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How To Teach Kids To Play Chess: A Helpful Step-By-Step Guide

Chess is one of the most popular board games across the world. Not only does it give fun, also it has many benefits. So it is very important to teach your kids to play chess.

Generally, having a basic idea about chess and its rules is easier for adults. But the kids are often not mature enough to understand everything and so things start to confusing for them.

At that time, as a parent the only thought that comes to your mind is a perfect and helpful step-by-step guide, that will make chess easier for your kid to understand. Right? Luckily you are at the right place!

For teaching kids effectively you really need to have a proper and structured guide which I am going to provide in this article.

If you are a parent or a coach who wants to teach kids to play chess kids then you are in the right place. And if you are a chess beginner then don’t worry because I have tried my best to keep things super simple. So without further ado let’s start.

Here Are The 13 Steps On How To Teach Kids To Play Chess:

1. Start With The Chess Board Structure And Setup

  • A chessboard consists of 64 squares with 32 dark and 32 light squares. 
  • There are 8 rows and 8 columns. Rows are called Ranks while columns are called Files.
  • While keeping the chessboard always make sure that the right-hand corner square is always a light coloured square. 

If you understood these two points and explained them to your kid then you have successfully completed the first step.

I also have a dedicated article on the chessboard setup which you can check out if needed.

2. Introduce The Chess Pieces In A Friendly Manner

  • There are a total of 32 chess pieces, 16 on each side. 
  • Out of these 16 pieces, the names of all the chess pieces are 8 pawns, 2 rooks, 2 knights, 2 bishops, 1 queen, and 1 king. 
  • The chess pieces are placed as shown in the below image. Pawns occupy the second row of each side as you can see.
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  • Rooks on the corner square, after that, the knights, and then bishops.
  • A queen of light coloured is placed on the light coloured square and vice versa and the remaining square is of the king.

So this is how you can introduce the chess pieces and their arrangement on the board to the kids. To make chess fun for them you can associate funny characters with each chess piece.

Always remember that kids learn better when they are enjoying the subject. 

3. Explain How Each Chess Piece Move Starting From the Rook

Now in the third step, you have to explain the piece movement of each of the chess pieces. Now, this is the building block in learning chess.

If kids start to confuse things from here, then a sort of fear about chess starts developing in their minds. To avoid these you need to first start explaining the movement of chess pieces which are easy. 

Now, generally many people prefer to start their explanation using the pawn. But I suggest you start using the rook since it is very easy to understand. So here are the chronological points you can follow as a reference.

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  • A Queen has the combined power of both rook and bishop. It can move horizontally, vertically as well as diagonally.
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  • A Knight is the only chess piece that can jump over the other chess piece and moves in the typical L shape. 
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  • A Pawn can move two squares in one move but only on its first move. In the rest it can move in each move. It captures another pawn diagonally.
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  • A chess piece is captured whenever another chess piece occupies its square.

Read Related: Can Chess Pieces Move Backwards? (Explained With Rules)

So these are the basic foundation points you need to explain to your kid. For increasing the kids’ involvement you can make them count the total number of squares that each chess piece can move. 

4. Explain The Special Rules Like Castling And Pawn Promotion In An Easy Way

After you explained the basic chess rules and now it is time for special chess rules.

  • Castling is a special rule according to which a king can move two steps in a single move.
  • There are two types of castling. One is called the kingside castling as you can see.
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  • Another is queenside castling. To know more about kingside and queenside castling, you can read my article on this.
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  • In castling, the king moves two squares on one side and the corresponding rook occupies the position behind it.
  • For castling, the king or rook should not have been moved and the space between them must be vacant.
  • Moreover, you can’t castle if the king has to pass through the squares that are under attack, or the square the king has to occupy is also under attack.

While explaining you can demonstrate all these using real chess pieces. See, it will be very good if you teach your kid using a chessboard in front of you. Castling is not that hard.

After this, you can talk about pawn promotion.

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  • Pawn promotion means whenever a pawn reaches the last rank on the opposite side it gets a chance to get promoted.
  • A pawn can be promoted to a queen, knight, rook or a bishop.

Most of the time a pawn is promoted to a queen. But sometimes in certain positions, it is more favorable to promote it to a knight or a rook. Not going much deeper into this as it might confuse things, but if you are interested you check out this article on the same. 

5. Explain En Passant In Brief

After you explained castling and pawn promotion now it is the time to give them the idea about en passant. Personally, I can say that your kid may have difficulty understanding this topic at first. So just be patient.

This rule is not so common and so not that important but yes, you should give a brief idea.

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  • En Passant means ‘in passing’.
  • It is a rule according to which a pawn on its fifth rank can capture the opponent’s pawn that moves two steps from its starting square assuming it moved only one square.
  • Read this article about en passant to get a more detailed idea.

Don’t stick to this rule much. You can just give a general idea and move on to the next step. Things will start getting clear as the kid plays and practices more and more chess games.

6. Explain How A Chess Game Ends

After you explained each chess piece’s moves and the special rules now it is time to explain to your kid how a chess game ends.

