The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


August 22, 2013

Before chess gets competitive, game of kings can be enjoyed with kids

JOPLIN, Mo. — Chess is on the table as an activity for the Missouri State High School Activities Association to start regulating. Along with bowling, target shooting and bass fishing, the game of kings may be something that area high school students can compete in.

But until then, chess remains a classic game with rules that haven't changed since its creation at least 1500 years ago, according to the U.S. Chess Federation. That gives parents plenty of time to enjoy a classic game together.

How to play

The game's six pieces all have specific ways they move across the chessboard. Some move pretty simply: The queen moves across any horizontal, vertical or diagonal line any number of squares; the king moves just one square. Rooks move horizontally and vertically; bishops move diagonally.

Some pieces are a little more complicated, such as the knight's L-shaped jumping over other pieces, and the pawn's different ways of moving and capturing.

Allen Bishop, the advisor of Crowder College's chess club, helps run a weekly chess club at the Neosho/Newton County Public Library. He said all it takes to teach a kid chess is patience.

"It's just a matter of explaining the rules and connecting with players on their level," Bishop said.

Computer programs can help, too, Bishop said. Many programs, including plenty of free apps for tablet PCs and smartphones, have a helpful feature. When a piece is clicked, the available squares to where it can move are highlighted.

Those programs may also help parents brush up on their own skills.

Chess is a game that doesn't rely on much luck: All the pieces and their abilities are exposed on the board, meaning that there are no surprises that come from dice rolls or revealed cards.

The trick is to be fair -- because it's a two-person game, it's great for one-on-one time with a child.

Next level

If a child starts to show some talent for the game, the next step is to find a chess club. An organized club, such as ones found in schools, offers a tournament structure and a willing pool of players, Bishop said.

Some clubs are affiliated with the U.S. Chess Federation, and offer rankings and points.

"It's possible to become a certified chess coach," Bishop said. "I've been a tournament director and directed rated tournaments before."

The biggest thing an aspiring player can learn to do is take notation, Bishop said. The squares on the board are numbered with a standard system so each move in a game can be easily recorded.

"Once they learn to read annotation, they can record their own games and go over them," he said. "They can use that knowledge to read chess games so that they can learn what the masters have played. That willingness to study is critical."

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