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alan trimble
Posts: 67

Coach’s Corner


Earlier this year I thought Tom Knight had a fabulous idea of hosting a coach’s meeting for Quad A to get coaches together and talk shop…I wanted to take a second and piggy back off of that idea and start a conversation on here where coaches can share different tools, resources, and strategies that are working. I firmly believe that there is no one way to coach a team…everyone knows their kids best and what works one place will likely fail in another. So…I am not presenting this as any kind of authority or expert in the art of coaching…but am simply sharing some things I use and do in the hopes that it may be useful to someone else. I would love to have a thread on the KCA website where new coaches could come and get an idea about how to start and run a chess club…and have the confidence to do it.



Puzzles for kindergarten, first graders, and beginners:

399 Super Easy Chess Puzzles (available only on kindle) $3.99

The best beginner chess puzzle book I’ve ever seen…the kindle format is ideal for pre-readers and makes it fun for all ages. With kindle’s download a sample feature…you can pull 50 or so problems off the book for free and let kids/parents try it for free before buying it.


Teaching checkmate/how the pieces more/chess basics to beginners:

Learn Chess with Maurice Ashley AP <$5.00 (Iphone or Android)

We go over checkmating in chess club…and make sure everyone can mate with a queen or rook…but not everyone is going to get it and it can take a lot of practice time. For those kids who need more reps and practice getting a grasp of basic mates…this ap is better than any I’ve seen. The instructional videos are clear…the practice interface is easy and fun…and it’s been effective with the kids. I shoot off an email to a parent…say work through lesson 18 on queen and king mate and then practice…and it helps.


Analysis for kids who are notating:

Shredder AP $7.99 (Apple or Android)

The Shredder AP costs $7.99 and it is literally like carrying around a grandmaster in your pocket. The AP allows you to enter your games move for move and then uses grandmaster level computer engine to analyze the best possible move. If you have a player that wants to know what to do in his/her specific game to get better...have them notate...enter the game into shredder...and then watch the needle that says who is winning. When the needle tips to the opponent and says the opponent is winning...that last move that made the needle jump was a mistake. Shredder will also point out the move that should have been made. I am an average chess player...Shredder lets me go over my kids' games and have confidence that I am not teaching them bad habits or giving them bad advice. It takes a little time to get used to the interface…but once you are comfortable with it…it can be an amazing tool. If interested…send me a message and I have a parent “guide” to Shredder that we use for parents that are interested.


Other books we use for homework or puzzle stations:


Tactics Time! 1001 Chess Tactics from Games of Everyday Players: Available in Kindle version or paperback…the kindle version is great for road trips or long dinners in restaurants.  


Another great resource in the old fashioned paper and print book, "Winning Chess Tactics for Juniors"...but it is also available online for free at:

Running Practice Strategies:


Puzzle Station:

One of my biggest struggles early on in coaching was having parents who did not know much about chess…who wanted to help the team…but not knowing as a coach how to use them effectively or even at all. Inspired by learning stations from my daughter’s kindergarten teacher…I started to set up “Puzzle Stations” that were run by parents. A volunteer parent is assigned four boards where four puzzles are set up from a puzzle book (we frequently use Winning Chess Tactics for Juniors). Before practice…I write down the answers for the parent “expert”…and then go over the answers to the four problems. Then…once practice starts…I send kids over to the puzzle station 2 or 4 at a time, pull them from the games they are playing…and have them work through the puzzles while I monitor the games they are playing. The parent “expert” gets to do some actual coaching…giving the kids hints and helping them through the problems…and I have four fewer kids to manage. After those four kids have worked through the problems…I send them back to their games and call over four more kids. You can differentiate the problems by how much help the parent gives…new players may be shown the first moves…inexperienced players given the piece that makes the first move etc. Our parents really enjoy getting to be the “experts” and showing the kids the right moves and doing some helpful teaching.


Puzzle Homework:

Convincing kids to do chess puzzles on their own is a huge challenge for any coach. One technique that has helped me a lot this year…and it probably works better in elementary school than at other levels but I’m sure it could be modified…is to use a sticker board. I bought three nice blue and white chess boards ($20 on sale at…in Lexington everyone is UK fans) and showed them to the kids…and announced that for each homework sticker they earn…their name goes into a pot for a drawing at the end of the season. The three names pulled out of the bowl at the year end banquet will win one of these boards. I print out three pages of homework for the kids to do every week. Some weeks stickers are awarded for trying the problems…some weeks (when I have the time to grade them) extra stickers are awarded for right answers. I’ve given homework in year’s past…this year with the addition of the sticker board I have seen record numbers of problems getting done. A little bribery can sometimes go a long way.


April 7, 2016 at 12:27 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Ryan Velez
Posts: 272

Hey Alan,

Great idea!! 

Here are some things that work for me when coaching kids:

Tactics Puzzles
I regularly emphasize that it i sbetter to solve 100 "mates in 1" instead of 1 "mate in 8." A lot of people do not understand that the point of tactics puzzles is to increase your pattern recognition. When you have done 1,000 mate in 1's you can move on to mate in 2's. These are arbitrary numbers, but always keep this in mind when training kids!

