Sunday, May 25, 2014

Chess Handbook for Parents and Coaches for Kindle just published!

It's ready! Chess Handbook for Parents and Coaches is now on Kindle. Just in time for rainy summer day planning:

This book helps parents and chess coaches teach chess to kids. The first half of the book contains the lessons, the second part introduces the world of chess: what's it like at a chess tournament, who the top players are, and more. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Chess Handbook for Parents and Coaches for Kindle to be published soon!

I'm excited to announce that the Kindle version of my book, Chess Handbook for Parents and Coaches is coming out very soon, possibly Sunday, May 25, 2014.

Here's the description:

Parents, do you want to teach your child to play chess, but don't know where to begin? Does your child want to learn to play chess, but you don't play? Does your child want to play in tournaments, but you don't know where they are? 

Coaches, could you use a solid lesson plan, or information about starting and running a chess club, or tips on preparing players for tournaments? The Chess Handbook for Parents and Coaches provides parents and coaches a proven method of teaching chess for kids. 

Whether you know how to play or not, this book guides you though the process of teaching chess to a child. In sixteen clear, and easy to follow lessons, Part One - Teaching Chess, shows what and how to teach all the way from learning the pieces' names to checkmate, including the rules your player(s) will need to know. Part Two - The Chess World, explains what goes on in chess, how tournaments work, how to coach players, from new to advanced, how to coach kids who are playing older kids, who the famous chess players are, and much more. 

Parents and coaches will gain tips from an experienced, certified coach with insights into teaching chess and the chess world.

I'll post the link to it as soon as possible.

Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Total Chess - Book review by Coach Ronn

Total Chess: Learn, Teach and Play the Easy 1-2-3 Way by John Herron

This fine book is written by a chess coach who truly understands how to teach. Herron delivers on his title with an engaging, conversational style that makes you think he’s sitting right there across the board from you.

Whether you’re a parent, coach, or someone interested in strengthening your game, Total Chess is organized in such a manner that you can quickly find areas to teach or study. Herron covers the basics for someone just starting out with topics like Chess Notation, Checkmate and Stalemate, Thinking, and Sportsmanship. An excellent feature Herron included is a section titled “Teacher’s Guide” that provides lesson plans for beginners, intermediate players, and advanced players. Each lesson plan includes a list of topics and their page numbers, and practice drills.

Total Chess provides in-depth information on all facets of the game including the opening (58 pages), middle game (64 pages), and end game (a whopping and fitting 118 pages). The section on tactics teaches not just the tactic, but how to recognize the position that leads to a winning attack. I use this book for my scholastic chess club and my players have been enthralled with fun tactics like Zugzwang, the Lure and Zwischenzug. The book’s diagrams are beautiful and the narrative for each is clear and easy to follow, a very important thing. There are multiple diagrams for each topic, rather than the most common single, and this helps reinforce the idea being presented.

Herron comes across as sincere and friendly, and most pleasing, never talks down to the reader. His joy and love for the great game of chess is evident from his first sentence, “Total Chess is your complete guide to chess” to the very end.

I’m a United States Chess Federation Certified Coach, with many years of experience, and am always on the look out for teaching material in addition to my own. John Herron has provided us all with a magnificent book that I whole-heartedly endorse and recommend!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How do I introduce a Chess Clock to my child? – Part 2

Time frames used in chess

There are many time frames, or the amount of time available for each player. Here’s a short list of the most common. All times are considered to be Sudden Death unless so noted. Times are shown using “G” for game. For example, a time of G/30, means Sudden Death with a time of 30 minutes for each player. All times that are less than 30 minutes are called “Quick chess.”

G/5      Speed chess            
G/30    Action chess             
40/90, SD60 – must make 40 moves in 90 minutes, then it’s Sudden Death in an additional 60 minutes.

Playing with a clock

  1. Set up the board.
  2. Set the clock. For example on an analog, for a fifteen minute game, you set the clocks at . On a digital, you select the time frame of G/15.
  3. If the clock is analog and is a “wind-up” type, not battery powered, be sure it is wound up, but be careful not to over-wind it.
  4. Place the clock by the board. By rule, the black player gets to decide which side of the board the clock sits on, unless he is late to the game. Most players will put the clock on the same side as they are “handed.” A right-handed player will put the clock on his right. This puts the clock on the left side for a right-handed white player and forces that player to either move left-handed, or cross over with his right hand to hit the clock.
  5. The black player pushes the button or lever that starts white’s clock.
  6. White moves and “hits” his clock using the same hand he moved with. This is by rule.
  7. Black moves and “hits” his clock using the same hand he moved with.

Your child may forget to hit his clock, just remind him. It’s a habit that must be developed through practice. I recommend that you play several games, maybe even ten to fifteen games over a period of a week or so using the clock before moving on to Lesson 16 – Keeping Score.

