We want our children to have the best advantages in life. We want them to find and select solutions that will benefit them and others for the long term. The chess board is an excellent training field to learn problem solving skills.
Some people wait for others around them to solve their problems. They lack the confidence and courage to implement their ideas, their solutions. As a result they become far too dependent on other people.
On the chess board, you are alone. No one is there, by your side, feeding you answers or solutions to the problems that you face. You either solve the problems put to you, or you lose.
Recently an eight-year student asked me, “Will this position ever come up in another game?” He wanted to know how he could use the lessons learned from one game, in future ones. It was a valid concern, for most likely that exact position would never resurface. So how does one learn and improve?
The answer is that even though that one position will never come up again, you could very well see similar patterns, segments from it again and again. Once you know how to handle these, the game becomes much easier. I began showing this eight-year-old boy common themes that he’d probably seen before and would see again.
He immediately recognized the patterns and became excited. Once I showed him the best responses, he realized that he could beat other players with this knowledge. At that moment he said, “You know if I practice some of these techniques at home, I bet I could win more!”
I have to tell you that this was one of the most exciting moments for me as a chess coach. He was embracing doing chess homework and could see the benefits it would bring.
Ideally your child can go over their games with someone who is more experienced, someone who can help them spot weaknesses and strengths in their play. However, if that is not an option, they will improve simply by playing (as long as they are playing people that challenge them).
Once one knows what works and doesn’t work, one can begin to build from that and solve more difficult problems on the chess board. It gets to a point where you can look at a position and say, “Ah, there are really only three moves to consider here.” Then when you look at the choices more carefully, one move will pop out as the obvious solution. This ability to analyze is priceless.
Ever since I was a child problem solving was fun for me. It was a game that sparked a challenge deep within me, one that I relished. I wish to share that joy with the next generation.
Laura Sherman founded Your Chess Coach (www.YourChessCoach.com) with her husband, Dan Sherman. Together they teach children to play chess through various schools in Pinellas County, Florida, as well as online. They are currently working with a company in Los Angeles, Real Ability, to create a series of e-courses and books that will teach parents and educators how to teach chess properly to children.
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– GM Susan Polgar