Wednesday, July 09, 2008

What is the best way to learn chess?

What is the best way to learn chess?

"Any way is good: You'll eventually get to where you have to go."

- David Dymond approximately 1999

David Dymond was asked that question by a new player and responded in above fashion when the BCF was on Clarendon Street. And for most chess hobbyists, this is probably what we do most of the time. We study in the way that motivates us. Looking here, picking there, avoiding end game study at all costs. Usually we end up spending too much time and money on opening books. But if we have time to invest we will get better.

What is the best approach? Being trained as a teacher I took many courses in child psychology and two key lessons learned were: 1. Never force anything on to a child before they are able to handle it. 2. Conversely, press the child to embrace the most complex ideas they can handle because the lower in cognitive development they can master things; the faster and higher their abilities will grow. It's interesting that being a good teacher is being sensitive to the moment a child has moved from not ready to learn, to ready to learn. And because of this point, probably the most effective way for a child to learn anything is to have a good teacher/coach; a person at the ready to recognize the key moment. And if play is involved, many children will be motivated. Because playing is the best medium to learn things.

The first time I ever swung a golf club was under the instruction of a golf Pro. It was my grandfather's philosophy that one should never develop bad habits only to have to unlearn them or be stuck with them. I wonder if it's better to learn chess that way?

And as some beginners are not children, should the approach vary when dealing with adults?

It seems with most players there is the six year window of learning chess: it seems that most people have about six years to get to their level of ability; it holds steady; then progress begins to decline slowly (usually beginning about the age of 63- according to Mark Glickman rating czar of the USCF), as you advance to play your final round.

One of my heroes Jim Sfougaris began playing chess at the age of 40 and became an A class player. A very astounding feat.

I ask everyone, especially chess teachers, what do you think is the best way to learn chess? Or add any other insights. Please Comment.

Mike Griffin 07/09/2008

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