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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

'Chess: Don't force it on kids'

GM Alexander Khalifman: Don't force kids

Hi Everybody,

A lot of parents force their children to struggle with chess when they child would rather be allowed to simply enjoy the game first.

That's exactly what former World Champion Alexander Khalifman has said in an interview. All chess parents must read it particularly because GM Khalifman has been working with children for a long time now. Here are excerpts from the interview:

Q. As far as I know you’ve got a daughter. Did she ever try playing chess? Would you want her to?
A. No, she didn’t, I think, ever have that desire. Of course, she knows the names of the pieces and how they move, but nothing more. My daughter is more like her mother and the so-called “competitive spirit” is almost absent in her. And to convince her, to force her to do something… I’ve never been a fan of that approach. And my wife isn’t either. A child is also a person, so let her do what she wants to do. All the more so as I see a mass of examples at my school, and it’s not only unrestrained joy. Particularly when you come across cases when they’re trying to make a child into something he doesn’t want to be and will never become. Which is a sad spectacle. It’s one thing not to allow your child to be idle, but quite another to force them to do something they don’t want. Deciding what you like, and what you want to do, should after all be a matter for the young person.

Q. So you consider that if a child is very talented – visible even to the untrained eye – but he doesn’t want to play chess, it’s not worth forcing him?
A. It’s a complex question! To be honest, in practice I’ve never come across a situation where a child is very talented but doesn’t like playing chess. After all if he’s talented he’s winning, and everyone likes to win. It’s only possible in cases where there are some additional factors causing chess to be rejected. As, for example, with the strict father of Gata Kamsky, who forced him to study 14 hours a day. It’s no surprise that Gata lost all desire to continue that regime. However, normally (as far as I can tell from my experience) if a child is capable he finds chess interesting. In my time I’ve asked a lot of people who have already become chess players about their chess childhood, and I haven’t met anyone who ever had to be forced to study chess. If a child’s talented then he beats his peers, he likes it, and he’ll continue to find chess interesting.

You can read the full interview here.

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