Teaching Your Kid Chess (Or Trying To)

Geek Culture

The Son and ChessThe Son and Chess

At some point every GeekDad gets tired of playing the random chance games of Chutes and Ladders, Candyland, and Hi Ho Cherry-O with their GeekSon (or GeekDaughter). There are daydreams of chess, Dungeons & Dragons, and other games of strategy. But at five was The GeekSon too young?

While over a friend’s house, their six-year old walked up to me and said “Doug, do you want to play chess?” Sure thing. Then it creeped into my mind that I might get beaten by a 6-year old. He set up the pieces and made several solid opening moves. A bead of sweat appeared with the creeping fear that this 6-year old had become a chess prodigy. Then he collapsed, making the moves you would expect from a 6-year old. I moved from a feeling of fear to the hollow victory of defeating a 6-year old.

But if this six-year old could learn chess, then surely The GeekSon could learn chess. When we got back home I asked him if he wanted to learn to play chess. With a half-hearted okay and cajole from me, he agreed and I set up the board. We spent a few minutes learning the pieces and how they move.

I sensed his interest was quickly waning. The chessboard was very generic with plain wooded pieces. Maybe it was hard to tell the pieces apart.

“Daddy, this game needs robots.” He jumped up, shuffled through his Lego minifigures, and came back with some Star Wars battle droids and few custom creations. The GeekSon plunked them down on the board. This made playing a challenge. So I suggested that the robots could be the audience. They could stand on the side of the chessboard and cheer on his pieces. That made him happy and we continued playing. But The GeekSon was more interested in the robot audience than the chess pieces.

The next night I had the brilliant (or at least I thought it was brilliant) idea of using Lego mini-figures instead of pawns. The GeekSon also thought this was a great idea. He starting pulling together some battle droids for his pawns and some imperial troops for my pawns.

But after a few minutes, “Daddy, let’s play the Lego Star Wars videogame instead.”

Are you sure, wouldn’t chess be fun?

“Yeah, but let’s play the videogame. You can be Boba Fett and I can be Jengo Fett. Come on, son.”

Who am I to argue with that? After all, it is all about The GeekSon having fun. No success with chess yet. Yet.

What are your suggestions for helping The GeekSon to learn chess?

[This post is by new GeekDad writer Doug Cornelius]

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