With my first cuppa Joe this morning I did the usual surfin’ by hitting the high spots, which includes rounding up the usual suspects, such as The Week In Chess (TWIC), and Chessdom, Chessbase, Chess24, and last and least, Chess.com. It has become rare to stay at the latter for any amount of time these days, but today was an exception because our girl, Lularobs, had published an article, How To Talk To Your Kids About Chess. This turned out to be one of the funniest Chess articles ever read, and when one gets to my advanced age that is saying much. Until recently Chess had not been known for it’s frivolity, but as Bob Dylan sang:
‘Back in the day’ Chess was considered a serious game played by smart adults, mostly men. The game had gravitas. “Oh, you play Chess? You must be smart,” was often heard. Now one hears things like, “Oh, you play Chess? I’ve heard there is much CHEATING IN CHESS these days.” One of the saddest things I have ever heard about Chess was a woman, when describing todaze Chess, said, “It’s become a game for children.” My first thought was to argue with her, but upon quick reflection it was obvious she was correct.
Our girl, Lularobs, begins her post with: You may have seen the news: the Chess.com app has reached number one in popularity for free games on the App Store. I can hear your sigh from across the screen because you and I both know the gravity of the situation. This is no Flappy Bird, Temple Run, or Candy Crush situation. This is a big deal; this is chess.
I have no idea, or even a clue as to what is, “Flappy Bird, Temple Run, or Candy Crush.” This is because I am a Senior citizen who cares not what constitutes Flappy, Temple, or Candy. I will proudly admit to being “not with it,” at least when it comes to FB, TR, and/or CC.
Next comes the second paragraph: Your fears are confirmed; your child has been playing blitz throughout dinner, talking about “blunders” and “forks” (not the ones on the table), and asking if they can sign up for a “FIDE rating.” All weekend, you hear “chat, then we go here, takes, takes, takes, here, no no no chat, here, then you grab the juicer chat, it’s so obviously winning chat,” coming from their laptop. You’ve decided it can’t be put off any longer… you need to talk to your child about chess.
It may be better for the child to have a talk with his parent(s) about Chess because from my experience most parents have absolutely no clue when it comes to Chess. That goes for the majority of adults who become involved with the Royal Game because of their children because they come into the Chess world and want to “get involved,” while knowing little, if anything, about Chess. Unfortunately, from their perspective what they want coincides with what is best for their children, and possibly the children of ohter adults. When it comes to the Big Picture of what is actually best for Chess they could care less because to them their children are all that matter. When working at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center a parent actually said, “I don’t care whether or not it’s good for Chess. The only thing I’m concerned with is how it relates to my child.” There were nods all around from some of the other parents.
Miss Lula next continues under the header: Reassure Your Child
Developing an interest in chess is perfectly natural, and your child needs to know that.
My first thought was, “Know what, exactly?” How about, “Your child needs to know that developing an interest in chess is perfectly natural.” There appears to be little, if any, oversight when it comes to writing articles for this website, which is strange because it is mostly a website for children, and don’t you want your child to read something well written? Who knows, being able to construct a well written sentence later on in life may mean much more than knowing how to play the Najdorf Sicilian. Then again, maybe not, as there are now chat type thing-a-ma-jigs that will take your words, rearrange them and make you look like you know what you are doing.
Miss Lula continues: You remember your first checkmate, your first heartbreak (a loss from a completely winning position), and your first tournament. Your naive fascination for one of the oldest board games on Earth developed into a meaningful life-long relationship, through hardship and victory, and now it was time for your child to discover this wonder of life for themselves.
Was that written with tongue in cheek?
Lula continues with what is really important: When you talk to your child about chess, make sure not to confront them. Don’t make them feel shameful about their new obsession with tactics or GothamChess recap videos. Encourage them to explore chess in a healthy, informed way. Sit down across from them with a chess board and talk through tactical themes, explain your own excitement for chess, and help them to make a ChessKid or Chess.com account (depending on their age).
Lula is not finished, at least with this part: If your child becomes comfortable with talking to you about chess, then you’re already doing great. If you don’t have this conversation, then your child might end up doing nothing more than playing ultrabullet and grunting disdainfully at you whenever you mention “Chessable” or “studying.” Even worse, your child might end up quitting chess altogether and playing checkers.
What is wrong with playing checkers? Well, from the perspective of Chess.com, everything is wrong because there is no Chess.com account for checkers! If you are an adult reading this then I urge you to give some serious thought to making your child aware of the Great Game of Go (https://www.usgo.org/) because we live in a boom and bust society and Chess currently happens to be in a “boom” period. From over half a century in Chess my perspective says it is inevitable that Chess will eventually, sooner or later, devolve into the “bust” part of the equation. Just sayin’…
The next phase is: Speaking About Chess Respectfully
I will respectfully publish only the picture, with caption:
Unfortunately, Chess.com will not allow the picture to load.