Time delay clocks

Digital clocks introduced the capability of adding a “delay” to the time. What this means is that if the time delay is five seconds (most common), the clock waits five seconds to start counting down. The purpose is to avoid a scramble to move, because the player will always have at least the five seconds to move.

Where you can buy chess clocks:

Monday, February 13, 2012

How do I introduce a Chess Clock to my child? – Part 1

Time flies when you’re having fun

Experience taught me that it’s best for the player to first introduce the clock and play a number of games with it to let him get used to playing with it. The chess clock is used in a way similar to a clock in a football or basketball game. When time runs out in those games, the game is over and the team with the most points wins. In chess, we measure the amount of time a player uses to make his moves, which measures “thinking” time.

Digital Clock

A chess clock is actually two clocks in the same plastic, metal, or wood body, one for each player. When Player A (white) is making a move, his clock is running and his opponent’s clock is stopped. After Player A completes the move on the board, he pushes or “hits” his clock – a button or lever that will start Player B’s clock and stop his own.

Analog Clock

An important thing to note is the time is never so much time per one move, it is always so much time for all moves, or as we’ll see shortly, a specified number of moves within a certain time.

There are two kinds of clocks – analog, which is like a round clock on the wall with hour and minute hands, and digital, which counts down from a specified amount of time, such as 30 minutes.

As the game progresses, the players’ clocks run down or approach the end time (on the analog this is 6:00 for the first time period, if there are more than one, then 7:00, 8:00 and so on). When time runs out for one player (this is called Sudden Death), he has lost the game on time if his opponent has mating material, which can include a single pawn with the King. Certain pieces cannot complete checkmate with only a King, so if the opponent has a King and one of these pieces, the game is a draw (a tie) by rule:

·        Bishop
·        Knight

Even if the player whose clock runs out has more material on the board, he still loses the game. When introducing the clock to your child, be aware of two things:

  1. the clock is a deadline device and that brings with it a certain amount of tension, especially for a new player. Tell your child that everyone is on the clock, so it’s not just them, and that everyone at a tournament will be feeling nervous just as they are – there are no exceptions!
  2. new players often forget to hit their clock to stop it and start their opponent’s clock. Be sure to remind your child when you are playing with him to hit the clock – it’s a habit that must be developed.
To get started, you must first decide what amount of time to use. I’d suggest something like ten or fifteen minutes. This may seem rather quick to you, but for the purpose of learning to play with the clock, it’ll work out just fine. Of course, if you really prefer, use a longer time period. Set your clocks and start playing. By the way, if you bought a digital clock, and have never used one before, you are probably going to have to read the instructions on setting the clock. Really.

Where you can buy chess clocks:

Monday, February 6, 2012

Scholastic chess tournament tips for parents

  • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest the night before.
  • Some tournament locations have a concessions stand where you can buy lunches – find out before you go.
  • Determine before the day of tournament whether you are going to eat out for breakfast and lunch, and possibly dinner. If you decide to eat out, use the internet to find eating places close to the tournament that meet your budget and dietary needs.
  • If you plan to take all meals, prepare them the night before.
  • Take healthy snacks (sugary foods may have a detrimental effect on your player, especially early on) and drinks.
  • If you have a tournament board and set, take it with you. Make sure the board has your or your child’s name on it, and put initials on the bottom of each piece.
  • Most tournaments provide score sheets, but you can buy a scorebook from
  • Take several pencils.
  • Take something for your child to do between rounds, a book to read, for example.
  • Take something for you to do. Parents often visit with each other during and between rounds, but you might need some private time. Your stress level is going to be elevated, believe me.
  • Take a bottle of pain reliever like Tylenol, some for you and some for your child, just in case.
  • Take some band-aids and antiseptic ointment. Don’t ask how I learned this one.
  • Take any medicines you or your child would normally take during the daytime.
  • And lastly – take a camera!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Tips for playing a student

Take back moves

While teaching your student to play, I encourage the take-back move. This is where, if you see your player has made a weak move, suggest he take the move back and look for a stronger one. You must also immediately explain why the move is weak. The purpose of the take-back move is not to let your player win the game, but rather prolong it, providing more playing experience. If a new player only makes it to move 20 when playing, how will he learn to finish a game?

Odds chess

This is a way to alter the board to even the game between you and your child. The idea is simple: before playing, you take a piece off the board, thereby giving your child a position of being “up” in material from the very beginning. Start with the Queen, then as your child gets stronger, you start reducing the odds: Rook, Bishop or Knight, pawn. I recommend that you do this sparingly, however, and rely also on the take-back moves, so your child sees a complete board and all the complications that come with it more often than not.

Time odds chess

If you have a chess clock and have introduced your child to it already, you can set the clocks differently, giving your child more time than you have.