I love playing chess, but I find that it is difficult to find people who are willing to commit time to play games with me. I'm not a great player (I've never memorized moves or openings) but I have played enough to know my way around. I invite people over to my apartment every week or so, and I provide drinks and snacks, but it seems that there are some common reasons people don't want to play:

  • They aren't good at chess, or think it's too complicated to learn.

Sometimes, this answer is just a defensive comment so that when they do play they don't feel humiliated. But sometimes it is just an excuse not to play, and it doesn't matter how good I or any other opponents are. How can I convince people that they don't need to be "good" to enjoy playing a game?

  • "It's too big of a time commitment."

This is sort of the same reason that nobody will play Risk or Settlers of Catan with me. Especially since we've all heard of games that last whole weekends--and in chess games can last years! But the reality is that they aren't willing to dedicate just an hour or two to the game, while they are willing to sit in front of a TV for that same time period and don't see it as a problem. How can I convince people that it's worth their time?

  • "I'm a girl."

I think women tend to think a group of people playing chess will be a bunch of nerdy guys talking about and doing stuff they're uninterested in. How can this perception be changed?

  • "Chess is boring."

I get this, because it looks kind of boring when you're watching, but once you get into it and you have a basic grasp of tactics and strategy, it's not boring at all. How can I help people see how fun chess really can be?

  • Other reasons?

What are some other reasons people avoid playing chess? What are some strategies to help get people in the door for the first time, and what are some strategies to help people have a fun time on their first visit so that they'll want to come back again?

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    "Chess is a game for old people: you sit for two hours just watching silly-shaped wooden pieces" I heard once. :) Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 21:10
  • 1
    If you actually want to play more, you should find other people who want to play chess, Catan, and what not, and spend time with them rather than convert your existing friends into players. Look for a chess club, board game club, or similar. Then you won't have all the problems that you're trying to work around. And you can spend time enjoying the game rather than just teaching it.
    – user985366
    Commented Nov 16, 2019 at 21:32
  • let them watch searching for bobby fischer/queen's gambit/harry potter/shion no ou/pawn sacrifice? let them try some mate in 2's? let them try play 960 instead of standard?
    – BCLC
    Commented Jan 21, 2021 at 8:01
  • ah i think blitz/bullet. there's such a huge rush (of dopamine i guess) there. it gets less fun or more complicated/complex/deep/idk term as you increase time controls. with lower time controls, it's more about finding a good move as compared to the best movie which is what puzzles are usually about
    – BCLC
    Commented Jan 21, 2021 at 8:03

5 Answers 5


You need to show them how to win! Letting them win, or going easy on them, I don't think is the answer. Communicating a few simple chess concepts can go a long way.

Here's how I would approach it (once they understand the rules):

  • play a few games (noting the moves)
  • show them a few simple concepts such as the pin and the fork, the three opening principles, knights in pawn holes and good/bad bishops, the concept of the king net, and some simple patterns such as the back-rank mate, KRRvK mate and the rook-roll, or KRvK mate.
  • go over the previously played games and spot these concepts appearing.
  • go on and play some more games and note their improvement.

The problem is, most people have the mistaken impression that chess skill is directly related to intelligence. Because it's common for people to underestimate their intelligence, they don't believe they will be any good at the game and will most likely lose, while at the same time being perceived to be unintelligent because they failed at chess — no fun at all.

The key is to show them how to win via the communication of a few simple chess principles, which has the added benefits of improving their self-esteem, while at the same time giving them a glimpse into the underlying, invisible-to-the-non-chess-player beauty of chess.

  • Sounds interesting. I was just watching The Queen's Gambit. What's a good book on it?
    – js2010
    Commented Nov 13, 2020 at 3:37

I agree with what @xaisoft had to say, but I wanted to add a couple of points. In general though, someone who doesn't want to play won't enjoy the game.

For those who do want to try, but are hesitant, there are a few things you can do. Over the last 10 years I have kept a board in my office and encouraged software developers (as well as others) working with me to play the occasional game. It's a great mental exercise and fun way to break up the day.

First make sure that everyone has at least one individual who is a near match for them. If you are just playing bad to try and not be too competitive to a new player they won't appreciate their wins. Instead try and find two people interested in learning to play. They can then enjoy playing against each other and use games against you to improve their skills.

