Book Recommendations

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Paul McKeown
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Book Recommendations

Post by Paul McKeown » Wed Nov 18, 2009 12:18 pm

I have been teaching chess once a week at a primary school for the best part of a term (simply as a way of putting something back into chess, no professional aspirations there).

Most of the children are young and interested only in shuffling the pieces about.

There is one stand-out exception, though, a 10 year old girl from former Russian speaking parts. Although still a novice, she has a very keen interest, pushes me into teaching her more and more and gets frustrated when the rest of the class hold the flow of the lesson back. Yesterday she learned to record and read chess notation for the first time, in both English and Russian, and was able to play a game of chess, record it and use a clock at the same time, and then after the game ended was able to refer to her record of the game to discuss the game afterwards with me - not only that but was able to link her loss to a tactical theme that I had explained in an earlier lesson. This analytical ability is vital to further development at chess, coupled with the desire to improve.

I have discussed this with her mother, for whom her daughter's interest in chess is a big surprise, but not an unwelcome one. We have decided that amongst other things it would make sense to buy some books. I would like to know of any recommendations for books, which aim to teach the rudiments of tactics, strategy, openings and endgames to novices, whilst assuming that the reader already knows how the pieces move. Written in language accessible to well read children of the age 10 - 13, say. Can anyone help?

Thanks,
Paul McKeown.

Richard James
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Re: Book Recommendations

Post by Richard James » Wed Nov 18, 2009 1:21 pm

Hi Paul

There's a lot of free stuff aimed at that sort of level on the books page of chessKIDS academy: http://www.chesskids.com/library09.htm.

I've actually stopped teaching in after-school chess clubs of this nature because, as you say, all they want to do is shuffle the pieces around. I'm increasingly convinced that the only way to approach chess for younger children is via a structured course, and that this sort of club actually puts children off developing a long-term interest in the game.

I'm currently working on a book for young children using just such a course which will, as long as I get on with writing it rather than browsing internet fora, be published in Autumn 2010.

Paul McKeown
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Re: Book Recommendations

Post by Paul McKeown » Wed Nov 18, 2009 2:26 pm

Richard James wrote:There's a lot of free stuff aimed at that sort of level on the books page of chessKIDS academy: http://www.chesskids.com/library09.htm.
Richard,

An excellent resource, thanks. I have looked through Schools Lessons Vol. 1 and 2 and liked it a lot - I shall use it with gratitude (can I buy you a pint sometime?).

One criticism though, there is very little emphasis on the endgame. I have already (within the first 9 lessons), taught not only the elementary mates, but also the elements of the struggle to promote K and P against K. The class in general retained little of that (except the idea of promoting pawns), but the girl in question seems to have mastered the rudiments of the zugszwang theme involved (even retaining the German word, too). I suppose one objection to teaching the endgame might be that children then get too materialistic, not looking at tactical ideas, but just counting how many extra future queens they might have, then promoting as many pawns as they can (look I've 4 queens!), without trying to deliver mate efficiently. Not sure. What's your view? I'm genuinely curious, as you have so much experience...

Another potential criticism (which I'm not making) is Bronstein's, that inexperienced players should play the d-pawn openings as tactical dangers are less likely to rear their ugly heads at the start of the game. I actually like your traditional exposition of the elementary tactics involved in the early parts of the Open Game very much - it is very clearly presented.

I shall definitely use "Schools Lessons" over the next few weeks.

However, I think it would be beneficial to be able to recommend an attractively produced book, possibly hardback. Children love having something tangible. Can anyone recommend something?

Best Regards,
Paul McKeown.

Richard James
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Re: Book Recommendations

Post by Richard James » Wed Nov 18, 2009 3:05 pm

Paul

Many thanks for your comments. There's actually quite a lot about endings later in the course, also in Move Two. My new course, however, will do things very differently with a lot more work on simple positions with a few pieces on the board so - more endings. It's much easier to teach specific cognitive skills in positions with a few pieces on the board.

Zak (teacher of Korchnoi, Spassky etc) recommended that children should start with e4 e5, in particular playing gambits, precisely because children SHOULD be introduced to tactics at an early stage. He wrote somewhere of his horror of young children being taught openings like the Caro Kann.