For some reason I feel compelled to put what follows after the above picture because it cracked me up…
Show your child how to report unkind behavior from their opponents instead of returning the negativity, and don’t worry… I won’t tell them about the trash talk between you and your friends when you’re playing blitz at the bar on the weekend.
When reading the next header: Introduce Them to Chess in a Safe Way, I wondered if sometime in the past I had read almost the same sentence: Introduce Them to Sex in a Safe Way.
Miss Lula continues: It can be easy for kids today to be drawn into “KILLER OPENING TRAPS THAT WIN IN 5 MOVES!” when what they need are solid foundations and opening principles to nurture their chess development. After all, skipping to the Tennison Gambit: Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Variation when they haven’t yet learned “knights before bishops!” or “control the center, castle and connect your rooks” is a dangerous game, and will more often than not end in disappointment.
Over fifty years in Chess and this was the first time learning of the Tennison Gambit: Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Variation. If you go to Chess.com and read the article, you, too, can learn what constitutes the above gambit.
There is more before a video:
Chess content creators are awesome, and you enjoy them yourself, so don’t withhold fun chess content from your kids. Instead, show them rating-appropriate content. The landscape has changed since we were kids, and now all your favorite content creators are making beginner-friendly videos and courses. These are great for your kids, and healthy ways to engage in fun chess content without being peer-pressured into all the latest opening gambits and traps just because their friends are trying them.
I could not help but wonder if I am a “Chess content creator” and, if so, am I awesome, or what?!
The next section is titled: Practicing Safe Chess
It can be hard to know when to stop when it comes to chess. It could be a three-hour bullet chess binge late at night or “just one more game” when there’s still homework to be done. Your child must learn when to stop.
I know that’s right! Then again, what does a parent say when the child says, “But Daddy, can I just do it until I need glasses?” Maybe the parent should give some serious consideration to informing the child about what is a condom. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that Tennison Gambit: Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Variation all over me!
Then there is: The Issue of Elo
Ratings and Elo are huge talking points among chess-playing adolescents, and such discussions can, unfortunately, devolve into competitive comparisons such as “my blitz rating is 1300” and “oh, well my peak rapid rating is 1450.” These my horse is bigger than your horse discussions are commonplace among individuals whose prefrontal cortices are not fully developed, and while they should grow out of this in time, if such behavior goes unchecked, it may become entrenched.
Then we come to: The Inevitability of Heartbreak
As children grow up, they form all sorts of attachments, whether these be to people, TikTok dances, or chess openings. A devastating loss in their pet line of the Sicilian Defense: Hyperaccelerated Dragon Variation at such a formative stage in their chess could mark the end of an era, and a lot of heartache. “I’m not playing this opening ever again!”, “It was my favorite opening!” or “I can’t believe it would let me down!” are all sentiments you may be hearing after a five-hour classical game that didn’t go your child’s way.
I am here to inform you that if you play Chess, you will inevitably suffer some form of heartburn that will break your heart…
This part concludes with this admonition from Miss Lularobs: If you want your child to stay honest and open with you about the chess openings and strategies they are using, then this is when they need you to support them the most. Let them know that you’re on their side, even if they hung their queen with an hour on the clock.
The article ends with: To Conclude
Ultimately, when it comes to their child discovering chess, every parent knows they’re in for a bumpy ride. There will be highs: the excitement of the World Chess Championship, seeing your child’s eyes light up when their favorite streamer takes part in PogChamps, and your child’s first classical FIDE-rated win. But, you know, there will also be lows: rating fluctuations, schoolyard teasing about the London System, and seeing Danny Rensch in a giant pawn costume. (If you go to Chess.com one can click onto a link in which Danny Rensch is actually dressed in some lime green thing that does sorta resemble a huge pawn, which is kinda appropriate for Danny Rensch, if you come to think about it…)
I don’t know about the part concerning “…the excitement of the World Chess Championship.” The two players contesting the upcoming WCC, which only found a venue recently, are not the best Chess players on the planet. One of the players melted down against World Chess Champ Magnus Carlsen during the last WCC, and the other just played miserably in the first ‘Major” tournament of the year. The excitement for the upcoming WCC in the Chess world is most definitely NOT at a fever pitch. The so-called “World Chess Championship” has been turned into some kind of sick joke. What do you expect when the body overseeing Chess in the world, FIDE, is controlled by the Russians, who are currently perpetuating genocide against their neighbors in Ukraine.
Miss Lula concludes with: We may not have all been afforded such a supportive start to chess. I mean, playing Chessmaster alone and getting one weekly after-school session on ladder mates might have been the extent of your developmental support during your period of chess discovery, but we can do better by our kids and provide support for them in improving at chess, being respectful towards other players, and perhaps one day even beating Mittens.