How to teach your kids to play and master chess (even if you don’t know the game) – Part 1: The Basics

Before we start, you might ask: why should anyone learn chess?

Chess can help to improve focus and attention, creativity, problem solving skills, memory, planning and foresight. Most of these skills on the board are transferable to other parts of life; where all our actions have consequences.

But the best reason is because it’s just a lot of fun. Unlike most board games, the replayability level is incredibly high. Basically one can enjoy playing for life and keep on improving without ever getting bored.

Why should you take my chess advice?

I used to be a national Malaysian chess player (many decades ago).

What you’re going to need

Just a basic physical chess set and board (no learning on digital devices!). Nothing too fancy but it should be a Staunton style set with kings around 3-4 inches high. The board can be a vinyl roll board with around 2 inch squares. The reason for Staunton chessmen is because they are a standard in professional use and easiest to identify with one glance. The look and feel also translates well on digital 2D boards. As for the size of the pieces and board, this is the optimum size for comfort.

One last thing, the board must be marked out with algebraic coordinates. If not, you can do it yourself with a sharpie or permanent marker.

Fortunately Lazada* has something that fits the all the requirements perfectly for just MYR 50.

For now, this is all you need to begin.

Learning Structure

Now, we get to the method overview. The method I propose has its roots in the Soviet system and is well encapsulated in the excellent book From Beginner to Expert in 40 Lessons by Alexander Kostyev. However, you don’t need this book because now we have Youtube. You just need to understand the structure of what to learn and in which progression.

The important thing to remember here is not to just watch the video, but to follow along by setting up and playing around with your own physical chess set. Do note that these might not be the best videos for the subject; you can always search for similar videos on Youtube using the lesson name I’ve provided. Don’t progress to the next lesson until you have reviewed and understood the previous lesson clearly. The basics will be the most tedious to sit through (as with learning most new games); you must get through this and then it will be a lot more enjoyable afterwards.

*Click on the link to watch the respective videos

Lesson One: Names of the chess pieces

The objective here is just to know the correct names of the chess pieces (not horse but Knight etc. etc.)

Lesson Two: How to set up a chess board

How to set up the board and pieces correctly (the right most square nearest to you should always be a white square etc. etc.)

Lesson Three: How chess pieces move and how to play chess

Understand how the pieces move, their reach and limitations. Learn the basic gameplay mechanics.

Lesson Four: Three special moves of chess – en passant, castling and pawn promotion

Learn the three special moves in chess and understand how they work in the context of the game.

Lesson Five: Chess notation tutorial

Learn the chess language of algebraic notation, it will serve as an important reference for all future chess learning.

And thats it for Part 1 – The Basics! Now that you’ve learned the basics, go back to the top of the post and spot the error in the image. Give yourself a pat on the back!

Hope that was useful to you. Any questions, comments or feedback, leave them down below or email me at

In the next installment we will focus on various checkmating techniques.

*Update: For transparency reasons, if you purchase stuff via my links, some of them will pay me an affiliate commission. This helps me to pay the bills. There is no cost to you and I only promote products that I use and really believe in. Thank you for your support.

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