THE Chess Klutz speaks on Chess

I love chess.  I hate chess. I am a chess fanatic.

Reading that you probably assume that I am also, therefore, good at chess.  Wrong.  I’m pretty terrible actually.  (Don’t tell my chess students!)   I know this is a real dichotomy.  I love chess and teach it, but I am not very good at it.  How can that be? 

The answer is more simple than you think.  I love chess for a multide of reasons that I will explain more in depth shortly.  I hate chess because it is like a diabolical butterfly.  It taunts me.  It hovers just out of my reach.  I read about it.  I study the rules, but I can’t seem to keep my focus in a game long enough to keep me from making stupid mistakes.  (“Ah, so the problem is YOU, Leslie, not the game,” you say…shut up this is MY blog!)  I can teach chess because I have mastered the rules and basics enough to help beginners.  I give them their chess wings, so to speak, and then watch them quickly out grow me!

Sabine Sauermaul

So why do I continue to torture myself with this game that eludes my clumsy attempts at mastering it?  Why do I teach it to all my children and anyone else that I can persuade to learn?  I do it because at least for a short time I will have an opponent I can beat studies show that the benefits of playing chess are amazing, especially for children (hopefully me, too!)  There have been numerous studies done and the results have shown again and again that chess helps children improve in math, reading, and vocabulary.  It develops logical thinking, imagination and creativity.  Chess teaches independence, inspires self-motivation and rewards hard work.  There is an excellent, readable article about it here: The Benefits of Playing Chess.  Chess can benefit special needs kids as well.  You can read more about that here: Chess and Special Needs Education.

Because my whole family plays chess, my almost 5 yr old has recently decided he wants to play.  He is something of a computer nerd and has already tried computer chess.  He was very upset that he kept losing.  He doesn’t realize most of us lose to the computer! 

“But 5 yr old is too young to play chess!” you say.  (where are your manners today?  I was getting to that…)  Each child is individual, so it depends on the child certainly, but yes many children can learn to play as young as 5 yrs old.  I’m going to share the best resource for doing that.

Chess for Success by Maurice Ashley

I read his book a few years back and a still use the ideas I got from him regularly to teach young people to play chess.  He has great ideas for simplified chess games to help learn the rules and begin to develop your chess skills such as: Pawns Asleep and another one my family nicknamed Dessert Chess (I can’t remember what Maurice Ashley called it…Giveaway Chess…something like that.)  Anyway, amazing book.  I highly recommend it.

Now if someone could just recommend a good book for me so I can beat my teenage boys. . .


Photo Attibution: Sabine Sauermaul


  1. I can attest to the fact that you are a great chess teacher. Joey was very excited and told his Dad right away when he came home that he knows how to play "chest" now. lol. You were very patient with him. I had no idea it could help special needs kids and is good to know. I will be checking it out. He is currently struggling in math with retaining and understanding some concepts so I will play a lot more with him and see if he improves. 😉 Maybe he can play Pete sometime. Thanks again and you are the best!

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