I have an online rating of around 1500 and my 8-year-old daughter's playing strength is approximately 900 and she LOVES playing with me, despite losing most of the time. Here I am seeking suggestions on how I should play with her, in order to:

  1. keep her interest in chess;
  2. help her to improve;
  3. boost her confidence in chess.

Playing strength: Should I always play with my full strength, which means she will lose almost all the games that I play with her, or should I play while doing other things, such as watching videos (and thus lower my playing strength)? My child sometimes requests me to get distracted so that she has a better chance of winning/drawing. Also, should I purposely blunder occasionally and see if she knows how to take advantage of it?

Opening Choice: Should I stick to one or two mainstream openings, or should I play various types of openings? Should I simulate opening move frequency by using a database? For example, if so, in 20 games that I play as white, I would play nine e4 games, seven d4 games, two Nf3 games, one c4 game and one game starts with some other move. Should I play less common and slightly dubious openings, such as the King's Gambit, Danish Gambit, or Scandinavian Defence? Should I play dubious traps (which I do not normally play in a more serious game), such as Elephant Gambit and Stafford Gambit?

Draw Offer: Should I accept draw offer when there are still multiple pieces and pawns on the board, while the position is objectively equal, or should I keep playing?

Analysing Games: Should I record all the games that we play and analyse them with her? I tried to ask her to record the games, but she does not like it. She does not enjoy analysing games, but she is willing to do so.

Coach: Should I hire her a coach, or is myself good enough for her rating at this moment?

  • 3
    If she loves playing with you, my suggestion is to keep doing it the way you currently do.
    – Evargalo
    Commented Mar 1 at 14:31
  • @Evargalo, of course! That keeps her interested but I am looking for ways for her to improve.
    – Zuriel
    Commented Mar 1 at 15:12
  • 1
    Does she want to improve? Commented Mar 1 at 17:40
  • @AlexanderWoo, YES!
    – Zuriel
    Commented Mar 1 at 19:55

4 Answers 4


Children (and people in general) learn in different ways. It seems what you want is that both yourself and your daughter will maintain interest. If you distract yourself in order to maintain interest that seems to me not a good idea, if not a little rude. If she loses nearly all the time she may improve but may eventually become dispirited (who enjoys getting beaten all the time?).

My suggestion is to modify the technique of Dr Siegbert Tarrasch in his 'The Game of Chess' wherein he started his teaching from the Endgame rather than from the Opening.

In your situation I would start by setting up the board with say K+Q+Q (ie white) v k (ie black) where you play black. You try to hold out as long as possible, she to avoid stalemate! Vary the starting positions. After she learns to crush you quickly move to positions like K+Q+R v k then K+R+R v k, K+Q v k, K+Q+N v K and so on.

Then positions where the defender black has a piece or two.

Include K and pawns v k and pawns. The choices are myriad.

Eventually you set up positions where you both have chances to win. And you will need to try harder! And your daughter will learn the capabilities of the pieces and all the elementary ways of checkmating you!

  • Thank you for your suggestion! I usually play full games with her but playing end games would be a great idea!
    – Zuriel
    Commented Mar 15 at 1:43

Why don't you just use the old-fashioned device of material odds? At the level she is at, Queen odds should be good. You will have to exert yourself and she will feel great satisfaction in beating you. Reduce the odds when she beats you more than 60% of the time. Something like that.

  • Thank you for your answer! I thought about it, but was not sure if it is good for her to practice her openings. Right now she is quite comfortable with closed Ruy Lopez but when playing material odds, the opening ideas may be very different.
    – Zuriel
    Commented Mar 12 at 3:09
  • At her level, being happy with the closed Lopez seems inappropriate. She is probably hanging pieces and missing basic forks and double attacks. Levelling things up by distracting you so that you miss them too just leaves both of you playing badly. Another way is to let her take her move back a certain number of times per game. Try starting with ten, and reducing this as she gets better. One way I have done this I to criticise the move played and then ask. Do you want to take that back? Somehow, both players should be stretched and enjoying themselves.
    – Philip Roe
    Commented Mar 12 at 13:29
  • Thank you for your comment! She does not hang pieces often and she plays well when the opening is closed Ruy-Lopez. Today she played black against an FM and their first 12 moves were identical to a game between Vitaliy Bernadskiy and SP Sethuraman, who are both GM's now. The computer says that the game is roughly equal until black's 18th move when she hangs a piece and quickly loses the game. It seems closed Ruy Lopez suits her solid and cautious playing style. I thought about encouraging her to play the English opening but many people do not recommend it for beginners.
    – Zuriel
    Commented Mar 15 at 1:40
  • Good idea, although the child has to be agreeable to this. After teaching my kid, I tried offering material odds at the start of the game, but they refused to play such a game. Intentionally hanging pieces didn't work well, as they usually failed to see the free piece. (After dropping the game for a while, they eventually picked it up again in school for a while. Now they beat usually me, even though they dropped playing seriously to focus on school and other sports.)
    – GreenMatt
    Commented Mar 27 at 20:11

Another natural handicap that I haven't seen another player mention is time controls. When I have played against Kindergarten students (and I expect that there's a similar gulf in rating between me and these students as there are between you and your daughter), the 5 year old gets essentially infinite time while I have to play 0:15 + 1.

This is my favourite handicap because I don't need to follow artificial or different rules, and I do not need to pick moves that I know are worse. In my experience, the children also enjoy seeing my rushed and panicked moves when they find something even a little tricky.


My feeling is that while exercises that do not involve actually playing games of chess can be fun for kids sometimes, if you want to her to have a good chance of remaining interested you must continue to mostly actually play chess with her. In my experience teaching many kids both younger and older than her it takes a very specific personality type to not be bored to death by endgames, for example.

I suggest you introduce "levels" for yourself as if you were a bot. Tell her there are 5 (or however many) levels. Make some rules for yourself about how you will play at each level and what kind of threats you will "see" or make. If you need some inspiration you could check out the building habits series by GM Aman Hambleton on youtube.

Then whenever she wants to play, ask her to pick what level she would like to play against. If she continues to play regularly she will work her way up to the highest level before too long.

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