If you look at the Dutch Steps Method (which I know you've seen) it's ALL tactics. If you look at Laszlo Polgar's book (which is the material he put together to teach his daughters) - again all tactics. If you look at a lot of Russian and Ukranian material (I have Volume 1 of the Manual of Chess Combinations by Ivashchenko in front of me here at school - ideal for beginners) - again all tactics, but with a lot of endings. No teaching of openings anywhere.

My new book will, perhaps unfortunately, be in paperback because my publishers only publish paperbacks, but on good quality paper with great photographs.

Your pupil, however, is looking for something the next level up, and, you're quite right, there's very little suitable material available at that level. Plenty of beginners' books and plenty of books for club level players but virtually nothing in between.

Yes, you can certainly buy me a pint sometime in lieu of a donation to chessKIDS academy! Many thanks for the offer.

Richard

Alex Holowczak
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Re: Book Recommendations

Post by Alex Holowczak » Wed Nov 18, 2009 6:23 pm

Paul McKeown wrote: Another potential criticism (which I'm not making) is Bronstein's, that inexperienced players should play the d-pawn openings as tactical dangers are less likely to rear their ugly heads at the start of the game.
I only ever taught new players 1. e4, but this is because I play it myself. I figured it was something I had more expertise on. I thought it was important to teach 1. e4 on the basis that tactical errors do occur more often. The person I was teaching would often make careless moves, i.e. not think for long enough and miss a fairly basic tactic. Knowing that these can occur at any moment meant that this person had to be much more careful about what they were doing. In the end, the player became quite good tactically. The downside was that the person became a bit paranoid, and was quite nervous to make moves thinking that a tactic was being overlooked. That disappeared with practice, and hence realisation that they weren't making howlers on every move.

That said, I tought the player the French, on the basis that there would be no f7 disasters.

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Ben Purton
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Re: Book Recommendations

Post by Ben Purton » Wed Nov 18, 2009 6:40 pm

Hi Paul

I started with 30 beginners recently , Its taken me the best part of the a term for them to gain a full knowledge of the rules(excluding en passen coz this would be a joke atm).

I use a quiz at the end with cheap prizes as an incentive to pay attention/control the class.

I always provide a easy handout which is 80%+ pictures.

As you say most want to push the pieces. I have a few who have started to play ok in respect to know all the rules and how to checkmate lawmower styleeeeeeee

Kind regards

Ben
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Peter Rhodes
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Re: Book Recommendations

Post by Peter Rhodes » Wed Nov 18, 2009 6:52 pm

Ben Purton wrote:excluding en passen coz this would be a joke atm

I don't know if this can help, but I tell them that when a pawn moves two squares, that the player is getting a bonus and making two moves at once.

Then the en-passant is just visualised as taking the opponents pawn on it's first of the two moves.

But ye, the pawn moves can be the hardest for kids to visualise because they move forwards but take diagonally. I think it's important to use imagery they can easily visualise and retain. I tell them pawns are like a bull with two horns that attack to the left and right !! When bulls smash heads straight-on they get a headache :D
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Ben Purton
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Re: Book Recommendations

Post by Ben Purton » Wed Nov 18, 2009 7:21 pm

I am just leaving it for now. I will do a handout after the tournament next term.

I didnt know of the rule until I had an ecf grade etc.

If i keep teaching them the rules as Paul/Richard touched on they sit there bored. So I let them play and can only do 10-20 minutes(max) of demo board work.
I love sleep, I need 8 hours a day and about 10 at night - Bill Hicks
I would die happy if I beat Wood Green in the Eastman Cup final - Richmond LL captain.
Hating the Yankees since 2002. Hating the Jets since 2001.

