My 5-year-old old daughter very often forgets which direction a pawn is moving. This is confusing especially at endgame studies.

I use a marker pen to draw two eyes on the pawns so that her pawns are facing the enemy and their pawns are looking at her. But this is not applicable online and I am fearful of its side effect when she plays with others on an unmarked board later.

Any suggestions?

  • 4
    You could tell her that white pawns move towards 8 and black pawns move towards 1. – Lt. Commander. Data Mar 23 '20 at 3:46
  • This is interesting as most children tend to forget that pieces can move backwards. – Mike Jones Mar 23 '20 at 6:40
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    If you've already introduced the concept of promoting pawns, that might help reinforce that the pawns are trying to get to the back of the board. This is also easy to remember if the child has already learned Checkers/Draughts, since it has a similar mechanic at the back. – Darrel Hoffman Mar 23 '20 at 14:02
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    By the way, it could be an early sign of dyslexia. My daughter has it, and it is just something to keep in mind as she moves forward. – PhishMaster Mar 23 '20 at 16:22
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    @PhishMaster "as she moves forward"… I see what you did here – Gras Double Mar 23 '20 at 18:07

At 5 years old a child's brain is still very immature. The good news is that it is also developing very fast. The easiest and most effective solution is just to wait. Within a year or two the problem will have solved itself as your child's brain develops enough to satisfy your expectations.

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    This doesn't really answer the question. It would be better as a comment. – curiousdannii Mar 26 '20 at 2:14

On a screen, the pawns are always moving "up".

You know her better, so you could pick on of the following things as an example, and let her compare them to the pawns on a screen.


Or, if you are religious, well there is that "up" too.

When then playing on a board, she would need to realize that they move away from her.

  • 9
    On a screen, the pawns are always moving "up". ... except for the other ones that are moving down, of course. – Brondahl Mar 23 '20 at 20:02
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    @Brondahl Of course, but you do not have to worry about moving your opponent's pawns, since that is taken care of by the opponent. It really only matters about the ones you are moving, and they always move up no matter your color unless you flip the board for some reason, which a 5-year-old probably doesn't not know how to do anyway. – PhishMaster Mar 23 '20 at 20:13
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    @PhishMaster The question asks specifically about endgame studies, a situation in which there is no human opponent. I assume it's easy to remember which way pawns are going if you've been moving them all game, but in a fresh position it's harder to tell which way white's pawns are going and which way black's. – amalloy Mar 23 '20 at 20:58
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    @PhishMaster Concerning oneself with how one's opponent's material can be moved is the very essence of chess. – Acccumulation Mar 23 '20 at 21:35
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    @Accumulation I don't get your point. We are talking about a 5-year-old, and as a parent, who remembers what it was like, I offered a practical suggestion for when they ate online. Frankly, why the OP has a child online, or looking at studies, is beyond me. – PhishMaster Mar 23 '20 at 21:43

The best way I believe is to put them in front of the board and explain that pawns are so brave they only move forward and never move back. If they know the other pawns are his/her opponent's they would understand they move towards them as it's their’s opponents forward.

The trickier part would be to explain how the pawns eat. I may say that they eat looking left with their left arm, and looking right with their right arm, but never with both at the same time (which would be eating in front of them).


I would suggest at an early age to use didactic games like PreChess. Not sure if that term exists in english, but in spanish we have PreAjedrez games.

You can find nice PreChessgames within http://www.ajedrezparalaconvivencia.edu.uy/preajedrez/ , pity the web is only in spanish by now.

Specifically for practicing pawn moves I would suggest the "Pawn Race" and "Rescuing Snow White".

The clue with these kind of games is to play with less pieces and fewer rules involved. So the kid can focus on the pieces you want him/her to learn how to move.

Note: Just a note about ages. I started playing PreChess games with my son when he was around three years old. He liked very much "searching for the treasure" which was eating pawns with a rook, one by one, trying to eat a pawn in each move. You would create a kind of labyrinth of pawns to eat.

Let me give some description in english so as you get what the games are about:

Pawn race

The aim of the game is to promote one pawn, which would be take one pawn to row 8 for White and row 1 for Black. Of course this game can end in a draw if nobody promotes a pawn.

It's a good game to practice moves and captures for pawns, and to explain the promotion of pawns.

Below you can see the initial set of the game:

Pawn race

Rescuing Snow White

The dwarfs (eight white pawns) need to rescue Snow White that was captured by the witches (two bishops and a horse).

The dwarfs can rescue Snow White if at leat one dwarf gets to the last row and then makes a final move to rescue her (bare in mind that this is not possible in chess. It's a modification to create this PreChess game). Once she is rescued White win the game.

It the witches capture all the pawns then the dwarfs can't rescue Snow White and Black win the game.

Below you can see the initial set for the game:

Rescuing Snow White

  • 2
    This is a good answer. Such games would be much more appropriate for a 5 year old than, say, making a lichess account. – Lt. Commander. Data Mar 25 '20 at 7:20
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    Yes, I did the pawn race with 8 vs 6 for a while until she beats me every time. Can't wait to try the snow white game on her. – jf328 Mar 26 '20 at 2:34
  • Nice change to create a handicap! – Cedric Zoppolo Mar 26 '20 at 6:27

This is similar to helping a kid distinguish "left and right".

Kids at that age are visual, so you could use a black sticker and a white sticker, placing these on opposing sides and tell her that white pawns move towards the white sticker and black pawns towards the black sticker.

You can use stickers with images for fun, for example teddy bears.

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    Arguably, the directions should be reversed. Putting the stickers next to player whose color they correspond to makes more sense. You can then tell her that pawns attack, so they move towards the opponent (i.e. the other color). It's like how in football, each team is trying to get to their opponent's end zone – Acccumulation Mar 23 '20 at 21:40
  • It is the exactly the same, you can use this explanation too. The stickers and these rules are not meant for the child to learn, it is meant for the parents and educators to continue teaching, either how to write from left to right, why numbers are written and their digits represent from right to left... So that we do not waste our time explaining left or right, in this case what directions the pawns should move. Establishing that, you can teach other rules and not continuously correct the kid. The kid anyway will catch up this rule in 1 year or 2. – Jannes Botis Mar 23 '20 at 21:48

I remember seeing in a children's chess book that the pawn is like a peasant armed only with a pitchfork. He marches only forward (one or two at the start, one otherwise). He only attacks to the left or right side. And he never moves backwards.

The pawn ... historically represents infantry, or more particularly, armed peasants or pikemen. Source

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    The problem is that on a screen, which was a main part of the question ("online"), pawns don't really appear to move forward. – PhishMaster Mar 23 '20 at 14:44
  • Actually the question mentions online and unmarked boards, so an answer that address both parts of the question is more correct. – Mike Jones Mar 25 '20 at 1:52
  • @MikeJones, agreed, "online" is mentioned so there are other answers that are more correct. However, the title refers only to the direction. – rajah9 Mar 25 '20 at 13:45
  • @jf328, how does your daughter do with maps (translating "north" to "up") and calendars (translating "Jan / Feb / Mar" to the "up" and "Thanksgiving" or "Christmas" to the "bottom")? Have you read any Piaget child development models? I'm guessing that by first grade, this mental mapping ("away from me" = "up" on the online board) should resolve itself. – rajah9 Mar 25 '20 at 13:51

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