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Thread: A flaw in my chess teaching practice, or marketing?

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    Default A flaw in my chess teaching practice, or marketing?

    This week I lost a student, a beginner, who had taken two lessons.

    In my first lesson I usually do an assessment and then go into topics like square of the pawn, checkmate with a queen and king versus king, rook and king versus king, two bishops versus king, fortresses, breakthrough, opposition, square of the pawn, Philidor and Lucena rook endings, opposition, shouldering the king and usually a very quick exposition on the need to get all your pieces to get into the game.

    In lesson two I usually go through the mating patterns and things like the Greek Gift Sacrifice, Lasker's two bishop sacrifice and some of the ideas that I learned from grandmaster Victor Gavrikov which help players to evaluate tactical possibilities in the position using some famous examples.

    Lesson three is tactical patterns and is also a bit information heavy.

    Lesson four is when we start doing examples of games and positions with a mix of endgames and tactics.

    I get the feeling that I lost this student because keeping track of what was presented was too much work. I have another new student who is up around lesson five or so who seems quite happy with the overload.

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    I suspect that my students are lower-level than yours, but I limit theory to maybe a third of the lesson. Another third game analysis, and another third playing.

    The middle third often grows to almost 3/4 of the lesson, especially if they bring a lot of online games, but that's where I find I can inject the most progress.

    I have almost never found students who want more theory than what I give them, but then again, my niche is developing players in the 600-1200 range.

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    It's hard to say.
    It does look like your planning was pretty good. Was this a live lesson with a real board or on-line with pre-saved positions?
    If I could suggest some ideas, perhaps that was a lot of content for a first lesson. It's a lot of material to learn. Take fortresses for example, it could take a whole lesson to explain some of the ideas involved. Then again, I don't know how long the lesson lasted. Sometimes the student will provide immediate feedback, and it's easy to gauge whether what you're trying to teach is too hard for him or not. If you're not getting feedback (or not enough)l, a quiz on the topic could be necessary.
    So, yeah, my advice would be to reduce the number of topics. Do less topics, just add more examples with different levels of difficulty and perhaps some quiz.
    Then again sometimes a student will not like the method or... who knows what. It's happened to all of us: we liked some teachers at school or college but couldn't stand others, and sometimes we couldn't explain why!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Javier Gil View Post
    It's hard to say.
    It does look like your planning was pretty good. Was this a live lesson with a real board or on-line with pre-saved positions?
    If I could suggest some ideas, perhaps that was a lot of content for a first lesson. It's a lot of material to learn. Take fortresses for example, it could take a whole lesson to explain some of the ideas involved. Then again, I don't know how long the lesson lasted. Sometimes the student will provide immediate feedback, and it's easy to gauge whether what you're trying to teach is too hard for him or not. If you're not getting feedback (or not enough)l, a quiz on the topic could be necessary.
    So, yeah, my advice would be to reduce the number of topics. Do less topics, just add more examples with different levels of difficulty and perhaps some quiz.
    Then again sometimes a student will not like the method or... who knows what. It's happened to all of us: we liked some teachers at school or college but couldn't stand others, and sometimes we couldn't explain why!
    It was an in-person lesson, over about 75 minutes or more precisely two live lessons. I tend to follow the same format with online students. The program seems to work well for motivated students. My worry is that maybe it is too intense for the less motivated. My worry is that maybe I am killing their interest in chess before they become aware of the game's attractions. Mostly I am getting students that match my marketing which is to students that love chess. Occasionally I am getting parents who want their children to become chess players or through word of mouth hear about my lessons. These are where I am more likely to have problems with converting them into chess players.

    I have experimented with some students assigning the mating patterns instead of going through them but I find that they are more likely to forget or perhaps to exaggerate how much of the homework they have done. It becomes apparent later when I show tactics which rely on the same patterns and they can't find the solution. Anyway, maybe I need two tracks. One track for tournament players and another for the more casual player who doesn't really want to get involved in tournament chess but wants to perform well in the big scholastic competition which we have every year.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aris Marghetis View Post
    I suspect that my students are lower-level than yours, but I limit theory to maybe a third of the lesson. Another third game analysis, and another third playing.

