I am not a great chess player. I’ve never joined a chess club, read chess publications, or been able to listen to someone start discussing chess strategies with letters and numbers without having my mind immediately wander away preemptively confused. But I know enough about how to play the game that I don’t make the immediate, obvious colossal errors that chess novices make. I have an intuitive enough feel for the game to win basically half the time against other casual players and that’s about it.
But I really enjoy teaching people to play chess. This is partly because I just really enjoy teaching people things. But the other reason is that I can teach someone while at the same time having an actually competitive chess match.
My method to accomplish both things at once is simple. Every time my opponent/student makes a glaringly terrible move, I show them what they did wrong. We talk about how if they’re going to make that move, I’m going to do all these other things and beat them without having to think at all. And where is the fun in that? Then I let them take the blunder back and try again. If it’s a reasonable move that I cannot see anything seriously wrong with, I just respond as competitively as I can. They make another mistake that would make it just too easy to beat them and I stop them again and go over it with them.
Over the course of a game, or multiple games, my opponent/student starts to avoid more and more blunders and we correct the oversights and ill thought out moves whenever they occur. By the end if I am able to beat them, it’s totally legitimate and satisfying because when I trap their pieces in ways they can’t escape, I know it was my own cleverness and not their ignorance that gave me the advantage. And when they start trapping my pieces in ways I can’t evade and they flash a triumphant, mischievous smile at me, even as I lose I am proud that I cleared their way of the ignorance and inexperience that would have prevented them from ever (or for months) experiencing the delight of winning at the game.When I take an interest in my opponent winning, becoming stronger, then I don’t have to win the game. If I do that’s fun. But even if I lose, I wind up on the winning team, and being on a winning team with someone is a great way to create a bond with them.
More thoughts on education: