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Chess Advice for Parents and Young Players

I have done thousands of lectures to parents, coaches and young players around the world and across the United States over the years. The questions I am most often asked are about advice and tips for young players and chess parents. Here are some of them:

Chess tips for new / novice players

I have done thousands of lectures to parents, coaches and young players around the world and across the United States over the years. The questions I am most often asked are about advice and tips for young players and chess parents. I have talked about it in the past in my column, but since I received many requests for a refresher, here they are again. Below are some of the most important basic things that you should know about playing in a chess tournament:

• Once the game has started, you may not interrupt, interfere, or talk to your opponent.
• You may never directly assist any player during a game. If a player raises a hand for assistance, you should immediately summon a tournament director.
• If you witness an illegal move or position, say nothing. It is the responsibility of the players to bring any complaint to the attention of a tournament director.
• You are not permitted to say anything if a player oversteps the time limit on his clock. Only the players themselves can claim a win on time.
• When a player loses a game, you must refrain from getting upset or angry or showing negative emotions. Young players need support and encouragement more than ever after a loss. They do not need scolding. Help your player stay calm and relaxed for the rest of the tournament.
• You may help your player find her correct table and board before each round.
• You should supervise your player between rounds. It is not the responsibility of the tournament director or organizer to mind your children between rounds.
• You should keep your player from distracting other players during and between rounds.
• Players should try to conserve their energy between rounds so they can be fresh for the next game.
• You should always encourage young players to practice good sportsmanship at all times, especially after losing a game.
• Official tournaments are smoke-free.
• You should view your players’ game only from behind them or in the aisle to avoid eye contact with them.
• Keep a distance between yourself and your player. In some large tournaments, you may not even be allowed in the playing room during a game.
• If you see a player or a team playing the wrong opponent, you should notify the tournament director right away.
• Only tournament officials can record information on the wall charts. Parents, coaches and players should never write on them. However, players may record their results on the pairing charts.
• You should make sure that your players’ results are reported in a timely manner.
• If you detect that a prize has been erroneously awarded after the end of a tournament, bring this to the attention of a tournament director.

The following are generally accepted rules of etiquette that should be observed by all chess players:

• It is considered rude and inappropriate for a player to eat or have a meal at the playing table.
• Basic refreshment such as water is OK.
• If you chew gum, chew quietly.
• Smoking at the playing table is prohibited.
• Refrain from singing while playing.
• There should be no communication with your opponent until after the game, except to resign, offer a draw or announce J’adoube (adjusting your pieces).
• Don’t make a draw offer to your opponent after every move once it is refused or rejected.
• Don’t listen to music / MP3 player during the game.

Although the following are not rules, it is recommended to do the following:

• Try to show up to your game in a timely manner.
• Don’t adjust the chess pieces with each move. It is quite annoying for your opponent.
• It may sound too basic to even mention, but don’t cough or sneeze at your opponent.
• Shake hands before and after the game. It is customary.
• Have you ever seen the sign: “No shirt, no shoes, no service”? The same rule holds true in chess. Proper attire should be worn while playing.
• Don’t whistle while you are playing.
• No trash talking before, during or after the game.
• Don’t do anything to annoy your opponent or other players who may be sitting next to you.

Here are some very important chess principles that will help you become a better player:

• Control the center: The center of the board includes the squares e4, d4, e5, and d5. When you start a game, place your pawns in the center to occupy and control as many of these squares as you can. Location, location, location!
• Develop your pieces as soon as possible: Get your knights and bishops out right away. This should be done during the first six or seven moves, before you try to checkmate your opponent.
• Castle as soon as possible: Castle early to keep your king safe. Remember, you can’t win if you get checkmated first. So, don’t forget to castle! After you castle, connect your rooks by developing your queen.
• Keep your pieces protected: Don’t leave your pieces en prise (unprotected). Each and every piece is very valuable, so don’t forget to protect them. Protecting a piece means that if your opponent can take your piece, then you can capture back.
• Have fun: The most important thing in chess should be to have fun, whether you win or lose. My motto in chess is “Win with grace, lose with dignity.” When you win, be a good sport. When you lose, be an even better sport. Shake hands and congratulate your opponent. This will go a long way in making good friends.

Besides the five valuable principles above, there are others that you should try to remember. Chess is a game with logic, strategy, planning and tactics. Keep the following principles in mind as you play.

• Every move should have a purpose.
• Try to discern the idea behind your opponent’s move.
• Always think before you move.
• There is no take back in chess. So make your decision carefully.
• Planning is one of the most important elements of the game.
• Analyze your games and learn from your mistakes: Every player, from beginner to world champion, makes mistakes. It is very important to review your games to find your mistakes and learn from them.
• Pace yourself wisely: There are many different time controls in chess. Use your allotted time wisely. Whatever the time control, use your time to find the best plans and moves. Don’t rush just because your opponents play fast.

These and many more tips can be found in my best-selling chess instructional book “A World Champion’s Guide to Chess” and “Learn Chess in 30 Minutes” DVD. Both can be found on Amazon.com.

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