I am teaching my children (5 and 7) to play chess, and we are pretty much at the which piece can move where phase. However while they do enjoy the game, they don't really have an attention span that can play a full game.

What I would like is some way to make changes to the game that will cut game time down so that my kids can enjoy the game, as quality time with Dad and hopefully learn something.

  • 2
    Give them a queen, rook, and a king. Take a king. Let them checkmate you. When this is mastered, give them 2 rooks. etc etc
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Sep 13, 2014 at 15:51
  • 1
    Check out this teacher guide from Innovative Educators: Teaching Chess the Easy and Fun Way with Mini-Games
    – Joe
    Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 20:01
  • 1
    Also relevant: Minichess
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 16, 2018 at 10:45

9 Answers 9


A few ideas:

  • Michael Goeller's Pawn Battle which introduces a checkers-like game (that still follows the rules of chess) that wonderfully folds in key pawn concepts like break moves, sacrificing to clear a line and even zugzwang. This exercise also helps kids learn to appreciate calculating outcomes beyond just "Hope Chess"-ing it out.

  • Some of the handouts at ProfessorChess.com contain exercises and drills that are fun and instructive.

  • Basic won endgames : These can be fun, simple positions which very direct goals and often gets done within minutes as they start to figure out how to solve them. Start up with KQ vs K setups and move up the ladder of complexity to KR vs K and even KP vs K. These fundamental skills stay with them as they progress with their chess.

    • An added funsy way of doing the above is to use 2 x 8-sided dice to randomly assign squares for pieces in the starting position (e.g. K goes here, other K goes there, the Queen goes here. Play to win!). You could go all out and even create a roulette wheel of different drills to perform!
  • +1 for mentioning pawn battle. Such a simple & effective way of teaching beginners proper pawn play!
    – Ralph
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 19:35
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    You implied this with KP vs K, but K8P vs K7P is also useful, as is K(B or N)+ 3P vs K + 3P. (Or any number of pawns). It will give them confidence why getting up material isn't just, say, their team scoring a run in the 1st inning.
    – aschultz
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 10:00


8/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/8 w - - 0 1

"Pawn Wars" is a great way to play and teach kids about chess, each player starts with only pawns on their starting squares and the winner is the first one to reach the eighth rank, this teaches kids about pawn play and promotion. Then later you can bring in the kings, then they will rarely forget the power of the king in the endgame.

7n/8/2pppp2/2p2p2/2P2P2/2PPPP2/8/N7 w - - 0 1

This one is called Forbidden City, this is probably the best way to learn how to play with the Knights, Whites goal is to get to h8 and return to a1, blacks goal is to get to a1 and return to h8. Neither Knight can land on a square where they can be eaten by a pawn, or a square which contains a pawn and they can never enter the square the pawns have formed, thus the name, Forbidden City. Of course whoever moves first should win but it is not so easy for beginners.

r7/8/8/8/8/8/2PPPPPP/8 w - - 0 1

This is called Rook vs Pawns, White wins if one of the pawns queens and Black wins if he/she can eat all of White's pawns, this can help teach kids the power of passed pawns and the lateral attacks of the Rook.

  • 1
    "Forbidden City. Of course whoever moves first should win" I don't think so! At least capturing the opponent's knight is allowed. If White goes first then black just plays in the opposite direction to White and after 2 moves White will be blocked from going further on either g2 or b7 and will have to reverse.
    – Brian Towers
    Commented Jan 3, 2015 at 19:09
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    Do the pawns in forbidden city move at all or are they merely decorative?
    – hkBst
    Commented Feb 11, 2016 at 14:28

One fun game is Knight's tour. You will need 64 pieces for that (you can play it without the pieces, but it's more fun with the pieces), including the knight. The objective is to capture all the pieces with the knight. The knight can start on any square, but one of the central squares is preferred. It would be a fun game for your kids, while at the same time improving their ability to calculate ahead.

A shorter version of knight's tour would be to play it on one half of the board, with 32 pieces.

By the way, I learned chess when I was 4 or below. Never underestimate kids!

  • After maybe 4 games they know how to setup the board and are getting the hang of the moves, its just that they don't have the attention span (and to be honest I am a pretty bad chess player)
    – Zachary K
    Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 14:52

When I was studying chess my teacher started from explaining opposition concept. After that pawns were added, and rooks, bishops, queen and knights. Just start from small number of pieces and invent new ones when interest to the games will start dawning.

  • I would definitely not recommend this approach for kids! Chess has to be fun for kids, not "study" about opposition and stuff. Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 16:53

Perhaps instead of playing full games with them you setup positions where some/most of the pieces are off of the board? You could get board positions from tactic training books or chess puzzle books. If you did this, you could give them one specific objective - "How fast can you capture my bishop?" Or "Try to beat me in two moves."

This would create shorter interactions with chess that had discernible and able-to-be-quickly-achieved goals (to help with the attention span). Also, they would still be playing "real" chess.

Hope this helps. Good luck!


I really like "Let's catch the lion" (dobutsu shogi) for young kids, and I've built a Duplo version of the game to play with my almost 5-year old daughter. Winning seems to be a big motivator so she likes it best when I play with only my lion and remove my other pieces from the game (not in hand). So far I have also been playing without chick to chicken promotion. For older kids there is goro goro dobutsu shogi.


Blank Chess is a great introduction to chess pieces and movement. Check out the rules at http://www.blankchess.com.


Chess minigames are ideal for teaching children. One challenge is that most chess software doesn't support playing positions with no kings or the other specific rules that many chess minigames include.

Worth checking out Acorn Chess which has extensive support for chess minigames and even creating custom minigames.

Disclaimer: I developed Acorn Chess as I couldn't find anything that met my needs.


Maybe cut the board down to half (in width) so there's 1 rook, 1 bishop, 1 queen, 1 king, and 4 pawns each?

  • If you cut the board in half over the width, you can't have 1 rook/bishop/queen/king unless you ditch the horse and shift pieces around. King and queen are on opposite sides of the middle.
    – Mast
    Commented Nov 15, 2020 at 15:15

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