We know how the pieces move. What's next?
May 29, 2012 11:31 AM   Subscribe

We know how the pieces move. What's the next step for a dad and six-year old learning chess together?

As discussed previously, my young son loves strategy games. Now he's started playing chess. We play together sometimes and I'd like us both to get better.

We understand certain little things like forks and trying to think a few moves ahead and remembering to pay attention to the whole board. But I don't know where to go next to get a better overall grasp of the game, including strategy and mechanics. While I understand individual moves, I don't have a good grasp of how to shape the board as a whole.

Would a good approach be to learn some openings? Is there a book that would take me (us) through some openings and use those to explain the advantages and disadvantages of certain positions in depth?

Alternatively, is there an introductory book that provides a good general introduction to chess strategy that goes beyond individual moves and individual pieces?

Or do we really need to just focus on those individual moves and pieces, and wait for the bigger picture to emerge?
posted by alms to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Buy Modern Chess Openings, run through the setups, then play the games out. The book itself is pretty dry.
posted by H. Roark at 11:56 AM on May 29, 2012

I highly recommend the Chess Tempo website. http://chesstempo.com/chess-tactics.html

It's got thousands of positions from real games, and it's all about being dropped into a real situation and being able to get some kind of either material advantage or mate out of it. If you do their free registration, it'll tailor the problems to your skill level.
posted by cali59 at 12:00 PM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Two books my family has really liked are The Chess Kid's Book of Tactics and Chess for Children. The Chess Kid's Book of Tactics in particular has a ton of exercises we call "chess puzzles," where it will have you set up a handful of pieces in a particular arrangement, with a challenge like "escaping from the fork" or "finding the pin" or "trapping." We found these fun and useful.

Those are both out of print and I don't think I got them out of any particular knowledge that they were the "best" books. There are lots of books on tactics for kids that you could look at to find the ones that suited you best.
posted by not that girl at 12:07 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your next step should be to start learning openings.

You can find tons of info on-line about learning openings, like this. Why are some opening moves better than others? What squares do you want to try to control?

Mediocre players often lose a game of chess in the opening few moves - because they do not set themselves up correctly from the beginning. Some openings are more agression (moving the queen's pawn first), and some opening are more defensive (moving the king's pawn first).

Openings can get really complex. Just get a basic feel for it.
Then, after you feel good about openings, start leaning about the endgame.

The middle game is the hardest part to learn, and is useless if you do not have a good opening and endgame. So, learn the basics of openings first, then basics of endgame.
posted by Flood at 12:09 PM on May 29, 2012

The two books on chess that I learned the most from are Winning Chess Tactics and Winning Chess Strategies by Yasser Seirawan. They helped me understand principles, rather than just memorizing lines.
posted by tdismukes at 12:13 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think at your level might want something like Tips for Young Players. i.e. Something that covers basic principles of all aspects of the game and how they fit together, rather going much into specific openings.

It sounds like you're only just out of the beginner stage, so have fun, and don't try to run before you can walk.
posted by philipy at 12:25 PM on May 29, 2012

Best answer: Yeah, rather than studying specific opening lines and trying to have a repertoire of memorized openings you'll do much better studying opening principles at your level. Learning one or two lines of the Sicilian Dragon for black will take you a long time and then they are only useful when white plays the book moves against you, which is usually never. Unless they are very familiar with the opening, in which case they might just crush you when you try it.

Focus instead on what you want to accomplish in the beginning of the game. Develop your pieces (no, seriously, do it), get your king in a safe spot (usually by castling), creating strong points with pawns and pieces (multiply defending central squares), making it difficult for your opponent's pieces to move anywhere useful.

And nthing tactics trainers, like ChessTempo or chess.com. Once you start getting an eye for tactics chess begins to get extremely fun. There are a lot of other things you need to be able to do in chess, but tactics will get you pretty far for quite awhile. Absolutely the fastest way to improve in a very noticeable way. Do enough of them and you start to see that pieces that don't appear to be free for the taking are actually doomed after an intermediate move. Or that you can happily sacrifice your queen for nothing because one or two moves later you get forced checkmate.

