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A Word to Parents

At Chess Odyssey, we highly value you--our parents--whose support and encouragement helps our students flourish as they otherwise could not do.  Chess is a difficult, complex game, and the process of becoming a strong chess player is, in many regards, similar to that of becoming an accomplished musician.  It requires persistent practice and dedicated study.  You, as a chess parent, are an enormously important part of that process!

How You Can Help Your Child
There are many ways you can help nurture your child's chess development.  When you signed your child up for chess instruction/coaching, you already made the first step.  Next, realize that you are welcome to attend
Chess Odyssey meetings, camp sessions and/or private sessions yourself, if you can.  The more aware you are of what we're doing and why we're doing it, the more you can support the process at home.  And hopefully chess will become something you and your child share together.  This is one of the game's abiding attractions for families.

Ways To Get Started
Chess is a game of patterns and spatial relationships.  The first purchase you should make is a standard tournament set and board (see our Equipment page for details).  Kids should get accustomed, from the beginning, to the size of pieces and board used in most tournaments, as well as in all Chess Odyssey programs.  

If possible, have your child work on chess puzzles for 15 minutes a day (see our Books page for recommendations).  Good exercises build pattern awareness and tactical proficiency.  This is much like a piano student practicing scales, or a tennis player practicing his/her forehand against a backboard.  Basic tactical competence is the foundation upon which everything else builds.  

Another good guideline is for the student to play one serious game a day.  This can be with another person over the board, or online through a chess server; however, using chess software is the most convenient way (see our Software page for more info).  If you have space for such a setup, place your chessboard and pieces near the computer.  The student will make his/her move on the board first and then on the computer, translating the computer's moves to the board also (the reason for this approach is that a lot of us play better chess and enjoy it more using a tangible set).  Adjust the settings of the program so that the computer is beating the student no more than 2/3 of the time.  When the student has progressed to beating the computer 2/3 of the time, readjust the settings to a more challenging level (once again with the computer winning no more than 2/3 of the time).  This strategy fosters both increasing self-confidence and steady improvement.  Make a habit, also, of saving an electronic or paper record of games for later review.

A third goal for fostering chess improvement in your child is to make competitive opportunities available to them, to whatever degree they show an interest (see Competition).  Your support here, in particular, makes an enormous difference.  Chess is arguably the toughest game there is, and you can do a lot to smooth out a rough tournament experience for your child.  For instance, if your child loses, you have the opportunity to both say and demonstrate to your child that they don't have to prove anything to anyone by delivering a certain number of wins, or always having to be the best.  Like life, when we make mistakes in chess, or are outplayed, we simply do our best to learn from the situation, and move on with determination to do better with the next challenge (see Attitudes).  Your unconditional acceptance and support provide the chassis, the wheels and the fuel for progress that will build a steady self-confidence in your child--undoubtedly serving them well for the rest of their life.  

By assisting the process through which your child becomes a proficient chess player, you are assuring that they will gain a marvelous lifelong hobby--one in which they will never run out of fascinating and fun mental challenges, as well as many other benefits.  Vive l'echecs!

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