What I have experienced as a Chess coach observing the process of ‘UNDERSTANDOING’
Yes you read it right. It is not a typo and it stands for doing things right by understanding them first. I would like to share my experience from the Chess Coach’s perspective in coaching juniors, who are improving rapidly. They are also getting positively addicted to the game. I have been varying my training methods to ensure that the interest levels are sustained for a long time and compared to when I started some 8 years back, made some observations and corrections vis-a-vis my coaching/training regimen.
I believe that at present I there is a good amount of involvement and drive in the children, and that is due to the different approach to remolding their thinking.
Let me hear from you if you have had any similar experience so that we may learn from it and benefit.
Here are my observations on what I think are important factors to be considered when coaching children:
What I have found is that there is a difference between juniors and adults in terms of interest areas.
Juniors are way too interested in competition and thrill, while adults like to arm themselves with concepts and have a learning approach to the game.
I have also found that children who do not have any thing forcibly thrust on them tend to do weaker than the children who have a fixed homework schedule. Not only fixed but studiously followed.
Some discipline is usually expected here.
From the Chess Coach’s perspective – Learning by teaching.
The Master and the student.
The meeting point when children sit with me is also not trivial (for me), in my experience. I have achieved a fulfillment when the entire class sits and contributes, rather than just the bright kids. In order to avoid this disparity I usually break down the position to make it digestible to the weaker or younger kids after having given everyone some time to think about a tactical position.
I make it a point to get a written answer rather than a verbal one as it helps maintain track of each and every kid while keeping the answer hidden as long as possible. And in the rarest cases when everyone falters in getting the right answer I follow the pattern of mental imaging and visual guiding.
There are a few kids who I consider as the brighter ones but they too sometimes fail to get the right answers after 10 minutes or so. In such cases two things happen.
- I take this opportunity to pamper a weaker player to perfect his answer if he somehow intuits the correct move but fails to see the follow-up continuation properly.
- My analogy is to see the chessboard like an eagle flying over it and approach any middlegame position after getting a grip on what actually is the problem in that position. This helps in understanding. I will divulge more about this method later.
Some books are great a must-read and learn to improve your chess.
At present I have a few good books going. To generate interest I usually start with 1000 Checkmate Combinations that brings the stronger players’ forward and also is not that difficult for the weaker players to rub shoulders. I do around 10-12 positions at most to kick-start the momentum.
Then I move into the Chess School Series by Ivaschenko that is quite a handful for the entire group.
It makes everyone sweat!
After 4-5 positions of great difficulty the weaker players get the hang of it and they start chipping in with their intuition guiding them now rather than brute force calculation.
The internal dialog starts and then understanding sinks in after the warm-up session, by solving 6-8 positions. It’s akin to the people with defective eyesight getting a sudden burst of clarity by using some corrective lenses.
My job here is to make them see the position in its entirety.
Tip for fellow chess coaches: –
Sometimes I have to get my thoughts in focus and need some warm-up myself to answer or refute the wrong variations. It is fun to see children catching my ruse; the stronger ones need to have proper visualization skills to see my ruse while the weaker ones don’t see it coming for a long time till they play it out manually!
Mistakes by stronger students:
I usually frown upon the ‘silly’ mistakes made by stronger players as it shows their weakest link in the chain. This area is where they will falter while in a tournament. In this regard girls are better than boys as they have a better discipline and understand the importance of good thinking habits. The books may vary – the orientation may vary but the mental self- discipline is something that I stress all students right from day one.
Then comes the playing part:
I make them play blitz and if the class strength is good they play a mini tourney. That way the session is lively and interesting. While they play I also remind them of the the “viewing from a higher vantage point” to separate the woods from the trees (‘see the chessboard like an eagle’ and ‘approach any middlegame position as a human’). That way they have a sense of satisfaction when they implement the tactics they have just recently learnt and it brings a big smile on my face.
My question to you is –
Should I allow take-backs and not enforce touch-piece rules while they are training? Also should there be a difference in this according to the strength of students?
Your comments are always welcome…
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