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Recently, I got some students (beginners) in chess, and I would like to teach them how to play but I don't know where to start! They already know how to move pieces and some concepts on how to play, but still they are rookies. Where can I start from ?

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The chess teacher Elizabeth Spiegel has a beginner curriculum that she points to in this blog post. It assumes no prior knowledge of chess on the part of the students.

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I have a couple of suggestions, some tried and true, others more experimental using modern technology.

1. Start from the endgame

Pros

  • Starting backwards will allow the player to understand chess at a deep, fundamental level
  • If you learn the endgame first, you are constantly moving toward a place you are comfortable with when you play the game (as opposed to a middlegame player, who is constantly moving away from his comfort zone)
  • The endgame is grounded on the concrete, but requires sound positional understanding to play well, thus learning it allows you to learn all aspects of the game

Cons

  • It can sometimes be tedious to teach and learn the endgame (I'm having this problem myself)
  • It requires a lot of initial investment from the student, for what seems to be little return (they may get caught by tactics, or opening traps in OTB games, making them discouraged)

2. Teach a thinking algorithm

Basically, create a simple step-by-step process (allow the student to come up with their own and then help them tweak it) which aids in making decisions OTB (i.e moves).

Pros

  • Very easy to do and has almost immediate results (an anti-blunder check at the end of every move goes a long way to improve one's game)
  • A fundamental skill which is necessary for every phase of the chess game
  • Can be built upon as more knowledge about the game is garnered

Cons

  • None, except for the fact that you aren't focusing on any one thing in particular

3. Tactics, tactics, tactics!

This is more experimental and involves drilling tactical puzzles (I recommend this book, the puzzles are beautifully arranged so that they build on one another) until they can be done "by hand" (i.e directly from memory).

Pros

  • All the benefits that tactical training provides, including:
    1. Able to handle complex positions with little difficulty
    2. Increase in visualization abilities
    3. Confidence in one's own moves (i.e that they won't be subverted by a missed tactic)
    4. General decrease in blunders and increase in noticing opponents blunders
  • Memorization of the positions, allows the creation of "building blocks". These are useful because you can often simplify complex positions in these basic blocks
  • Its just more fun to explore tactical fireworks

Cons

  • Focusing on just tactics, does not give a true understanding of the game, which is really more important for future success
  • There is a diminishing return, after which no amount of drilling will help
  • It can be tedious
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As a coach to kids, I usually start with how to win games, figuring that, if they can't win a won game, they won't get anything else I try to teach. I'll give them a queen and king versus my king and see if they can checkmate me. Then we do it with a rook. Also, checkmates. I love "How to Beat Your Dad at Chess". If you just try to get your pieces in similar locations to the winners in those problems (and avoid the locations of the one being checkmated), you'll probably do quite fine for quite a while. "Tactics for Kids" is a good second book. When you get good enough that the game comes down to promoting a pawn, you will need to find an endgame book (but that's another question). Opening theory is last. There are plenty of good opening moves available, so there is no need to learn a particular sequence until you have the rest of the game figured out.

Good luck and have fun.

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I have been training a few students for the past year and a half now. I have been a player myself for the past ten years. Recently, I wrote a trainer's manual on chess. I feel that it is important for the trainer to instill a sense of confidence in the student's mind for chess. It is imperative to teach the correct rules and regulations of the game according to the latest tournament rules. For a complete beginner, it is necessary to make the student learn how to checkmate in one-two moves, the basic opening position and principles, the basic middle game principles, and some basic endgame checkmates(a single rook, two rooks, a pawn, a queen). It is also important to make the student aware about the happenings in the world of chess. Make the student know about the different world champions, different world tournaments, and the various chess events across the world. One can also start making the student participate in a few local events to get the confidence up. Trainers must also make use of practice play and must guide their students on their overall development of the game.

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