Here are the books:
This is the third system I recommend. There are 9+1 books. 3 books each level: build, boost, and evolve. The 1 extra book is level 1 test. According to the Introduction, the books are for 1500, 1800, and 2100 level players. They are for advanced players. This is also the natural extension of Steps course. One could try this after s/he finishes at least Step 4.
Here are the books:
ChessOK apps cover all phases of chess education, from beginners to master players.
There are also two series, one about world champions and another one about tactics in specific opening.
Other than Steps, ChessOK is the second system I recommend. I discovered the ChessOK in 2006, when I read the book "Rapid Chess Improvement". The book is talking about an adult player, who trains himself to improve from 1321 to 2041 in two years, with the help of the software named "CT*Art". No coach, just repeating and strenuous training. That's sounds interesting. As an adult player, if I could improve without any coach, it's a very attractive proposal. I started the research and found out ChessOK is the publisher of CT*Art. Not only they published the CT*Art, they also published a series of software. It's a great treasure chest. I started to buy their software for me and for my daughter.
We started with Chess Tactics for Beginners, which is geared for students from 300 to 1000. Then we worked on Chess School (no longer available), Chess Tactics for Intermediate Players, and CT*Art. I myself had done the CT*Art for 3 times. I never tried the Seven Circles recommended in the book. In my mind, it's close to insane and very unlikely we could execute it. We also did several other software from ChessOK, mating, endgames, studies, opening lab, and etc.
Nowadays, all software have their app version. ChessOK (aka ChessKing or ChessQueen) has published more than 40 chess apps. They are also offered as subscription: https://learn.chessking.com/learning/purchases/subscriptions-info
You can find the full list at ChessOK.com or ChessKing.com. There are apps for every level, from beginners (mate in 1) to expert players (2400). If you are interested, you could read the following article about how to train an IM with ChessOK software: https://chessok.com/?p=21207
I didn't improve 700 in 2 years, but I went from 1326 to 2034 in 11 years.
Steps literally means you learn chess step by step. It was developed in 1987 by Rob Brunia and Cor van Wijgerden in order to teach children to play chess. Embraced by the Royal Dutch Chess Federation Chess-Steps became the single most popular method in The Netherlands. It spread throughout Europe and is now available world wide, including the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Chess-Steps is praised as one of the most innovative chess instructional programs in the world.
I have studied many curriculum before I settled on to the Steps method. My research guideline is:
There are two official website, the Netherlands one:
and the USA one:
The whole system is like this:
There are 4 workbooks per Step. I am using basic, extra, and plus workbooks. Each workbook is of 56 pages, containing about 600 problems. So after each Step (about a year), a student should have done at least 1000 problems as homework, or as much as 1800 problems (excluding the Mix workbook). It's very good for the student to build a solid foundation.
For marketing purpose (to sell more books), some rating suggestion are published like these.
From my own teaching experience in the last 5 years, it's more close to the following:
Stepping Stone: for K-1 (age 5-6) total beginners
Step 1: suggested USCF rating < 300
Step 2: suggested USCF rating: 300 - 800
Step 3: suggested USCF rating: 700 - 1200
Step 4: suggested USCF rating: 1000 - 1500
Step 5: suggested USCF rating: 1250 - 1750
After 3 or 4 years of training with proper tournament play, our students should reach the advanced/club player level (USCF class C, 1400-1600). The best students can definitely achieve more and faster.
There are some articles about Steps method:
After 13 years as a chess parent and a chess coach, I have accumulated some knowledge about training systems or curriculum. Among them I really recommend the following 3 for anyone under 2200.
1. Steps Methods. This is the curriculum I am using for anyone who is total beginner to advanced player with USCF rating around 1800. It's much better than other curriculum in the market.
2. Artur Yusupov's 9-book series, in 3 levels, each having build, boost, and evolution. This is the material for any advanced player with rating above 1500.
3. ChessOK software. I recommend almost all the software ChessOK published. This is the material I used to train myself.
I will go over each system in details next week.
Grandparents might buy a chess set from toy stores and give it to your child as a holiday gift. This might be the first seed that ignites your child's interest in chess. But such a set is rarely good for the long run. Here are couple of reasons:
1. Sets from toy stores are usually smaller in size. Some pieces are difficult to distinguish, for example Bishop and pawn, King and Queen and etc. Because they are small, it's very easy to lose a piece.
2. Sets from toy stores are often colorful, which is not good for eyes, if your child plays for long hours.
3. When your child goes to a class or goes to a tournament, the sets will be bigger. It's much better to let him/her practice with normal size set at home. Being familiar with the sets is a very small advantage. That's why USCF rule lets black side have the right to choose equipment.