  • So a chess game basically ends in three ways: Win, Lose or Draw.
  • You win a game by checkmating the opponent’s king. Checkmate means when the king has no legal moves left to save itself from the attack.
  • The side which checkmate wins the game and the side receiving the checkmate loses the game.
  • Check means the king is under attack and so you have to save your king by either killing the attacking piece, placing a piece between the king and attacking the chess piece, or by moving the king to a safer square.
  • The stalemate means a king is not in check but a player has no legal moves to make.

Also Read: The Difference Between Stalemate And Checkmate

  • A game ends in a draw whenever a stalemate occurs.
  • A game can also end in a draw if the player wishes.
  • For that, the player has to offer draw to the opponent and if he/she accepts it then the game ends in a draw.
  • If a player resigns then he/she loses the game.
  • There is also a rule called as fifty move rule as per which, if no pawn movement and no capture is made within the last 50 moves then in that condition the game is drawn.
  • Moreover, if the same position is repeated for the three times then as per threefold repetition the game ends in a draw.

7. Explain The Basic Chess Notations 

In chess the position of the pieces, capturing castling en passant all this are denoted using special notations. These notations are called chess notations.

While playing in tournaments, a chess player has to record the moves he or she is making. At that time having the knowledge of chess notation is required.

And not only for tournaments but for casual play as well as learning the game, analyzing the game chess notations are very important for your kid.

Also Read: 7 Reasons Why Chess Players Write Down Their Moves

I made my little sister watch several youtube videos to learn the basic pieces movement and chessboard. But the problems started explaining her algebraic notation.

See, teaching the kids algebraic notation becomes easy if they have a little bit of idea about the coordinates in geometry or something like that. 

But she wasn’t getting it correctly then finally I kept calm and then things started to be simple.

  • There are total 8 rows on a chessboard and each row is assigned a number starting from the white’s side. 1,2,3,4…8
  • So the white’s first row is the 1st rank while the black’s first is the 8th rank.
  • In the similar way the columns are named with english alphabets starting from a, b,c,d,…h
  • So the first column on the white’s side is the a column which is called as a file while last one is the h file.
  • Now to locate the position of a piece we first find the file on which the chess piece is standing and then the corresponding rank.
  • Therefore if a piece is standing on the fifth square on the first column of the chessboard then in chess notation it would be a5.
  • Now if you are moving a rook on this square then as per the chess notations, for rook ‘R’ is used. So it can be recorded in the scoresheet as Ra5.
  • For Queen ‘Q’, for King ‘K’, for Bishop ‘B’. For knight we use the letter ‘N’, letter k is already used for the king. So if each of the pieces move on a5 square then it can be recorded as Qa5, Ka5, Ba5 and Na5.
  • For Pawns no letter is used we simple write the square it moves to like a5.
  • To denote checkmate we use the letter x. So if a rook captures a pawn on a5 square then it is denoted as Rxa5. First letter comes from the piece that is capturing, then the ‘x’ sign, after that the square of the piece that is being captured.
  • For pawns only the file is used instead of rook a pawn (on b file) captures opponent’s pawn on a5 then, it would be denoted as bxa5.
  • For kingside castling o-o since it is a short castle. For queenside we denote it as o-o-o.
  • + sign is used to indicate check while # to indicate checkmate.

This is how you can explain to your kid each of the notations giving proper examples. Giving proper examples helps the kid to retain the concept stronger.

I know it will take time. If for the first time you aren’t able to explain everything then just give a general idea and move ahead on the further steps. But don’t forget to explain these in the next sessions of explaining. If your kid is understanding then it is good.

My tip: Play chess with your kid and make the moves. Sometimes after making a move, stop, and explain to the child about it in terms of chess notation. Gradually, explain all the notation rules.

Now, if you have completed all these steps then congrats because you have completed the chess basics that your child needs to know to sit in front of the chessboard and talk about it.

But wait! Don’t jump on the chessboard right now and play with your kid because the very first problem that he or she will face is about the selection of moves. Which moves should I make? This will be the very first thing that will come to your child’s mind.

So, before playing the actual games it is very important to know certain fundamental chess principles that will guide your child in the opening phase and play the game properly. So let’s start.

8. Explain The Value Of Controlling The Centre

The very first basic thing a child should have in mind before making any move is to have maximum control over the center of the board.

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  • The centre of the board refers to the four central squares d4,d5, e4 and e5.
  • Controlling the centre right from the beginning of the game provides an upper hand advantage over the opponent.
  • Chess pieces when placed at centre are more active and able to control more number of squares of the chess board than when placed in the corner or sides.
  • So basic idea is to move either move a pawn in front of the king or in front of the queen.

In chess, there are various openings which means the various way you can start a game. Now it is not necessary to move only the center pawns at first. You can also move the other pawns or knights. But then you should have the idea about those openings properly and all that…and at this stage, it would make things more complex.

So just teach your kid that the very first basic idea is to have control over the center. You can do this by moving the center pawns or the knights. To get more idea about this topic read my article: Why Is Controlling The Center Important In Chess? You will get a complete idea about controlling the center, why it is important and how to do it.

