What books or resources would you use to teach a kindergartner chess?
May 28, 2014 3:02 PM   Subscribe

My question is twofold:
  1. What books, websites, or other resources do you recommend?
  2. Any tips for teaching a very young player?
He already knows all the basic moves and rules.

I’ve taught my six-year-old the rules and rudiments of chess, and we’d like to learn more. I have an older book called Teach Yourself Better Chess that has several problems in it. He really digs the problems, they have lower stakes than a full game against Dad, and we can work through them together. I’m also not a solid player myself so I’m afraid I’m teaching him bad habits. None of his friends play chess (yet).
posted by axoplasm to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The best kids' chess books I know of are "How To Beat Your Dad At Chess" and "Chess For Tigers". They are maybe a little old for him, but you can go through them yourself and find good material.
posted by thelonius at 3:22 PM on May 28, 2014

If he enjoys doing problems and he can use the internet (maybe supervised), I super highly recommend Chess Tempo. It serves you tactical problems that are tailored to your level. I know that many people have found it to be a great resource for kids.

If a book is more appropriate, I recommend John Bain's Chess Tactics for Students.
posted by dfan at 4:12 PM on May 28, 2014

No Stress Chess is great for kids, although your son might not need it as much since he already knows the basics.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:57 PM on May 28, 2014

One thing my brother-in-law did with my son that really helped was to have a handicap system. The BiL started off the first game with 1 point, after his inevitable loss he went up to 2 points. Gradually as my son got better he made his way up to having nearly all the pieces except the queen, I think. This worked well for my son because he was able to succeed and got a really good idea of how to play and win. It's a bit more hands on than learning from a book too, plus he got to see my BiL (eventually!) string a few moves together, use pins and forks etc. His opponent having fewer pieces meant my son could concentrate more easily too.
posted by mukade at 5:55 PM on May 28, 2014

Response by poster: These are all good suggestions, thanks!

@thelonius: I saw Beat your Dad at Chess at Powell’s and considered it.

@mukade: help me understand the handicap system. So the BiL started with just a single pawn + King?
posted by axoplasm at 6:59 PM on May 28, 2014

My daughter's school has Academic Chess. From what I've observed the main things they teach at that age are to play toward the middle rather than the sides and ABC (attack, block, chicken run).
posted by Dansaman at 6:59 PM on May 28, 2014

Does it need to be a website, or will an old-style program do? I was introduced to Fritz and Chesster several years ago by my then elementary-school age nephew and niece. They (and I) liked playing it.
posted by AMyNameIs at 9:02 PM on May 28, 2014

If he likes the problems,
this book by Laszlo Polgar is just that. Thousands of endgame problems, answers in the back. Not much text, nor explanations for the answers, but you can always play them out.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 9:24 PM on May 28, 2014

Best answer: I used to like Chess for Young Beginners and Better Chess for Young Players when I was little, because of the awesome illustrations depicting various chessboard situations as cartoonish mediaeval battle scenes. If he already knows the rules, Better Chess for Young Players is probably more at his level.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 1:44 AM on May 29, 2014

Best answer: You might look at Sharpen Your Tactics, which is a book of problems (no words!). However, it quite possibly gets too hard too fast for a six year old beginner.

Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess is remarkably good for beginning kids (though it has terrible reviews on Amazon). It's very focused on pattern recognition and learning how to look, which is something adults will pick up faster than the book anticipates, but younger kids probably won't. It's really meant for one person to go through with a pencil doing the exercises, but you should be able to do it together (I'm assuming your kid can't read).

I don't have an opinion on How to Beat Your Dad at Chess--I have a copy somewhere (else I'd offer to send it to you), but it was a bit too young/too basic for me when it came out.
posted by hoyland at 5:56 AM on May 29, 2014

Best answer: I haven't seen the book you mentioned, but from the Amazon info & reviews, it seems pretty good. Bill Hartston is certainly a great explainer of chess. It sounds like the level of the book is 1400+, and if that is true your son is very good for a six year old, and some of the books people have mentioned may be too low level for him.

You might want to take a look at From Beginner to Expert in 40 Lessons. It is based on the teaching methods used in Russian schools and clubs in the heyday of Soviet chess supremacy, and gives you a good idea of what a rounded chess education might include.

I agree with hoyland that Booby Fischer Teaches Chess is excellent, assuming it covers the right level for your child. If the Kosteniuk book is too high level to even start, this one might be good to work through.
posted by philipy at 10:42 AM on May 29, 2014

Response by poster: I’m quickly learning how deficient my own chess abilities are. So this is as much for me as him.

Right now we're kind of just working out basic maneuvers like pins and forks, and tenets like controlling the center. Also mate problems are good exercise for us because they have fewer pieces and a fixed end, thus easier/more satisfying to calculate. We like Mate in One (which also has Mate in two problems).

@hoyland, I saw the Fischer book at Powell’s but assumed it would aim too high. I’ll give it a look.

The McLeod Books also look to be right around his speed.

@philipy — I bought the Hartston book years ago. I’m not a serious player at all so that’s been my entire chess education. Which is the Kosteniuk?
posted by axoplasm at 11:44 AM on May 29, 2014

Which is the Kosteniuk?

Ooops... From Beginner to Expert is by Aleksander Kostyev. My brain inadvertently replaced Kostyev with Kosteniuk .

Alexandra Kosteniuk is a lot more famous and comes to mind more easily nowadays than Aleksander Kostyev, who wrote the book. She is a current grandmaster who AFAIK doesn't write books, whereas Kostyev was (according to the book) Director of the Chess School at the Moscow Palace of Pioneers.

The Pioneers were a bit like the boy scouts of Soviet Russia, and were where a lot of people from casual players to future World Champions first learned their stuff.
posted by philipy at 12:59 PM on May 29, 2014

The Polgar book noted above is what I bought. It has chess problems after chess problems. The author's three daughters are international grandmasters, which was his intent.

Polgar Chess.
posted by mearls at 3:48 PM on May 31, 2014

Sorry. Just checked back in.

Yes, he started with just a pawn and a king. The key here is to teach the person with the material advantage to get a win, not just getting queen after queen (which my son loved to do). The games progress fairly rapidly after that.
posted by mukade at 12:27 PM on June 2, 2014

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