I’ve just come across a series of articles about teaching beginners (adults as well as children) written by Momir Radović, a chess teacher from Atlanta, Georgia.
There are only four so far, all covering the same minichess game. You can find Momir’s page on chess.com here. Start with the article Joe Learns Chess Outlaw Way, and then follow through with the next three articles. There will, I’m sure, be many more to come.
Most experts agree that using minigames is the correct way to teach beginners. Instructional courses throughout the world, such as the Dutch Steps Method, use this method. Starting with the simplest pieces, the rook and bishop, makes a lot of sense. I sometimes start with pawns, which, because they’re the least powerful pieces, are the best to use if you want to teach the vital skills of calculation and looking ahead, but I’d guess that, especially for younger children, starting with rooks and bishops will work better.
What happens in most primary school chess clubs is that at least half of the children I see have been taught the moves in half an hour by a parent, a grandparent, an older sibling or a friend, and perhaps played a couple of random games. Because I’m trying to cater for a couple of dozen children of varying experience and abilities, I can’t give the beginners the attention they need. Furthermore, if they see their friends playing ‘big chess’ they’ll want to do the same thing themselves. rather than playing minigames.
While one or two very bright young children might pick up chess ‘all at once’, most will do much better learning one piece at a time, one concept at a time, gaining full mastery of each step before moving forward.
The main purpose of this site is to promote the use of minichess in schools to ensure all children get the best possible start in chess. If you’re a primary school teacher, how can you best use minichess in your school?