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David Shepherd
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Re: Book Recommendations

Post by David Shepherd » Wed Nov 18, 2009 9:10 pm

Chess tatics for kids and how to beat your dad at chess are a good start, also tim onions books

Richard Bates
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Re: Book Recommendations

Post by Richard Bates » Wed Nov 18, 2009 9:49 pm

Alex Holowczak wrote:
Paul McKeown wrote: Another potential criticism (which I'm not making) is Bronstein's, that inexperienced players should play the d-pawn openings as tactical dangers are less likely to rear their ugly heads at the start of the game.
I only ever taught new players 1. e4, but this is because I play it myself. I figured it was something I had more expertise on. I thought it was important to teach 1. e4 on the basis that tactical errors do occur more often. The person I was teaching would often make careless moves, i.e. not think for long enough and miss a fairly basic tactic. Knowing that these can occur at any moment meant that this person had to be much more careful about what they were doing. In the end, the player became quite good tactically. The downside was that the person became a bit paranoid, and was quite nervous to make moves thinking that a tactic was being overlooked. That disappeared with practice, and hence realisation that they weren't making howlers on every move.

That said, I tought the player the French, on the basis that there would be no f7 disasters.
I think you need to be very careful with teaching specific openings to juniors, and should probably obtain higher level advice before doing so. I think a bad opening repertoire can seriously hamper strong junior development at key stages, and even if they eventually rectify the problem, they may never completely shake off the temptation to play the openings of their youth. Of course the real disaster is the extremes, like a whole generation of Surrey juniors being caught up in experiments with the St George, but it can apply to more respectable openings (like the French) as well.

I know of several players in my near age group who put substantial strength once they made the decision to look beyond what they had been taught at early ages, whether it be switching between 1.e4 and 1.d4 or finding better alternatives with the black pieces.

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Rob Thompson
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Re: Book Recommendations

Post by Rob Thompson » Wed Nov 18, 2009 10:37 pm

David Shepherd wrote:Chess tatics for kids and how to beat your dad at chess are a good start, also tim onions books
I'll agree with that, certainly with the Tim Onions books. then again, as i helped to proofread his middlegame book, it's inevitable that i would support them :lol:
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Re: Book Recommendations

Post by Richard James » Wed Nov 18, 2009 11:04 pm

Alex Holowczak wrote: That said, I tought the player the French, on the basis that there would be no f7 disasters.
I'm never happy about this. If they can't stop Scholar's Mate they shouldn't be learning openings at all. Much better to teach them how to defend f7 than fudging the issue by getting them to play 1...e6. However, at one school I taught at a long time ago there was one kid who remembered you could stop Scholar's Mate by putting one of your big guys on e7. Unfortunately, he couldn't remember which big guy, so his games always started 1. e4 e5 2. Qh5 Ke7 and you can work out White's 3rd move for yourself.

Richard Bates wrote:I think you need to be very careful with teaching specific openings to juniors, and should probably obtain higher level advice before doing so. I think a bad opening repertoire can seriously hamper strong junior development at key stages, and even if they eventually rectify the problem, they may never completely shake off the temptation to play the openings of their youth. Of course the real disaster is the extremes, like a whole generation of Surrey juniors being caught up in experiments with the St George, but it can apply to more respectable openings (like the French) as well.

I know of several players in my near age group who put substantial strength once they made the decision to look beyond what they had been taught at early ages, whether it be switching between 1.e4 and 1.d4 or finding better alternatives with the black pieces.
I agree entirely, Richard

David Shepherd wrote:Chess tactics for kids and how to beat your dad at chess are a good start, also tim onions books
Chess Tactics for Kids and How to Beat your Dad at Chess are great books, and, in the latter case, a great title, but far far too hard for 99% of kids in primary school chess clubs. My own much simpler tactics questions in the end of class tests on chessKIDS academy were far too hard so I had to dumb them down prior to rethinking my whole approach. Until you actually talk to primary school kids on a one-to-one basis you really have no idea just how difficult they find tactics. And chess, as we all know, is 95% tactics. Cor van Wijgerden, the co-author of the Dutch Steps method, tells me that by following their very specific and well-thought out methods young children CAN learn tactics, but the way we're doing things here just doesn't work.

Ben Purton wrote:If i keep teaching them the rules as Paul/Richard touched on they sit there bored. So I let them play and can only do 10-20 minutes(max) of demo board work.
Quite right, Ben. 10 mins max I would say. My experience is that the less I taught and the more they played the more they enjoyed the sessions and the better their results. Gavin Wall was saying this to me on Sunday as well. The other problem is that you will usually have a mixed group of very different ages, experiences and abilities and it's very difficult to do a lesson which will appeal to all of them. Anything above the basics will be over the heads of most of them while the bright kids will shout out the answers to the simpler questions before you've finished setting up the pieces.