After this, it is time to know about the piece development.

9. Explain About The Importance Of Developing The Pieces

  • Developing the pieces means taking the pieces out from their original square and placing the in a square where they can take part in the game more actively.
  • If you don’t develop your pieces means you are not using the powers you already have.
  • At the opening stage of the game you won’t realize this much.
  • But soon you will notice that the opponent is trying to checkmate your king but you are not able to save your king in spite of having the valuable pieces simply because they are blocked.
  • So It is very important to develop pieces as soon as possible.

I have written a complete article about What Is Piece Development And Why It Is Important In Chess? You can check that out for further reference.

10. Explain The Importance Of Castling

  • Castling is one of the special rules as well as important because it helps to protect the king right from the beginning of the game.
  • As a general rule of thumb, castling within the first 5-10 moves.
  • Once castling is done then you won’t need to worry much about the king and thus concentrate on the other pieces.
  • But don’t forget to protect the castled position.
  • Many times the player forgets about the king so much that the opponent launches attack on the three pawns that protect the king thus breaking the castle.
  • Therefore always keep your mind open while playing.

I have written an article: What Is The Perfect Time To Castle In Chess? (With Rules) By reading this you will get a complete idea about the perfect time to castle, all the rules you need to follow, when you should castle and when you not along with examples.

11. Explain the Basic Principles Of Attack And Defense

So up till now if you taught everything as discussed then your kid knows the basics, how to start the game, what should be in mind while playing the game (to control the center), developing the pieces to play more effectively, and finally castling to keep the king in a safe position.

Now is the time to teach the kids about attack and defense. Since your kid is at the beginning stage it is not necessary to teach all the bookish tactics and strategies because that will make things more complex.

So what should you do? Don’t worry! I am going to share with you the principles which are easy to understand and work well with the kid who is in the beginning stage.

  • Whenever making any move just think, Is there any immediate threat to any of my chess pieces?
  • Is the threat big enough for me to react? If yes then how should I react and do the defense in the best possible way?
  • If I ignore the threat will I suffer more loss or less?
  • If no major threats then how can I attack my opponent and gain maximum advantage?

So these are thoughts that should run inside a player’s mind whenever you are making any move.

Now, after you teach about the attack and defense, it is also important to teach the child about exchanging pieces. When to sacrifice a piece and when not. Hence moving on to the next step.

Also Read: Should You Sacrifice A Bishop For A Knight? (Explained)

12. Explain About Exchanging Of Pieces

You can teach the kids the relative value of each of the chess pieces so that it will be much easier for them to decide when exchanging a piece.

  • So there is chess piece relative value system according to which each chess pieces are assigned some points as per their value.
  • A pawn is the weakest and it is worth 1 point.
  • A bishop and a knight is worth 3 points each.
  • A rook is worth 5 points.
  • A queen is the most powerful piece in chess so it is worth 9 points.
  • A king is not assigned any points since practically a king can’t be exchanged in a chess game. It can only be checked and checkmated.

One very important thing you should mention while teaching this is this system is designed just to have an idea. In certain positions, things could be different. As a beginner, you can rely on this but use your brain along with it.

You can also read the following resourceful articles to get more knowledge:

Why Queen Is The Most Powerful Piece In Chess?

What Is The Second Most Powerful Piece In Chess? (Why?)

Why Is The King So Weak In Chess? (Logically Explained)

Can A King Kill Another King King In Chess? (Explained)

13. Play With Them An Actual Game 

So far after covering all these steps it is the test time.

  • Play an actual game with your kid.
  • Remember that kids need a lot of encouragement to do any task.
  • So don’t shy encouraging your child and try to motivate your kid for each move the kid makes.
  • You can start slow with easy game. It is not necessary to complete a game with your kid once start. You can abandon anytime and start a fresh new game if you feel the things are getting complicated.
  • Doing this will not only make things easy for you to explain but also for your kids to understand the game and not lose the interest early on.
  • Try to apply everything that you taught in the actual game.
  • Like for example whenever you are doing castling ask the kid questions about it to test the knowledge. Thus increase the involvement.

Gradually, day by day if you follow the steps and while playing teach your kids all the rules and principles, then you are definitely going to see the improvement.

Final Thoughts

See, one thing I need to make sure is that you can just show your kid a youtube video about chess basics and get away from your duty as a parent. 

But don’t forget that anything that is taught by a parent is far more valuable than taught by others. Not only will it increase your bonding with your kid, but the kid will learn things at a faster pace. Many popular chess players have learned chess from their parents.

So that’s it! Hope I was able to help you give a proper guideline about how to teach the kids to play chess. Remember that everything taught here is enough to teach your kids to play a chess game and compete with the opponent.

But as every skill takes time to learn chess does so. Gradually your kid will be able to understand things more easily. Your goal should be to develop an interest in chess. Everything else will come automatically.

Bonus Tip: If you feel less confident doing all these then don’t worry! You can also take the help of some good chess books to teach chess to your kid more effectively. I have written an in-depth article on the best chess books for beginners which you can check out for further information.

Thanks and Good Luck!