For normal size sets, the board is 20" x 20", with King at least 3.75" tall.
Usually I suggest green board, no colorful piece, black/white or black/yellow. A set at wholesalechess is quite cheap, a little above $10. If you want to support my blog, you could order through the wholesalechess picture on the right side, or click the picture below.
As I said before, chess is a 10-year project. Thinking about your child's school education, how many teachers s/he has? When s/he grows up, s/he will have many many different teachers. It's same for chess. There should be proper teacher for proper time period. So answer to this question is you should and you would.
When your kid just starts, the teacher should be able to interact with kids, and stimulate their interests. Any after-school chess clubs or library lessons should be fine. At this moment, teachers' chess skill is not important. It's more about environment and companions.
When s/he gets interested in chess and wants to learn more, it's the time to find a teacher who can help build up his/her foundation well. Proper training at this stage is important for the long run. If you just skim on it, your child will know a lot of chess terms, or knowledge, but won't be able to use them. It will be very disappointed when they get defeated again and again in tournaments. A lot of exercises is required. There is no shortcut. We, chess schools, actually help provide that kind of training. Our Steps curriculum are requiring students to go over thousands of tactics training step by step.
After s/he gets more mature, and comfortable with tournaments, usually it's after 3, or 4 years of basic training, s/he will need more professional, specialized training. At this moment, s/he will need a coach at IM/GM level. Most times the lesson will be private, specially for him/her. Even at this stage, you may want to change coach once in a while, maybe a year, maybe two years, because different coaches are strong in different areas.
So overall, your child may have 5 or more coaches in his/her long chess growth period.
When we discuss how to find your coach, there was a problem for parents, how can I tell what is the skill level of my coach? Usually a tournament rating should reflect your coach's level, for example, USCF rating. If your coach only boasts about his/her online rating, be aware!
How to look up your coach's rating? You need your coach's name. Go to
Enter your coach's last name and first name, for example (me):
There might be couple of them. Choose the right state. Usually that will be the correct one.
This is the way to find out your coach's rating, in fact, anyone's rating. My rule of thumb is: your coach's rating should be 500 above your child's rating. That's why 1500 is the graduation level under my teaching. It's not that I can't guide anyone above 1500, but rather the student could gain more from an IM/GM coach at that level.
If your coach doesn't have any rating history in USCF, either he/she has retired from chess long time ago, and no longer playing in tournaments, or he/she never had a chance playing in US. You have to evaluate him/her by his students' performance and other parents' recommendations.
If your coach is outside US, you could look up his/her FIDE rating too.
Rating is not everything. Coaching also includes teaching style, curriculum, chemistry with your child, responsiveness outside the class, and whether he/she cares about your child. But rating is an important hard number no one can fake.
When you are new in chess, you know nothing. Your kids need to learn from someone (other than you if you know how to play), and s/he also needs some companions, so it's better sign him/her up for some chess class. But where can we find them?
If you are beginners, you should always look locally first. Face-to-face lessons will provide your kid much more interest and motivation to improve. S/he also practices against a real person. In the end, s/he will play in tournaments, i.e., play against real people. You can ask other parents, ask your school. Sometime your school offers after-school chess club. Look out for those activity announcement (usually gets home as a sheet of paper), and sign up early. Many times chess classes are hot to in elementary schools.
If you don't have after-school chess club at your school, you can ask your local libraries. Or you search online, typing in chess classes, chess school, chess academy, chess club, or anything similar. Google will give you some clues. Then call them or email them. A mature chess school should have a website.
If you can't find anything, you can talk to PTA and organize an after-school chess club by yourself. You can teach yourself chess as an adult, and teach the kids. The book "Learning chess: Step 1" manual is a good starting point. Every year we give away this book at our "All-Girls Chess Camp", and wish they could learn chess by themselves after the camp.
Or you can ask online, such as in our WeChat groups for chess parents.
According to the Russian School of Chess: endgame is the most important part of chess, and should be studied as the first subject. The Chinese School of Chess, endgame is considered no less important than the ultra-sanctuary openings.
When we watch beginners play games. Most games end up in checkmate in middle games. But still some end up as one side has a queen or two rooks and another side has a lonely king, the winning side can't make the kill. They move round and round, but have to shake hands in the end. It's very sad to see such a scene.
Not only beginners have difficulty with endgames, but also masters sometimes do. We had the famous game that a WGM could not find a checkmate in NB endgame.
Improving your endgames will greatly improve your winning rate. At 2000 level, at least half of the games end up in endgames. If you could win half of them, your winning rate will at least double.
In this summer, I will teach "Introduction to Endgame" course online. Details can be found at http://www.chessstepsonlinelessons.com/