Take the 2-minute tour ×
Chess Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for serious players and enthusiasts of chess. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I love playing chess, but I find that it is difficult to find people who are willing to commit time to play games with me. I'm not a great player (I've never memorized moves or openings) but I have played enough to know my way around. I invite people over to my apartment every week or so, and I provide drinks and snacks, but it seems that there are some common reasons people avoid wanting to play:

  • They aren't good at chess, or think it's too complicated to learn.

Sometimes, this answer is just a defensive comment so that when they do play they don't feel humiliated. But sometimes it is just an excuse not to play, and it doesn't matter how good I or any other opponents are. How can I convince people that they don't need to be "good" to enjoy playing a game?

  • "It's too big of a time commitment."

This is sort of the same reason that nobody will play Risk or Settlers of Catan with me. Especially since we've all heard of games that last whole weekends--and in chess games can last years! But the reality is that they aren't willing to dedicate just an hour or two to the game, while they are willing to sit in front of a TV for that same time period and don't see it as a problem. How can I convince people that it's worth their time?

  • "I'm a girl."

I think girls tend to think a group of people playing chess will be a bunch of nerdy guys talking about and doing stuff they're uninterested in. How can this perception be changed? What parts of chess are especially appealing to the female gender?

  • "Chess is boring."

I get this, because it looks kind of boring when you're watching, but once you get in to it and you have a basic grasp of tactics and strategy, it's not boring at all. How can I help people see how fun chess really can be?

  • Other reasons?

What are some other reasons people avoid playing chess? What are some strategies to help get people in the door the for the first time, and what are some strategies to help people have a fun time on their first visit so that they'll want to come back again?

share|improve this question
4  
"Chess is a game for old people: you sit for two hours just watching silly-shaped wooden pieces" I heard once. :) –  shuuchan Jun 5 '12 at 21:10
add comment

3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

You need to show them how to win! Letting them win, or going easy on them, I don't think is the answer. Communicating a few simple chess concepts can go a long way.

Here's how I would approach it (once they understand the rules):

  • play a few games (noting the moves)
  • show them a few simple concepts such as the pin and the fork, the three opening principles, knights in pawn holes and good/bad bishops, the concept of the king net, and some simple patterns such as the back-rank mate, KRRvK mate and the rook-roll, or KRvK mate.
  • go over the previously played games and spot these concepts appearing.
  • go on and play some more games and note their improvement.

The problem is, most people have the mistaken impression that chess skill is directly related to intelligence. Because it's common for people to underestimate their intelligence, they don't believe they will be any good at the game and will most likely lose, while at the same time being perceived to be unintelligent because they failed at chess — no fun at all.

The key is to show them how to win via the communication of a few simple chess principles, which has the added benefits of improving their self-esteem, while at the same time giving them a glimpse into the underlying, invisible-to-the-non-chess-player beauty of chess.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I agree with what @xaisoft had to say, but I wanted to add a couple of points. In general though, someone who doesn't want to play won't enjoy the game.

For those who do want to try, but are hesitant, there are a few things you can do. Over the last 10 years I have kept a board in my office and encouraged software developers (as well as others) working with me to play the occasional game. It's a great mental exercise and fun way to break up the day.

First make sure that everyone has at least one individual who is a near match for them. If you are just playing bad to try and not be too competitive to a new player they won't appreciate their wins. Instead try and find two people interested in learning to play. They can then enjoy playing against each other and use games against you to improve their skills.

Second, when possible set your board up away from distractions. When I have been successful showing the game to children it has usually been away from technology. This might be in a library, or park, or a quiet room in the house without computer/tv.

share|improve this answer
1  
Very nice answer, with easy-to-overlook ideas ! –  Nikana Reklawyks Dec 4 '12 at 21:46
add comment

Honestly, if someone does not want to play, I would not force anyone to play (don't get the wrong idea, I don't think you are doing this), but you can always attempt to try much shorter games at first, like 10 minutes, so you can keep someone's attention span. You never know, in 10 minutes, they may become more interested. I would also recommend not getting too involved in the game, maybe letting the other person get ahead in development or winning some of your pieces so they gain some confidence and want or desire to play more. This is a mindset that people have to get into and it can't change instantly. It's like a sudden weather change; people have to become acclimated to it. If all else fails, try going to a club where you find other chess players who would be willing to stop by and play some games. Good luck!

share|improve this answer
3  
I suggest to not use time controls to keep games short. Putting beginners under time pressure might heighten their impression of game complexity and their feeling of inferiority. –  Ray Jun 7 '12 at 6:45
    
@Ray - That is a good idea, not to go with any time as well. –  xaisoft Jun 8 '12 at 11:25
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.