When I was a kid, my dad taught me how certain chess pieces move by having me analyze the shapes of the pieces themselves. The rook, a castle made of horizontal and vertical lines, moves horizontally and vertically. The bishop, which has slanted lines, moves diagonally. I was never much good at the game, but I vividly remember sitting there at our dining room table, watching the man explain all of this with glee (he even added eyes to the bishop with a marker and nicknamed it “Joey Bishop”—what a dad). Now as a parent myself, I’m convinced that playing chess is a wonderful way to bond with your child.
There are all sorts of tips on the internet for teaching kids how to play chess. A clever one, as shared by bennyboy82 on Reddit, is to give the child the option of switching sides with you during the game. This can make the game more interesting for both players—it prevents the rookie player from constantly getting clobbered, while simultaneously keeping you challenged. You also get a better idea of how your opponent thinks.
Here are a few other tips for teaching a kid how to play:
- While playing with your child, give yourself fewer pieces than your child. Then slowly add back pieces as your kid becomes a stronger player, just as Reddit user Randomatical’s dad did. “I don’t remember my first win when he had all the pieces on the board, but I sure remember the moment he thought I was ready to face him with him having all the pieces,” Randomatical writes. “That picture of a full chessboard, ready for play, is clear as day 30 years later.”
- Let your kid take back a move after they see your move. Redditor OphidianZ recommends this tactic: “Letting them take back a move lets them rework the logic of the game. It teaches the process of thinking ahead in a game.”
- Try starting with a beginner chess game like No Stress Chess. This game teaches beginning players the moves and powers of each chess piece as they’re playing. Then, once they’re comfortable, they can flip over the two-sided board and play standard chess.