So we’ve exhausted the single pawn games. What do we do next?
What I do (assuming I’m teaching an individual or small group) is set up a position with white pawns on d2 and e2 facing just one black pawn on e7. I ask: would you rather be white or black? Who do you think will win?
Usually they’ll get the idea that if you have two pawns against one you’ll win as long as you’re careful. Of course it’s possible to lose: after 1. e4 e5, 2. d4 will lose as Black will reach the end of the board first. But instead 2. d3 will win at once. Let the students play a few games, trying different sequences.
From this very simple PP v P game students learn two of the most important ideas underpinning chess:
- SFW: (other things being equal) Superior Force (usually) Wins. (I like TLAs but sometimes also use FLAs.) Chess is a battle between two armies. The bigger and stronger army will usually win, and here, with PP v P, your army is twice as big, twice as strong as mine. If Chelsea and Manchester United are playing a football match and Chelsea have a player sent off, who will be more likely to win?
- The Magic Question: If I play that move, what will my opponent play next? This is all about self-regulatory skills, impulse control, thinking before you move, looking before you cross the road, understanding someone else’s perspective (your opponents will try to play the best move, not what you want them to play).
There are some equivalent PP v PP games if you need further reinforcement of the ideas: you can learn about and play them here.
For many children they won’t be necessary, and they will be able to move onto the complete pawn game.
Most children will be able to manage 8P v 8P, but I’ve sometimes seen children who are unable to consider the whole board and will only play on one side. In some cases, therefore, you might want to move to 4P v 4P, and then 6P v 6P.
When I’m teaching beginners I start off by playing black and removing the c7 and f7 pawns. Once they’re confident about winning this, I’ll then replace those pawns and play without my e7 pawn instead. This is harder: they might get away with making one mistake, but not with making two mistakes.
One thing I like to do, because it makes children laugh, is give my pawns names from the files on which they start. My default names are Alfie, Bertie, Charlie, Danny, Eddie, Freddie, Gerry and Harry, but if my students have names starting with letters between a and h I’ll change the names accordingly. If they think about them as real people they might also be more careful about not losing them.