Chess For Heroes (November 2022)

I’ve written a lot of courses for beginners over the years, most of which I’ve discarded because I didn’t think they were much good.

Every time, I say to myself that this will be the last one I’ll write.

But it seems to me, looking at the experiences related by beginners on social media, that most novices make little progress because they have fundamental misconceptions about the nature of chess, often fuelled by watching well made but unsuitable videos on YouTube and elsewhere.

  • Chess is much more about understanding than memory.
  • Chess is much more about avoiding bad moves than playing brilliant moves: if you’re playing Magnus Carlsen, if you don’t play any bad moves you won’t lose, and if Magnus plays a bad move you’ll win.
  • Chess is much more about playing sensible pragmatic moves (and assuming your opponent will do the same) than setting traps.

I have a few basic principles applicable for anyone up to about 1000 strength.

  • Other things being equal, superior force wins.
  • To beat anyone above beginner level you have to use tactics such as forks and discovered attacks.
  • If you put your pieces on good squares you’ll have more opportunities to use tactics, and your opponents will have more opportunities to make mistakes.

Or, to put it in reverse order:

  • Put your pieces on good squares, starting on move 1.
  • Calculate simple tactics accurately.
  • Be very efficient at winning simple endings.

I wanted to write a course that would teach basic understanding as well as knowledge, that would be enjoyable and involve active learning, while avoiding worksheets that don’t suit everyone. I also wanted something that could, if required, be used in school chess clubs for children who are old enough to understand rather than just memorise.

It would also link up to the existing Chess Heroes books, so it’s just called Chess for Heroes.

The course has three modules, with 10 lessons in each module.

The first module covers simple endings, so that you learn what advantage you need to win at the end of the game. If you have more major pieces, you can use them to mate your opponent. If you have more pawns, you promote them and mate your opponent. If you have more minor pieces you use them to win your opponent’s pawns, then promote your pawns and mate your opponent.

The second module introduces basic tactical ideas and checkmate patterns, and introduces the concept of looking ahead and sacrificing.

The third module uses the ‘guess the move’ method to introduce the idea of putting pieces on good squares. Each lesson is a short game in which, at various points, the reader has to choose one of three options for the next move.

None of this will make you a good player, but it should take you to about 500-1000 strength, so that you’ll be able to enjoy your games and have some idea of what’s happening. If you just want to play with your friends and family, that will be as much as you need to know, but if you’re interested in competitive chess: joining an external club, playing in tournaments, then you’ll need to know a lot more.

At that point you move onto the next four Chess Heroes books, dealing with checkmates, tactics, openings and endings, which, together, should take you up towards 1500 strength.

I’ve decided to make all the Chess Heroes books available in hard copy print on demand format on Amazon: I’ll let you know as and when they become available. They’re currently available as free downloads from my websites, one of which is here.

Richard James

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Richard James

Author: Richard James

Richard James is a professional chess teacher and writer living in Twickenham, and working mostly with younger children and beginners. He was the co-founder of Richmond Junior Chess Club in 1975 and its director until 2005. He is the webmaster of chessKIDS academy ( or and, most recently, the author of Chess for Kids and The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids, both published by Right Way Books. Richard has been a member of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club since 1966. Richard is a published author and his books can be found at Amazon. Richard is currently promoting minichess (games and puzzles using subsets of chess) for younger children through his website, and writing coaching materials for children (and adults) who want to start playing serious competitive chess, through View all posts by Richard James

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