Pretoria News - - THE X-FILES -

The au­thor and chess trainer, K J O’Connell, gives some in­ter­est­ing views on the level of chess abil­ity one needs to be suc­cess­ful at teach­ing the game to young­sters:

‘It is pre­cisely those teach­ers who do not play chess who usu­ally are best at teach­ing chess in school pro­grams. Chess play­ers, es­pe­cially strong ones and chess train­ers are at a great dis­ad­van­tage. The teach­ers are closer to the be­gin­ners they are teach­ing and bet­ter un­der­stand their prob­lems and they know about teach­ing. Play­ers and train­ers al­most in­evitably look at ev­ery­thing through the eyes of a chess player, never those of a be­gin­ner, and they hardly ever have any train­ing as teach­ers, thus they work un­der a dou­ble hand­i­cap. Most pro­fes­sional chess play­ers can­not see the things on the chess board the way that be­gin­ners do (or, rather, do not!) and I’ve seen strong play­ers tear­ing their hair out be­cause the chil­dren could not un­der­stand them. Whose fault is that? I be­lieve it’s the fault of those who do not know how to teach! Some chess play­ers think that they can go to schools and teach chil­dren in one hour how all the pieces move and by the end of 1-2 weeks see them play­ing com­pet­i­tive chess. In our ma­te­ri­als, we not only give ad­vice but also ex­plain to teach­ers why they are usu­ally much bet­ter for teach­ing be­gin­ners than pro­fes­sional coaches or chess play­ers. Many teach­ers think that chess is a very dif­fi­cult sub­ject and not be­ing es­tab­lished play­ers, they fear that it will be too hard for them to teach it. To support them I can just say – if you are teach­ing a be­gin­ner of any­thing you should prob­a­bly not be a univer­sity pro­fes­sor of that sub­ject! Many chess train­ers are against chess in schools pro­grams where or­di­nary school­teach­ers are used, the train­ers fear­ing that they will lose by miss­ing out on some lu­cra­tive teach­ing. But that’s a big mis­take. Look, for ex­am­ple, at what has hap­pened in Tur­key so many chil­dren have been taught chess by the teach­ers and now want to im­prove their chess ed­u­ca­tion. The de­mand is so great that there are not enough pro­fes­sional chess train­ers to meet that de­mand and hun­dreds more train­ers are needed.’


After 63 years, 7 months and 27 days the English chess jour­nal­ist, Leonard Bar­den, penned his fi­nal col­umn for the Evening Stan­dard. Bar­den, who cel­e­brated his 90th birth­day last Au­gust, said it was due to budget cuts “Oth­er­wise I might have con­tin­ued until I dropped!”.

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