Second, when possible set your board up away from distractions. When I have been successful showing the game to children it has usually been away from technology. This might be in a library, or park, or a quiet room in the house without computer/TV.

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    Very nice answer, with easy-to-overlook ideas ! Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 21:46

One thing i would consider is starting with endgames. Give them a king and queen against your king and a few pawns for starters, and then move to other piece combinations. This will help ingrain the piece movements and they will always be starting with an advantage and will feel accomplished when they figure it out. Also, this will help in teaching openings and middlegames because they will have the end in sight...i.e. they will know what material they need and how to win. This is actually a very common teaching method in the Russian school of chess.


Honestly, if someone does not want to play, I would not force anyone to play (don't get the wrong idea, I don't think you are doing this), but you can always attempt to try much shorter games at first, like 10 minutes, so you can keep someone's attention span. You never know, in 10 minutes, they may become more interested. I would also recommend not getting too involved in the game, maybe letting the other person get ahead in development or winning some of your pieces so they gain some confidence and want or desire to play more. This is a mindset that people have to get into and it can't change instantly. It's like a sudden weather change; people have to become acclimated to it. If all else fails, try going to a club where you find other chess players who would be willing to stop by and play some games. Good luck!

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    I suggest to not use time controls to keep games short. Putting beginners under time pressure might heighten their impression of game complexity and their feeling of inferiority.
    – Ray
    Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 6:45
  • @Ray - That is a good idea, not to go with any time as well.
    – xaisoft
    Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 11:25

I tried to expand on things in the accepted answer. Although I find opportunities for pins & forks hard to come by so far. It's definitely nice to have the queen around for checkmates so you only need 2 pieces (or two rooks). Getting your pieces into the 4x4 (2x2?) squares in the center is a good tip. Trade when cramped (or ahead). Look for attacks by you and them. Watch out for stalemates, yuck.

don't let other guy set up traps


less pieces

take advantage of a crowded king, his own pieces and the borders

get rid of queens and their rooks?

net king and not chase him

look out for back rank mate

weak f7 pawn?

it's not fun to get far behind on the score, although sometimes it's good to sacrafice at a loss

control most of the squares?

3 classic opening principles
  Bring Your Pieces into Play (back row)
  Insure the King (castle)
  Control the Center 4x4 area


knights in pawn holes [outposts] bishop too - blocks pieces in front. (or a hole is an outpost that a pawn can't attack?)

An outpost is a square on the fourth, fifth, sixth, or seventh rank which is protected by a pawn and which cannot be attacked by an opponent's pawn, knight (or bishop) can occupy, not worth a trade with a rook https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outpost_(chess) https://www.thechesswebsite.com/chess-outposts/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1T7TuP0Ad0

good/bad bishops - has targets and is not blocked, trade bad for good if your bishop can only attack your own pawns and none of your opponent’s, then it’s a bad bishop. https://www.thechesswebsite.com/good-bad-bishop/

king net or mating net - It's when you surround the king, cutting off all means of escape before moving in for the kill. A mating net is when your pieces work together to prevent the opposing king from escaping a mating attack. https://www.chess.com/lessons/attacking-the-king-1/mating-net

back rank mate - check mate on first row In chess, a back-rank (corridor) checkmate is a checkmate delivered by a rook or queen along a back rank in which the mated king is unable to move up the board because the king is blocked by friendly pieces https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Back-rank_checkmate

KRRvK mate - two rooks, king at edge, "ladder mate" or lawnmower https://www.chesskid.com/article/view/checkmate-101

KRvK mate - mate with one rook and king, takes longer, same link

https://www.quora.com/Is-it-possible-to-checkmate-using-a-rook-and-a-bishop-without-any-aid-from-the-king The only two piece combination that can mate a king by themselves are queen and any other piece (rook, bishop, knight, or even another queen), a rook + rook combination, or a knight and a rook if the king can be cornered.

[for trading] A pawn is worth one point, a knight or bishop is worth three points, a rook is worth five points and a queen is worth nine points. Getting far behind is not fun.

pin (or backwards is skewer) - 2 pieces in line, back one more valuable https://www.chess.com/terms/pin-chess https://www.chess.com/lessons/capturing-pieces/pins

fork - 1 can capture 2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fork_(chess) forks pins & skewers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42ZDFP8_ySI

how to get pin/fork opportunities https://www.chess.com/forum/view/general/forks-pins-and-skewers

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