Chess Kings Releases 2016 Educational Guidelines

The Not-for-Profit Chess Kings offers 2016 Educational and Curriculum Guidelines for anyone looking to teach the game of chess at schools, clubs, and recreation centers. These guidelines are meant to ensure that chess programs meet quality standards and make adequate yearly progress in students’ tactical and strategic ability.

Given the vast array of chess instruction programs, camps, and tournaments offered in the United States, parents and schools are often inundated with different chess literature. Given the intellectual depth of the game of chess, it is important students receive the correct puzzles and the right tips to build a foundation for the game.

When a teacher accurately measures a student’s ability in motif recognition, they can pick puzzles that will not be too challenging, but still require significant mental effort. Students and parents on occasion will purchase a chess book that is too difficult and hinder their ability to improve because they are skipping important steps.

The 2016 Chess Kings Guidelines attempts to layout the learning process in chess, give tips for teachers to improve classroom learning, and help parents recognize quality programs.

  • Chess Kings recommends every chess student obtain membership in the United States Chess Federation.
  • When schools and parents are looking for teachers, we recommend that they have a minimum rating of 1600 USCF.
  • Chess classrooms should have a student to teacher ratio not higher than 15:1. Given the discipline required in chess, teachers can help the whole class learn consistently.
  • Every chess student should have a book that teaches the next level of learning material in terms of tactics, mating patterns, and motifs.
  • Every chess student should own a chess set in order for them to practice outside of class or the club every week.
  • Chess Kings recommends that when students play tournaments, they write down their games in order to go over their strengths and weaknesses from each game.
  • The learning process in chess takes the following stages: 1) learning the rules of the game 2) recognizing hanging pieces 3) Learning the 7 basic tactics: fork, pin, skewer, double attack, discovered check, decoy, and trapping 4) proficiency at checkmate in 1 patterns 5) tactical and checkmate combinations 2-3 moves 6) advanced checkmate combinations 4+ moves or greater 7) positional chess.
  • In order for the student to improve efficiently, they must build a solid foundation of each successive skill level from 100 USCF (level 1) to 1600 USCF (level 7).
  • Classes where students are below 1200 should play chess in informal practice mode and be taught individually or in pairs with puzzles.
  • After the students reach (level 5) 1200 rating strength, they can be taught in a group setting and learn effectively with a diagram board.
  • While chess programs often need to run through fees to schools and parents, any time a student is not interested in the game they should be dismissed with a refund.
  • For Grades K-5, one year of participation in a chess program should bring the student to level three (800 USCF). For Grades 6-8, one year of participation in a chess program should bring the student to level 4 (1000 USCF).
  • Although self-study and discipline account for 90% of a students chance for success, teachers can accelerate the learning process by following these guidelines.
  • Chess Kings endorses the 10,000 hour rule (discussed by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers) which holds that amount of practice is needed to attain expertise in a field.
  • Schools that cannot afford professional instruction can run informal clubs with success and don’t need to hire a teacher initially if they provide sets and books.
  • Students generally should do puzzles that can each be solved in 5-10 minutes with a score of about 50% correct. This will ensure the student can maintain consistent study.
  • When solving puzzles, students that tend to move too quickly without calculating more can be instructed to sit on their hands until they see the solution.
  • These guidelines are only suggestions intended to aid the learning process and is by no means an exhaustive list nor the only way to teach chess but one path for success.


For more information on books and playing levels, see Recommended Reading.

Also see Letter to Schools, Resources for Parents, and Three Tips for Schools