    The middle third often grows to almost 3/4 of the lesson, especially if they bring a lot of online games, but that's where I find I can inject the most progress.

    I have almost never found students who want more theory than what I give them, but then again, my niche is developing players in the 600-1200 range.
    I am not sure that I teach much theory unless you are talking about endgame theory. I only get into what I consider theory if my student asks about something in specific and I encourage them to follow opening principles as shown in the Exeter Chess Club Opening rules and work on everything else before they worry about openings. I think that approach works best and it tends to be confirmed at least by my best students. I recall one female student who faced with an unfamiliar Albin Counter Gambit played sixteen moves of theory just based on general principles and achieved a winning position.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vladimir Drkulec View Post
    In my first lesson I usually do an assessment and then go into topics like square of the pawn, checkmate with a queen and king versus king, rook and king versus king, two bishops versus king, fortresses, breakthrough, opposition, square of the pawn, Philidor and Lucena rook endings, opposition, shouldering the king and usually a very quick exposition on the need to get all your pieces to get into the game.
    That's too much material imho. If a person needs to be shown a mate with a queen, he is a mile from learning Lucena. While you can try to show them all this stuff in one shot, it does not mean that they absorb all of this over one lecture/lesson. Do you have a feedback how much stay in their heads? Like can they checkmate you the next lesson without any stalemates and quickly. Do they play openings and middle-/end-games with your taught principles.
    .*-1

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    Quote Originally Posted by Egidijus Zeromskis View Post
    That's too much material imho. If a person needs to be shown a mate with a queen, he is a mile from learning Lucena. While you can try to show them all this stuff in one shot, it does not mean that they absorb all of this over one lecture/lesson. Do you have a feedback how much stay in their heads? Like can they checkmate you the next lesson without any stalemates and quickly. Do they play openings and middle-/end-games with your taught principles.
    The first lesson is in part to establish a baseline and see if they know how to checkmate with a queen. In the big Windsor Chess Challenge tournament which we have every year around the end of February with 1400 players, I would say that half or more don't know how to mate with queen and king versus king. They just chase the king around the board in a circular pattern with checks. I usually do check in the next few lessons whether they have retained the basics from the first few lessons. The kids are smart and when they are motivated they do remember. I have had maybe three or four over the years who didn't remember and we went over it again. I go over the box method and tell the story about how I sacrificed material to eliminate the last pawn for my opponent to preserve a draw but then had a pawn left and promoted to a queen and checkmated in 10 seconds in a tournament game.

    The first student who went through the program is now rated over 2400 FIDE, the second finished second to Qiyu Zhu in a CYCC the year before she became world champion. I have no doubt that it works for the kids who want to be good at chess. I continue to get new kids who are motivated. I often go over games or endgames from recent grandmaster games so the kids are often asked to remember principles like the third rank defense. I also don't expect them to remember everything. You have to repeat the lesson and expose them to different versions of the same idea.

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    Maybe a student having (or having already read over) a chess book of some kind, which they purchased on their own could be helpful. As a pre-teen I had only looked at a couple of Reinfeld books back in the early 1970s. I met a somewhat older 1400+ CFC-rated tournament player (Bob Gelblum) through one of his brothers (after we played in a school tournament). He beat me in every (casual) game for about 2 years before he lent me his My 60 Memorable Games book (by Fischer). I didn't pick up anything much from the book's analysis, except I noticed Fischer admitted he had had a hard time against the Winawer. So, I tried using that (closed) opening against the 1400+ player, and beat him for the first time. It sure beat losing in, e.g., 1.e4 e5 openings all the time where I didn't know the theory or the wide-open tactics. That kept me motivated, if I ever waivered (I was at least winning against other kids at school), although I never did have a paid chess teacher or coach, just the odd somewhat better players that I talked to now and then over the years, besides the many books I bought (many since long sold, though). That, and Bob's gift of the gab, e.g. when it came to talking about chess in an interesting way (e.g. Fischer's career, seeing how many moves one can look ahead...). So, some sort of quality book, the odd leg up on opening(s) for a student, however early (if it proves to help him win big sometime), plus an ongoing sales job about chess itself, could help in at least some cases.
    Last edited by Kevin Pacey; 06-09-2019 at 02:48 PM. Reason: Adding content
    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
    Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio.

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