Have adults ruined children’s Chess?

National developments, strategies and ideas.
Richard James
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Location: Twickenham

Re: Have adults ruined children’s Chess?

Post by Richard James » Sat Dec 30, 2017 8:01 pm

Andrew Varney wrote:
Sat Dec 30, 2017 12:37 am
I don't have nearly as many years experience, nor am I at the same level, in teaching chess as the likes of Andrew Martin or Richard James, so please excuse me if what I say is too specific to the area and level I teach at.

My children got me into my new career and right from the beginning I have applied the same principles with my students as I have with my own children "if you win great, if you lose you learn". My own children, Zoe and Daniel, and some of my other students, have become quite good players over the years; others have not. Some have stopped playing, for various reasons.

I think it is very important not to hold the stronger players back, but it is equally important not to push others too much. It's all about giving the opportunities at the right level for the children. The most successful schools chess-wise that I've been involved with have offered ALL of a beginners' chess course, a recreational chess club and "squad" competitive chess playing against other schools and encouraging the children to take part in other chess tournaments on an individual basis. It's a real joy to teach a local state school and see the excitement of the class as they learn the basics, and equally so to see one of the school teams get through to a national final. It's fantastic when one of the stronger students plays at a top national level in his or her age group, but it's equally as rewarding when the pupil who has struggled for the last two terms finally delivers his (or her) first checkmate.

I did toy with the idea of running a "Chess for Parents" course (and would still love to give it a go if I could find the time), but it did not get a big welcome from those I approached, and I'm not so sure any more that it's needed. Parental support for their children in chess is key, but it does not actually have to be from the basis of knowing very much as long as they can encourage (and transport!) and have the advice to hand on where to get the resources (books, online, clubs, etc) that they need.

I'm in complete agreement with everything Andrew says.

School clubs will only be really successful if schools are proactively involved. If you just have one club you'll have a mixture of beginners, social players and perhaps one or two competitive players. If you mix them all together it doesn't really work. If you try to be everything for everyone you end up being nothing for nobody.

At present I'm only doing two primary school clubs which at least go some way towards meeting my requirements. A year ago, one of them, at my suggestion, tried to set up a beginners' club but didn't get enough interest to make it viable. This is a large (3/4 form entry) primary school in an affluent London suburb. The other school has no interest at all in running more than one club.

Likewise, children will only be really successful if their parents are proactively involved. The younger they start the more help and support they'll need. At least 95% of parents of children in my primary school clubs have no interest at all in providing support beyond buying a book for their kids and playing the occasional low level game, probably setting the board up incorrectly and starting 1. h4 2. Rh3.

At Richmond Junior Club it's very different. All parents are, to a greater or lesser extent, supportive. They have to be as they're making the effort to come to us on a Saturday, whereas parents of children in school clubs just have to pick them up from school an hour later. We've been toying with the idea of running a parents' course at RJCC but it hasn't yet got off the ground. Quite a lot of our parents are themselves chess players.

Neill Cooper
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Location: Croydon

Re: Have adults ruined children’s Chess?

Post by Neill Cooper » Thu Jan 18, 2018 10:19 pm

harrylamb wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 1:14 pm
Is a headline from today's BBC web site at
But I have changed the word sport to Chess. The thrust of the argument put forward is that children have been driven away by coaches and parents forgetting it's all supposed to be fun. Consequently participation of children in sport is dropping. I believe the same thing is happening in chess. Do you agree?
I think there is a problem that some coaches and parents do take the fun out of junior chess. However, even when it is fun and they enjoy playing other juniors they might not want to play in other contexts, such as evening or weekend chess. So even if we do get lots of juniors that will not necessarily transfer to playing in conventional contexts. Overall, I am successful at making chess fun, but my juniors tend not to transfer to adult chess. Most stop having a grading withing 2 years of going to university (though they may continue to play chess).

Roger Lancaster
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Re: Have adults ruined children’s Chess?

Post by Roger Lancaster » Tue Feb 27, 2018 5:14 am

Hard to disagree with anything said above - some good thoughts and a pleasant change from some of the more fractious threads. My own take on the subject, for what it's worth, is that the starting-point must be identifying what the children really want. The word that immediately comes to mind is "fun". That's where it starts becoming complicated because there can be a tendency to treat 'children' as a homogenous group when a junior chess international's idea of "fun" may be totally different to that of a near-beginner. Richard James, among others, eloquently makes the same point.

When an adult enters the equation, as parent or coach, it introduces the complication of whether what the adult considers to be "fun" coincides with the child's or children's idea. It may be hard for an adult who is or has not been a decent player himself or herself to appreciate that a strong junior's concept of "fun" runs to three hours of sweating it out over a hard game. Conversely, adults who are decent players aren't always too impressed to find children playing 'suicide chess' or something similar as a fun break from the normal game.

As to the original question, 'Have adults ruined children's chess?', the answer has to be 'No' simply because - in the absence of adults - there would be no children's chess. Whether every participating adult has made a positive contribution is another matter entirely.

Gary Senior
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Re: Have adults ruined children’s Chess?

Post by Gary Senior » Sat Apr 28, 2018 6:01 pm

I am not sure it’s so much the parents as the style of competition that is organised for juniors especially for younger juniors under 11. I think it’s difficult to get the balance between something that is quite competitive and can attract a lot of juniors but then the competitive pressure just makes it less fun and I suspect contributes to the bleed of juniors from the game when they hit 13 and 14. Tony Corfe used to organise some great EPSCA team events - perhaps still does - which I thought got the balance about right. Competitive but also fun and inclusive.

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