Most parents like to ask "What openings are you teaching my kid?" Honestly, this is a wasted question. Because most parents that ask this question wouldn't understand the answer even if one were being given. It is no insult to parents, but a question like this, especially for players rated below 1800 - 2000, indicates that they do no tknow much about chess. Learning openings is akin to learning Calculus. Unless your child is ready to learning Abstract Algebra and other high level classes, you need to have them to other math first. Here are some examples of what I mean:

A. The top players in the world spend a lot of time learning openings because they have already learned all the basics of chess, which take around 10 years to master once serious study begins.

B. The Russian school of thinking has always been to study endgame first and for a long time. Their players begin studying endgame at a very early age. Grandmaster Alexey Yermolinsky, for example, solved every possible endgame with his training partner in his youth and is one of the main reasons he cites that he became a grandmaster.

C. In most games below the 2200 level, and in many games above the 2200 level, decisive games end in a tactic and not due to an opening trap or due to openings knowledge. Think of tactics in the same way you would catching grammatical errors when proofreading a paper. Seeing tactics and using them against your opponent is exactly the same skill. Tactics are grammatical errors of an otherwise sound position.

D. I have a 2 volume set of books that give a player a FULL VIEW of a comprehensive opening repertoire for white and black. Each book is 550 pages long with a combined total of 1,100 pages. The silent implication the authors are giving you, and there are 3 authors who were all grandmasters and who all took on SEPARATE WORK LOADS to produce this book because of the immense amount of information, is that you must commit to memory and understanding the full 1,100 pages in order to use their system. It is insane... how can 3 grandmasters want you to learn their opening system when none of them personally know it by heart either? And these books cover just 2 or 3 main openings. There are literally thousands of openings. Rubbish!! :-P

Opening Principles
Good coaches emphasize the study of opening principles and not the openings themselves. I always tell people there are different levels of understanding about the opening principles. Here is an example.

Question: Why should you avoid bringing your queen out early?

>1000 USCF Answer: Because it might get taken ("tooken" hehe).
<1200 USCF Answer: Because they can attack it and make it move a lot.
<1600 USCF Answer: Because you can attack their queen and develop numerous pieces along the way.
<2000 USCF Answer: Because they lose enough time that you will be in the middlegame while they are stuck in the opening.

Now, a 1000 rated player can give the 2000+ answer and still be rated 1000. But, that would be a good sign improvement will happen soon for that player. In general, studying the opening principles goes a very long way. I personally made it to 1700 - 1800 before I ever even learned about openings. Most people do not believe that, but other than someone saying "I play the English" and showing me 1.c4, I didn't know the difference between the Scotch Gambit, the Sicilian Defense, or the King's Indian Attack.

I could go on and on and on! But I will let others comment too. But the above are some key things I work with my students year to year and the model has worked very well at the state level.



KCA Scholastic Coordinator

April 8, 2016 at 11:41 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Ajdin Dropic
Posts: 5

This is fantastic, thanks so much for starting it!

September 6, 2016 at 9:39 AM Flag Quote & Reply

alan trimble
Posts: 67

2017 update...(ideas, resources, strategies that worked)


I have a couple of recommendations to add to this list of of the best developments to our practices being the discovery of large Post It notes (staples brand is preferable because of price) to be used as notation sheets in practice. If you have kids notate their games in's worth taking a look at them. They are frequently available in the Staple's clearance bin. They are cheaper than notation sheets you buy and are a nice size if you do not have a ton of table space (our scenario). One of the best things about the Post It note approach is the neatness. It's super fast to pass them out, and when you collect them they kind of stick together in one clump so it's easy to keep them organized. I am a convert.


The second resource that I got into this year and loved is:


"Sharpen Your Tactics: 1125 Brilliant Sacrifices, Combinations, and Studies by Anatoly Lein (Author), Boris Archangelsky


I know there are a million puzzle books/resources out there but this one stands out to me as particularly useful. One of the biggest struggles I have with puzzle books is finding books that are the appropriate level for kids, particularly sub 800 rated players. This book implements a "star" difficulty rating system for each puzzle...which is super handy. For homework I was able to assign K-3 players one star problems and K-5 players the one and two star problems. The one star problems are great for sub 600 players...but are good warm ups for stronger players. I haven't seen many collections of puzzles that fit that bill. This collection of puzzles is also fantastic at building pattern recognition. It is not broken into chapters or themes, but smothered mates, removing the guard, and discovered attacks pop up nicely in increasingly complex difficulty. Thanks to the fine folks at Stratton Eyes (your one stop shop for all optical needs...they really do fine work and will take great care of you) who sponsored our tee shirts this year, we had enough money to buy a "class set" of this book. Doing puzzles efficiently is always a struggle with a large group. Having a class set of books is a large investment financially, but it was really helpful to me this season.



May 8, 2017 at 12:13 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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