a piece advantage, then try and get it¹. I wouldn't call that endgame², though.

Now, being 8 years old, I think that this will just come as he grows and thinks more in terms of goals in a fight, and less as a game where you play moves according to some rules. I don't think you should worry about that if he's happy as it is. At least, not until he starts being bugged by “and now what” himself.


This question might be of interest.

¹ I wouldn't mind making capturing pieces the first objective of a young player once he knows checkmate is how a game ends. If he loses games while being ahead in material, he'll learn the difference.
² Endgame, in my mind, is about more equal positions, how to win and not draw, or how to get an endgame advantage. I'd call finishing a game with a piece advantage “finishing the work”, rather.

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Being happy is very important here, especially at a young age. –  xaisoft Dec 5 '12 at 2:22
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