Yesterday, IM-elect Parker Zhao taught his Step 1 beginner chess class about defending. Our students learned about the four basic ways to deal with an attack on their piece:
- Moving Away - move the attacked piece somewhere safe
- Protecting - get ready to take them back if they capture you
- Capturing - take the piece that’s attacking you
- Blocking - put something safely in between the attacker and your piece
What should a young beginner do once they know how to defend? They should practice!
One way our students practice is by solving selected exercises in our online platform. These give immediate feedback on solutions and encourage students to keep on trying until they can solve everything correctly. Our teacher can see everything: How much time each student takes, how many attempts it took to solve each problem, even what the wrong attempts were! This allows our teachers to give students the exact help they need to improve their skills.
Another way they practice is by playing mini-games! I was thrilled to hear one student say he had played 4 mini-games with a parent, with a 2-2 score. These games help students practice specific skills in an environment where they can confidently apply them and see the results. These are the best mini-games to practice defending:
Knights and Pawns:
Play until someone has captured everything! If you don’t defend your pawns and knight, your opponent will capture them and win the game. Once a student gets the hang of this game, it can be modified: Each player can have a rook on its starting square, or a bishop. Make sure the bishops are of the same color! For an extra challenge, you can also make the position asymmetrical by putting the white pawns on h2, g2, and f2 instead.
Again, play until someone has captured everything! Although white begins with a stronger army, experience shows that young beginners have a hard time playing against the queen.
You will notice that this is not exactly a whole game: There are no kings! We are almost ready to play with all the pieces. For now, this helps keep students motivated as they progress towards playing complete games. Again, you win by capturing all the opponent’s pieces!
We suggest playing each one of these games at least once. The more experience young beginners get playing mini-games, the more they can automate the piece movements and master the skills they are learning in class.