Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Studying the Game of Chess

As our homeschool year is swiftly winding to a close, I am enjoying finding some fun and interesting learning activities to keep Big Brother busy for the next couple weeks.

Chess is a challenging game that has been around for hundreds of years. Learning to play chess has many positive benefits. They include:

- building concentration
- improving logical reasoning
- practicing a variety of math skills
- learning about game etiquette and good sportsmanship
- learning the historical background of the game

So right now Big Brother is studying the game of chess! I am spending some time each day slowly teaching him what he needs to know in order to understand the game become a good chess player.

It has been so much fun for both of us!

A great resource we are using in this study is a fun book called Chess for Children.

We are reading a few pages at a time together from this book each day and practicing each new skill as it is introduced.

I like that Chess for Children is written as a dialogue between two children (Jess and Jamie) who are learning to play chess. This makes it much more interesting and is easier for Big Brother to understand and enjoy. Even adults who have perhaps never really understood chess before will be playing well after going through this book!

We started out learning about the chessboard and how to name the coordinates of individual spaces on the board. (This is also an important skill that is used in reading maps!)

We are expanding our vocabularies as we learn lots of chess terminology. I have played chess since I was a young teenager, and I am learning lots of terms and interesting facts that I never knew before!

Many people think chess to be too complicated to learn because each type of piece on the game board moves and captures in a different way from the others. Remembering these different moves can seem overwhelming to a new player! But I love the way Chess for Children slowly introduces each piece one at a time, gives the historical significance of that piece, demonstrates its unique moves and abilities, and gives some simple mini-games that can be played to practice using that piece.

For example, the first piece Big Brother studied was the pawn. Each player has 8 pawns, which represent an army of foot soldiers. Big Brother learned that pawns are pretty limited on their moves, and that they are the only chess piece that captures in a different way from the way they move! To practice using pawns correctly, we learned to play a quick mini-game called "Pawn Wars" where to win a player must either:

- get a pawn all the way to his opponent's side of the chessboard
- capture all his opponent's pawns
- trap his opponent so that the opponent cannot make a move

We played this game several times the first day of our chess study, and Big Brother won.every.time. So I know he has a good grasp on how to use his pawns!

We have since moved on to learn about rooks and bishops. Today we will meet the queen! As each piece has been introduced, we have played more practice mini-games using those pieces. All these mini-games are slowly getting Big Brother ready for full chess games that will require him to use all the pieces correctly and strategically.

Doing it this way, mastering each piece and each move one at a time, is allowing him to really build his skills and gain some confidence so that he will not be overwhelmed when faced with his first full game!

The only negative comments I have concerning the book we are using, Chess for Children, is that is has a couple brief references to Star Wars and Harry Potter (both of those are big no-no's in our home for various reasons we won't get into here) and there is a silly drawing of two naked kings that is there to illustrate that leaving your king unprotected is a bad idea. (OK to me the drawing is just cartoonishly silly, it isn't graphic at all, and it actually doesn't show any body parts that it really shouldn't. The drawing honestly didn't jump out at me as being an issue at all, but my ultra-conscientious son seemed to think it inappropriate. That is the only reason I mention it here. You could easily cover this little cartoon with a piece of paper if it bothers anyone in your home.) Otherwise we are totally happy with using this book! 😀

Do you have any chess players at your home? What benefits have you discovered from playing chess? I would love to hear about any chess resources you use!

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