Alex Holowczak
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Re: Book Recommendations

Post by Alex Holowczak » Wed Nov 18, 2009 11:27 pm

Richard James wrote:
Alex Holowczak wrote: That said, I tought the player the French, on the basis that there would be no f7 disasters.
I'm never happy about this. If they can't stop Scholar's Mate they shouldn't be learning openings at all. Much better to teach them how to defend f7 than fudging the issue by getting them to play 1...e6. However, at one school I taught at a long time ago there was one kid who remembered you could stop Scholar's Mate by putting one of your big guys on e7. Unfortunately, he couldn't remember which big guy, so his games always started 1. e4 e5 2. Qh5 Ke7 and you can work out White's 3rd move for yourself.
Well, I told them it was the simplest way to avoid it, while also providing a fairly sound way of playing the game. Some lines can transpose into the Sicilian, so there's quite a lot to learn about it. I suppose when showing them Scholar's Mate, they asked about ways to stop it, so I suggested 1...e6 or 2. Bc4 Nf6 or something. Since I actually play the former out of preference, I thought it best to show them that in more detail.

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Re: Book Recommendations

Post by Richard James » Wed Nov 18, 2009 11:31 pm

Alex Holowczak wrote:
Richard James wrote:
Alex Holowczak wrote: That said, I tought the player the French, on the basis that there would be no f7 disasters.
I'm never happy about this. If they can't stop Scholar's Mate they shouldn't be learning openings at all. Much better to teach them how to defend f7 than fudging the issue by getting them to play 1...e6. However, at one school I taught at a long time ago there was one kid who remembered you could stop Scholar's Mate by putting one of your big guys on e7. Unfortunately, he couldn't remember which big guy, so his games always started 1. e4 e5 2. Qh5 Ke7 and you can work out White's 3rd move for yourself.
Well, I told them it was the simplest way to avoid it, while also providing a fairly sound way of playing the game. Some lines can transpose into the Sicilian, so there's quite a lot to learn about it. I suppose when showing them Scholar's Mate, they asked about ways to stop it, so I suggested 1...e6 or 2. Bc4 Nf6 or something. Since I actually play the former out of preference, I thought it best to show them that in more detail.
I really wouldn't even talk about the French or the Sicilian to players at that level. They need to learn how to look at the board, how to make decisions, how to think ahead, how to calculate. The Dutch Steps course has six years of material without mentioning openings at all.

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Re: Book Recommendations

Post by Alex Holowczak » Wed Nov 18, 2009 11:43 pm

Richard James wrote:
Alex Holowczak wrote:
Richard James wrote:
I'm never happy about this. If they can't stop Scholar's Mate they shouldn't be learning openings at all. Much better to teach them how to defend f7 than fudging the issue by getting them to play 1...e6. However, at one school I taught at a long time ago there was one kid who remembered you could stop Scholar's Mate by putting one of your big guys on e7. Unfortunately, he couldn't remember which big guy, so his games always started 1. e4 e5 2. Qh5 Ke7 and you can work out White's 3rd move for yourself.
Well, I told them it was the simplest way to avoid it, while also providing a fairly sound way of playing the game. Some lines can transpose into the Sicilian, so there's quite a lot to learn about it. I suppose when showing them Scholar's Mate, they asked about ways to stop it, so I suggested 1...e6 or 2. Bc4 Nf6 or something. Since I actually play the former out of preference, I thought it best to show them that in more detail.
I really wouldn't even talk about the French or the Sicilian to players at that level. They need to learn how to look at the board, how to make decisions, how to think ahead, how to calculate. The Dutch Steps course has six years of material without mentioning openings at all.
Well, the person I was teaching was much more mature, and had got to grips with calculation, but often struggled to think of things to do. I hoped that by showing the player openings, and telling them a plan in it, they would help to overcome that problem. Armed with a plan, the player seemed to do better. Often, I would be asked for advice on games after the opening, because although pieces were developed and the player had castled, the player wouldn't know what to do, i.e. how best to continue. This, allied with the fact that sometimes there would be some sort of mini-disaster on f7, led me to suggesting ...e6.

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