Exeter Chess Club: Mini Chess Games for Beginning Chess PlayersSee also some great active chess games for juniors from Sverre.
|How should we first learn the game of chess?
Nimzovitch had some interesting things to say about learning chess: rather than learn about all the pieces, do one at a time, and learn its strategical properties:
e.g. The Rook. Moves of the Rook. Control of ranks and files. Doubling on the file. The seventh rank...and so on - chess rather than mere moves.
Similarly, it has been said that one of the best things about the old Soviet approach is that they used to teach the game backwards: that is,
first learn to mate with two Queens (and King) against bare KingI don't even know if it's true, but it sounds good: get the basics right at the start.
then mate with one Queen
then mate with one Rook
then two Bishops [Mate with Two Bishops]
then learn how to win with King and Pawn against King
then King and two Pawns against King and Pawn, etc.
Anyhow, however you learned, here are some exercises to practice. You will find others marked in boxes elsewhere in these pages.
Games for One
- There are very many self-test books and programmes available for tactical play. For Beginners I like Tony Gillam's books Simple Chess Tactics and Simple Checkmates; after which you can try Chernev and Reinfeld's Winning Chess. For club players I know of nothing better than Livshitz' series called Test Your Chess IQ - there are volumes for ELO 1600, 2000 and 2200+. On-line there are tactical tests at Chess Archives for beginners and more advanced players, and there is a demo version of the Art of Chess Tactics programme available (look for ctdemo.arj).
- For strategy and endgames the best resources are IMHO the games and notes of the masters. See also Winning Endgames by Tony Kosten, Pandolfini's compete endgame course and the Little Chessercises in Pandolfini's book Chessercises .
- Play a computer. If you have a PC computer like an IBM type, Mac or Amiga there should be a version of GNU chess available free via ftp from the Internet Chess Library (Chess Space: Programs Index). To start with, make a programme move fast and/or on low level, and it will probably make enough blunders for a beginner to survive.
Games for Two
- Mating Race: Player 1 takes White K+Q against Player 2 Black K only, in starting positions. Black moves first: how many White moves does it take for player 1 to mate? Start again, remove White Q and put Black Q on board, White moves first. How many Black moves?
- Mating Race 2: Same as above with K+R against K.
- Mating Race 3: Same as above with K+B+B against K. [Mate with Two Bishops]
- Pawn Race: Same as above with K+e-pawn (on e2) against K. Try with White to move first (should be a win!) and with Black (should be a draw!). Variations: try with f-pawn, g-pawn, h-pawn... try with 2 pawns vs. one, 2 vs. 2 symmetrical, 2(bc) vs. 2(cd).
- Pawn power: play with just your King and pawns each.
(1) White plays with only abc pawns, Black with only fgh;
(2) White plays with only abcdefg pawns, Black with only bcdefgh;
(3) play with Ruy Lopez Exchange Variation pawn structure i.e. White pawns on a2,b2,c2,e4,f2,g2,h2, Black pawns on a6,b7,c7,c6,f7,g7,h7. Swap sides in each game.
- "Play the pawn game recommended by GM Lev Alburt and Roman Pelts in
their COMPREHENSIVE CHESS COURSE. Set up all pawns in their normal
starting positions, with NO OTHER PIECES on the board. Play continues
normally, all pawn moves (including en passant) as in a regular
You win the game if: a) You capture all of your opponent's pawns; b) you get any pawn to a queening square; c) your opponent has no legal moves, but you still have a legal move.
The game is drawn if: a) you agree to a draw; b) neither side has a legal move (all pawns are blockaded). This is more challenging than it first appears, and I have had a number of reports from parents of a 5 or 6 year old beating them at the pawn game. ;)" -- Duif
[This is very much like an 8x8 version of the old 3x3 computer game of hexapawn, which you can play on different sized boards]
- One from the very helpful
Typical learning game: Rook’s pawn hunt
- Have players place their rooks on the proper squares.
- Have players place their pawns at random anywhere on the board being careful not to blockade their own rooks.
- Rules: Pawns are asleep and cannot move. Object is to take turns capturing pawns. First player to capture all opposing pawns wins.
- Rook Ending: play with Ke1+Rf1+Pf2 against Ke8+Rf8. Variations: try different pawns a-h, two pawns, two pawns vs. one...
- Cut-down chess games: Play with K+8p each and...
- just the rooks
- just the bishops
- just the knights
- just the queens
- just the minor pieces (knights and bishops)
- just the major pieces (queen and rooks)
ExercisesThere are also a few chess exercises that are worth checking out:
the well-known knight's tour (visit each square on
a board ONCE with a knight: there's a Solution
here and a Windows
programme to practice with!)
and the eight queens puzzle (place eight queens on a chessboard so no queen attacks another).
The Number of Knight's Tours Equals 13,267,364,410,532, so you should be able to find one, eh? ( Counting with Binary Decision Diagrams. Abstract: Comments on: Martin Loebbing and Ingo Wegener, The Number P.S.).
There's a couple of evil ones I have come across for Knight and Bishop:
Knight puzzle: Visit in turn the squares a1-h1, h2-a2, a3-h3 WITHOUT ever moving to a square occupied or attacked by a Black Pawn. Not too difficult, but can you beat 5 minutes against the clock? (the Czech Knight
Knight puzzle: Exchange the positions of the White and Black Knights.
Bishop puzzle: Exchange the positions of the White and Black Bishops WITHOUT ever allowing a Bishop to be attacked by an enemy Bishop. You may make more than one move for each side at a turn.
Does any body know any puzzles for Rooks or Kings?
PS from Mark Johnson, to whom the mightiest hat should be firmly tipped:
One exercise I use with my students is to have one player with King and Knight, vs King. From the initial position, player 1 must take his knight to the 4 corners and return to the original square. Beginners try to do this without the assistance of the king, and there's the trap. In each corner (assume Knight is at a1) a King who can move to c3 or b2 will trap and capture the knight. The purpose of the defender is to obstruct the travel of the knight and eventually, with the support of the king, the exercise can be completed. Without the support of the king, it is nearly impossible. They learn knight mobility, but also the importance of piece coordination.
Also, I point out that in the endgame, the Knight and King are roughly as powerful. In the center of the board, the knight can move to 8 squares. The king can also cover 9 squares. The difference is that the knight cannot reach the squares adjacent, while the king cannot reach the more distant squares covered by the knight.
Rather than refer to the Opposition which is difficult for my young players to pronounce, I tell them each king has a wall around him, and the kings cannot touch the other player's king-wall.
Regarding the knight's tour, I don't have them try to memorize them, but do have them try to do it (without teaching them the pattern). I either take all the pieces of both sides and fill 33 central squares with the pieces (32 plus 2 extra queens, minus the knight) and have them try to take as many pieces as they can. (cannot land on an empty square) All but 7 this time...try to leave only 6...then 5. Mainly teaches them knight mobility. Also works with a set of poker chips. Main thing is to have them learn to maneuver the knight.