When I was little (mid-late 90's) my mom taught me to play chess. She had a book, which looked pretty old at the time (perhaps from the 70s but I could be off by a decade or more). The book outlined the approach she used to teach me.

As the first step, she taught me only about the pawns. We played entire games with ONLY the pawns. Each player had eight pawns set up on their second row (the same positions as in normal chess), and the pawns moved exactly as in chess, including capturing en passant when legal. The object of this game was to either get a pawn to the other side of the board, or to capture all the opponent's pieces. This was a great game and a great introduction and was very easy to learn and remember.

My trouble is, I don't recall what the next step was. It may have been to introduce rooks and play the same game but with rooks added. That rings a bell, but I'm not sure.

I'm now teaching my 7-year-old son to play chess, and I'd love to be able to use the same approach I learned with as I know it was successful although I don't remember the rest of the details of the gradual approach. (My mother passed away a couple years ago so isn't available to ask about it.)

Does anyone recognize this approach? Does it have a name? Is there a book (either a well known book or an obscure one) that uses this method as the first step toward teaching chess to a beginner? (The book may have been giving an approach specifically for teaching children, or just a general method of teaching chess, I'm not sure.)

  • fortunately I never saw that book. there are better ways to learn. Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 1:17
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    @edwinaoliver For adults maybe. But when teaching children, the most important thing by far is to make things fun and hopefully spark some longer-lasting interest from that. Not hitting the child with the full complexity of chess at once (without bending the rules! It's just starting with pawn endgames, basically) sounds like a very sensible idea.
    – Annatar
    Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 8:37
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    If you think about it, this is the same way we teach subjects at school: You start adding numbers from 1 to 10, then to 20, then to 100, and so on, long before learning stuff like linear algrebra.
    – Annatar
    Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 8:39

2 Answers 2


Sounds like the Lev Alburt/Sam Palatnik series (Comprehensive Chess Course, a two-volume set at the beginning, with Alburt adding more volumes to it later).

Both volumes are widely available used; should be able to find them readily for cheap, if you don't mind the odd tear or stain.

  • Does it have the pawns-only approach I describe? I searched online about that book but didn't find any mention of that aspect.
    – Wildcard
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 23:03
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    Sounds like "The Pawn Game" which is a tool used very early in the book to teach pawn moves. It was part of Lesson One in the copy I have. But I have to correct myself on the authors -- it wasn't Palatnik, it was Roman Pelts with Lev Alburt. Pelts was Alburt's teacher back in the Soviet Union.
    – Arlen
    Commented Nov 27, 2021 at 6:16

You can make it up yourself as you go along. You already know that chess is better learned with as few pieces on the board as possible, which puts you way ahead of the people who want to teach newcomers with all 32 units.

At the first meeting of a 10- or 12-week class, I teach the kids a game with eight white pawns and the black queen. If a pawn reaches the 8th rank (unlike chess, it doesn't have to survive the 'promotion'), the pawns win. If the queen gobbles all the pawns or blocks the last pawn remaining, the queen wins.

Some kids never get past that, but they get to enjoy the play time instead of struggling with chess, and the great thing about it is that it's an equalizer. I lose some of those games, and unlike chess, when I talk about why I'm making this move or that, the kids understand.

  • That's a good suggestion, I'll try that game (8 pawns vs. 1 queen). Still hopeful to find the book I mentioned, but at least this gives me another step to do with my son.
    – Wildcard
    Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 21:43
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    That game's quite similar to an actual chess variant in fact- Horde can be played on lichess.
    – pulsar512b
    Commented Aug 20, 2020 at 15:03

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