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Chess coach answers popular questions

In my long coaching experience, I have had to answer many questions about young chess players training. I would like to briefly share my advice and thoughts on some.  It will mostly be about the chess growing up first stages. I hope that this advice will be useful to coaches, parents and young talents.

“The child is already six years old, is it too late to go to chess?”

This question worries many parents, because now, in the computer and the Internet age, chess is much “younger”, and you can already see 4-5 year old chess players moving the pieces around the board. 

World champion Magnus Carlsen learned to make moves with pieces at about that age, but he did not start playing chess until he was about 8, when he really fell “into the game”. At 13 he had already become a Grandmaster. Chess progression is the main driving force is the child’s enthusiasm for the game. Therefore, a child’s teachers’ task at the earliest stage is to open up a new and fascinating world. Furthermore, to entice with the game beauty, and not to train him or her in dry theory.

Chess coach answers popular questions

“I think my son is having problems in the Sicilian/French/Scandinavian defence, losing again in this opening”.

I should point out straight away that we are talking about chess players under the 10 age.

The opening theory at this chess development stage plays a symbolic role. The most important thing is to observe the development principles, to fight for the centre, and to castle the king. In general, what is learned (but not always followed) is the chess journey at the very beginning.  Specific opening theory should be in an understandable format: a few logical development moves + action an approximate plan. It will certainly be useful to watch strong chess players training games in the opening, which have been selected by the trainer. This will allow you to get the players’ plans, a better understanding, and the similar positions typical features. Nevertheless, this is a more general work on chess, rather than opening theory memorisation.

“What are our prospects in chess?”

Everyone wants to know how talented a child is and what their prospects are. A lot depends on whether it is worth emphasising chess or treating it as a hobby.

There are different kinds of chess talent. Some people can easily understand the interaction between pieces, outplaying their opponents at the logic expense and the small variations clearly calculated. Some have a well-developed imaginative mind and are able to find unconventional ideas and plans that tip the scales in their favour.  There are chess players who are cunning and strong-willed, and it is possible to describe as a talent the ability to train independently and to read books.

Something is noticeable at the very beginning, something at the next stage of chess development. That’s why I’m not making a diagnoses about chess talent in favour at an early age. The most important thing, I repeat, is that the young chess player falls in love with the game. At later stages it’s the results in tournaments that tell us the best about talent.

“How to study on your own?”

Chess improvement is impossible without self-training. With the internets help information has become widely available. There are plenty of books on the shelf to suit all players. It is impossible to master everything, and there is actually very little quality information. It is important to take into account your chess coach recommendations, what you should read, and what is better not to open.

At beginner level, I suggest putting an emphasis on tactical training.  This is useful, and easy to learn at any age, as well as helping you get a better feel for the pieces and how different situations occur.

Watching and analysing grandmasters’ games is of course very useful too, especially with commentary by a qualified commentator.

“Plays well, but constantly makes blunders, what do I do about it?”

Even at a high level, blunders are bound to happen in a chess game. However, its rarer at the higher levels of chess. This is directly related to the following points. The first is age and experience. With regular study and play in tournaments, the number of blunders should decrease naturally. Chess and general maturity are occurring. Children get a better feel for the board and pieces, understand the logic of the game, and are more attuned to their opponent’s abilities. The second factor I would call – a specific chess talent, because it happens that already at an early age the game is played without a lot of mistakes. Someone even at the first category level continues to allow inexplicable blunder.

In my opinion, in this case, you need to play in more tournament and training games. Most of all to be patient.

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