I haven't read the whole thing, but How to Beat Your Dad At Chess would probably a great book for (both of) you to read. The gist of it is that if you know a little about tactics and your opponent (dad) knows less, they are screwed. It goes over in clear detail 50 or so common tactical and checkmating motifs, like smothered mate, and, well, all of these.

Mostly, just play a lot of games. And get a chess clock for variety, timed games are a blast and less enervating than a long-form game.
posted by TheRedArmy at 12:51 PM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Majestic Chess is a computer video game that gamifies chess lessons. It's one player at a time, but one can drive while the other kibitzes. My son and I have gotten alot out of games like that.
posted by cross_impact at 1:12 PM on May 29, 2012

Oops, sorry. How To Beat Your Dad At Chess.
posted by TheRedArmy at 1:54 PM on May 29, 2012

When I was that age, my dad and I played pawns. Like this, but just with 4 pawns each. We must have played it hundreds of times.

It was a great way to dip my toe into strategy and the sheer complexity of chess, and gave me a fighting chance at winning. It's important to have that early on, so you have the satisfaction of winning on your own merits, not someone letting you win or always beating you.

My dad also taught my grade 7 chess club and taught us to monitor the centre 4 squares in the board (controlling those is good) and had a series of chess puzzles for us to solve (e.g. Here is a game mid-way through. You are White. Checkmate Black in 4 moves or less.). This was all before the Internet though, so I have nowhere to link for that! That's awfully weird to think about.
posted by heatherann at 3:46 PM on May 29, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you, these are all great answers and very helpful. I guess the way to learn strategy is initially through tactics. We have a beginning book for kids by Kasparov that someone gave us. We'll start working through that.
posted by alms at 6:49 AM on June 1, 2012

Three suggestions:

1) Silman's Complete Book of Chess Strategy is a great book that you can learn a lot from. He's a great author, and covers all the critical aspects of Chess.

2) Consider joining your local Chess Club and the US Chess Federation (assuming you're in the US). There's no substitute for getting better like playing different people of different strengths. The name "tournaments" sounds scary, but as one author points out, if you think of them as "chess festivals", that's basically what most of them are. Small tournaments are really just a way for people to get the opportunity to play "rated" chess games with the USCF.

3) Dan Heisman's Novice Nook is fantastic for kids and grownups alike. All of his past articles from Chess Cafe are available on the site for free. Incredible resource.

Keep having fun!
posted by machinecraig at 12:30 PM on June 1, 2012

Tactics is the base. Without a good base the rest won't mean too much.
I highly recommend the Seirawan books tdismukes mentions, along with his book on openings. They're geared for the beginner, and he doesn't take himself too seriously despite being a grandmaster. I think I've looked through How to beat your dad and have not seen Heisman's book, but they come well recommended. Also just about anything by Pandolfini (of Searching for Bobby Fischer fame). The Silman book is great, but is more advanced. Strategy needs to wait until the tactics are solid. And MCO is just a reference book- it doesn't explain anything, and won't mean much to you at this point.

You need a little opening and endgame theory* (no point being a Queen up if you don't know how to checkmate), but tactics makes it fun, and tactics are behind everything. Start with a kid's book or website and learn what a pin and a fork are. And just play a lot. Speed chess is fun. It's kind of meaningless before you learn tactics, but once you do, it's exciting, and you get to see the tactics in action.

*K+QvK, K+RvK, K+PvK
posted by MtDewd at 8:12 AM on June 4, 2012

I find Schiller's First Chess Openings to be a good start once the rules, basic tactics, and basic endgame/mates are covered. He spends half the book on opening principles and the other half with an actual opening repetoire for white and black. Schiller isn't a terribly popular chess author but I really like this book. He recommends a very open and tactical style of play that is suited for young players.

You could also check out Exeter's chess page on openings.

Also while this isn't about openings per se, I have to mention Ward Farnsworth's free ebook website: Predator at the Chessboard. Really great resource for tactics.

Nthing getting a chess clock. Even if you don't play fast chess, there's something very satisfying about smacking that clock with the rook your opponent just hung out there.
posted by screamingnotlaughing at 4:59 PM on June 7, 2012

« Older What to do with a EEE 900?   |   How to keep your loft bed cool when it's above... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.