Teachers and Learners

Some more fun from the Chess Teachers and Learners Facebook group.

It seems like a great idea to have a Facebook group where learners can ask questions and teachers can answer them. Up to a point it works well, but there are a few problems.

The main one is that questions are often answered by other learners who know no more than the person asking the question. It’s, as always, the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Another issue is that the questions are either things which they could have looked up themselves or demonstrate a total lack of chess understanding.

There’s also a language problem is that, for many group members, English isn’t their first language and they’re also not always aware of the correct chess terminology.

Here’s a recent question.

Why is a Castle important?

I suspect he may have meant something like ‘What is the role of the rook in chess’ as he’d asked a similar question about bishops.

But instead the replies seemed to think he intended “Why is it important to castle in chess?”

Maybe for avoiding mate or for safety reasons im not sure i just castle randomly

you gotta set up your pawns right first, ive been checkmated by a bad castle, but as they say “castle early and often”

To keep the king safe but an early castling into the game give your opponent as the direction to attack

Here’s another recent question.

I’m a chess learner
Please what’s this move Exd5
Don’t laugh at me

And a selection of replies.

If Ex is short for “example” , the move ‘d5’ is P-Q5 ..

Thats the Scandinavian opening at black and you taking the pawn that is D5 for black with your E pawn


Guys which pieces are the best between black and white ??

I read online that its impossible to win as black without help of your opponents (mistakes,blunders)


Mention the greatest move of attack and defense, that always used by the world champion in the planet

Moving a horse is always good usually

A question from a slightly stronger player next:

I will usually always resign, but I would really like to work on my stalemate skills, which is nil. Are there certain rules? The more active pieces the opponent has, especially at my level(1400 lichess) the more likely it is? Or less likely? Is there a pattern of sort? Hide your king in the corner or put it out in the open? Maybe there is not a technique.

You often get questions about openings such as:

Can someone teach me one of the openings/defenses you guys are talking about ?

Which is best opening for white in chess?

what chess opening have the most traps?

Answers to any question of this nature invariably include the London System and the Colle.

But the current fashion in this group is to display moves awarded two exclamation marks on chess.com. Frequently the poster played the move accidentally and had no idea why the move should receive the ultimate accolade. When asking why it’s so good, or why a move adorned with two question marks is so bad, other learners reply with incorrect or unhelpful comments.

I’d be much more impressed if they demonstrated a game in which they didn’t make any blunders rather than a game where they played a brilliant move. For me, the most important lesson in chess – and also in life – is to avoid doing anything really stupid.

Looking at this and other Facebook groups sometimes makes me laugh. But then I think again and realise that we were all beginners once and have to start somewhere. So perhaps I shouldn’t be so harsh.

On other occasions it makes my cry instead. Cry at the lack of critical thinking and other cognitive skills which these groups reveal. Cry at the thought that it’s not just chess but almost everything else to which this applies. Cry at the way humankind is collectively failing to apply these skills to the many problems we currently face.

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 (www.chesskids.org.uk or www.chesskids.me.uk) 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 www.minichess.uk, and writing coaching materials for children (and adults) who want to start playing serious competitive chess, through www.chessheroes.uk. View all posts by Richard James

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