Teachers' Notes for Basics stage

This stage is the first of the course, aimed at introducing young children to chess.

If you are beginning a chess club in your school for the first time, I hope that these notes will assist you to find suitable material.

I believe that there is one important element that you can introduce: competition. As soon as your players are capable of playing the Pawn Game, start a tournament. The tournament could last one lunchtime and there could be a small prize. As more pieces are introduced, so the games can become more elaborate, with rooks and bishops at stage 2. The aim here is to capture all the opponent's pieces. If a pawn reaches the other end, another rook or bishop may be selected. The starting position is below, but such games take much longer to complete.

A word of warning: some children find that losing a game of chess is a particularly grief-provoking experience, and the younger they are the more likely they are to react in this way. It is probable that in some cases they have never known failure before, and losing a game of skill can be a very sobering experience (the way Gary Kasparov reacts when he suffers one of his rare losses is evidence of this). This is why I feel that it is important to introduce them to a low level of competition with a small prize at the end of it for everyone. A bag of jelly babies can go a long way!

Children will want to use all of the pieces, so let them, even if you have not introduced them yet. There is a good chance that some of your charges will already know the basic rules, and these players can be very helpful in starting the complete beginners. In a social activity like chess, children can learn a great deal from each other.

Try and keep a record of winners and losers, and eventually the children will learn to do this for themselves. It is quite possible, once you have a few results, to introduce a simple computerised rating system which either you can operate or give to a year 6 maths group to maintain. This will prove to be an excellent training in the use of spreadsheets and I have a blank MSExcel spreadsheet formatted for this purpose, with operating intstructions, available on request.