‘Beginner’s Chess & the Challenges’, is an article that focuses on the kids who begin their play of chess and intended to enlighten their parents who may or may not have knowledge & experience in the game. Unlike, other board games, chess has its uniqueness not only in its play but also in the benefits that are ensuing from it. The day when a kid learns to play chess, is a beginning of a long journey of development into a professional chess player. Many Grand Masters that I have interacted and observed had started to learn chess at the age of 5 or 6. But, they have become grand masters in their early teen age or towards the fag end of their teen age. Hence, it is a long journey for your kid to conquer the title, “Grand Master”.
The game of chess requires enormous amount of information processing ability, attention, memory, mental stamina & patience, creativity and time management. Yes indeed, it is a Mind Game as it is generally referred as. GM Alexander Alakhine quoted, “Chess for me is not a game, but an art”. GM Bobby Fischer quoted, “Chess is war over the board”. Yes, it is an art of fighting over the board of 64 squares with a troop of 16 on your side. GM Anatoly Karpov went further on and explained, “Chess is everything: art, science and sport”. The following are some of the challenges your kid might face as a beginner in chess:
Tasting the ‘Defeat’
As a beginner, your kid needs a lot of time to learn, perfect and master the game of Chess. A kid looks at the board and perceives it as a game with small toys on it. Your kids will learn the initial game of chess like the names of the pieces & their movements very quickly, as for them it is just fun. The moment they are taken up for a competition, they may win or lose. Every win motivates the kids tremendously. For some kids, even a defeat motivates to rise up and come back strongly in the next game. But, for some kids, a defeat may demotivate them and might pull down their performance further and lead them to dislike the game, which they may not be able to express verbally.
Information processing Ability
Every move of yours and of that of your opponent transforms the position of your pieces and releases lots of information. It is easily said that one should read an opponent’s move like a detective. Each move in Chess, might make that piece more active or inactive, might make another piece more active or inactive, create a weakness or a strength, generate space or get cramped, make the position open or closed, create threat or might get targeted, might result in short term or long term advantages & disadvantages and might win a game for you or might bring a loss. The same things apply to your opponent’s move as well. A kid as a beginner needs time to develop this ability to process such depth of information that emanates from each move.
Every piece and pawn on your side of the board has its own role and style and thus their nature of attack is unique. Certain pieces would threat when it is closer to your piece while certain pieces are like long range missiles and would threat from a distance. Certain pieces might threat immediately while certain pieces might threat after a move or later. Once safe, your King might turn vulnerable at some stage. Attack on one side might get swapped to another side of the board in no time. A piece that was idle for a long time might suddenly deliver a deadly strike. A check mate arises on the board with your opponent’s battalion trapping your King and sometimes a small pawn delivers a checkmate. The attention of a chess player across the 64 squares, on both the territory and to have a 360 degree view with foresight takes lot of time for your Kid to mature in.
Recently in a game of mine though not in a tournament, I made an obvious threat with my knight (fork in the next move) and my opponent missed it. The moment I played it, my opponent said that he noticed the threat and he knew that it was coming and yet as he was calculating other things he played another move forgetting the threat. Chess involves lots of ideas, patterns and calculations to keep in memory, recollecting it, Analyzing and renewing it. Not all kids have the same memory and recollecting ability though this can be improved over time. GM Garry Kasparov quoted, “A GM must memorize thousands of chess duels in his head as what notes are to a musician”.
Mental Stamina & Patience
Chess requires a lot of mental stamina to sit over the board, think and work upon. GM Vladimir Kramnik quotes, “Chess is like body building. If you train every day, you stay in top shape”. Your kids require a lot of disciplined training and practice to stay competitive in chess. This is one of the challenges the kids face as they may be physically strong but to gain mental stamina, it requires them to persistently practice. Managing stress, Managing Nervousness, Staying focused, Positive attitude and visualization are the foundations of Mental Stamina. Chess also involves lot of patience to make right moves at the right time, calculate and to make right decisions. It is a big challenge to bring in patience in their thought process.
GM Garry Kasparov in his lectures quoted, “Chess is not just about checks and check mates. You have to create it”. A kid might be good in solving check mate puzzles and other tactical puzzles, but his/her game performance may not be so great. Chess requires a lot of creativity to use the patterns and combinations and to create weaknesses, threats and check mates. Not every one of the readers is equal in terms of creativity and neither does your kids. To identify a pattern or a combination what he has learnt and to use it during a competitive game is yet another challenge.
If I ask you to prepare an Indian dish, you will prepare it very tasty. The same dish will taste different, if I ask you to prepare it under time pressure. Your kid needs to pay attention to all the above discussed things, calculate, recollect, be patient and make the right moves, all under time pressure. Definitely there will be a difference in your child’s play at your home and his play in a tournament. Time management, not only in terms of making moves quickly but also in terms of making the right move at the right time is yet another challenge. A typical move that is played one move later or one move earlier in the game will make a lot of sense and difference on the board. The dynamics of the game changes with the timing of your moves.
This list of challenges is not inclusive of everything but will give you an understanding of the challenges that your lovely kids need to tackle and overcome. I conclude that a kid requires lot of time to gain experience and to rise up strong to manage these challenges as GM Yasser Seirawan quoted, “I think a player constantly improves his understanding of chess with experience”. Having understood these challenges, I will share the challenges what a player faces during a chess competition.
Author: Dr. Joseph Charles Tamilmaran D