Beginner Lessons is a series of 10 lessons to teach students the basics of chess from zero knowledge to understanding checkmate.
Using mini-games is a fun, effective, and engaging way to introduce children to chess. The game is taught piece by piece, before learning more complex concepts like check and checkmate. The following lessons were developed by Liam Murray and are complemented by a set of videos and posters by Andrew O’ Sullivan. Check out the Ficheall YouTube channel for more fun chess mini-games.
A chess teacher must first make sure that they have have enough chess sets and a demonstration board. Check out the Chess Resources page for more information on purchasing sets and demo boards.
Social Skills Through Chess
Within the series of 10 lessons you will also find lesson plans and resources to help you, a primary school teacher, to deliver a whole class/group social skills programme. The series of lessons will achieve specific learning objectives of the Social, Health and Personal Education (SPHE) curriculum for students from 1st to 6th class. The lessons achieve this through the use of short activities before and after each chess lesson. For instance, the first lesson (the Pawn) focuses on eye contact to show respect and uses the chess mini-game to practice this in a meaningful way. An short document which provides an overview of the social skills taught and SPHE learning objectives achieved from 1st to 6th class is available to view and download here:
Chess for Social Skills Overview – SPHE Curriculum
The Chess for Social Skills lessons were developed and tested in a real primary school classroom in 2020. The lessons were first released for use by primary school teachers in 2020/2021. Ficheall is keen to hear from teachers with feedback on the lessons. Please use the contact form here to get in touch.
Note: All links will open in a new tab in your internet browser (as PDF’s or YouTube videos) unless otherwise stated. Each lesson requires approximately 60 minutes to complete. Teachers of younger classes or those caught for time may choose to split the lesson into smaller chunks.
Lesson 1 - Respect - The Pawn
Lesson Plan: Lesson Plan 1 – Respect – The Pawn
Lesson Slides: Lesson 1 Slides – Respect – The Pawn
Mini-Game Poster: The Pawn Game – Poster
Piece Demonstration Video: The Pawn Explained
Mini-Game Demonstration Video: The Pawn Game
Lesson 2: Accepting Defeat - The Rook
The second lesson introduces a vital concept to young chess players – accepting defeat. The chess mini-games throughout the series of lessons are short so students experience many opportunities to taste victory and defeat. Students are encouraged to accept both in similar fashion. It is important students recognise that losing is a positive in chess as players who have lost usually played against a better opponent and have something to learn. In terms of chess content, the lesson introduces the rook – a vastly more powerful piece than the pawn.
Lesson Plan: Lesson 2 – Rook Challenge
Lesson Slides: Lesson 2 Slides – Accepting Defeat – The Rook
Mini-Game Poster: Rook Challenge Poster
Piece Demonstration Video: The Rook Explained
Mini-Game Demonstration Video: Rook Challenge
Mini – Game Poster: Rook v 5 Pawns
Bonus Mini-Game for Practice: Rook V 5 Pawns
Lesson 3: Planning Ahead - The Knight (Part 1)
The third lesson challenges students to plan in chess – to think conditionally using “if” and “then”. The chess content introduces the Knight piece – a difficult piece for some students to get used to – before using the Radioactive Horse Poo game to reinforce understanding of the piece. After some practice with the mini-game the board becomes crowded with counters and demands that students begin to think two or three steps ahead or else they become trapped. The forward planning doesn’t always pan out as players expected but a bad plan is better than no plan at all!
Lesson Plan: Lesson 3 – Radioactive Horse Poo
Lesson Slides: Lesson 3 Slides – Planning Ahead – The Knight (Part I)
Piece Demonstration Video: The Knight Explained
Mini-Game Demonstration Video: Radioactive Horse Poo
Mini-Game Poster: Radioactive Horse Poo Poster
Bonus Mini-Games for Practice:
- O Lonely Knight – (mini-game poster here)
- Stuck in the Mud Pawns
- Bull Dog
Lesson 4: Etiquette - The Knight (Part 2)
Lesson 4 begins with a new (non-verbal) method to conduct a whole-class discussion. The three hand signals can be used throughout the week in other discussions also. The teacher is required to act as the discussion moderator or conductor but will result in a better flow of discussion.
Lesson 4 is also used to reinforce the tricky Knight pattern as well as using a mini-game to incorporate all three pieces taught so far. The core message of Lesson 4 is on skills of etiquette – when the game is over the players should take time to honestly reflect on the game, good moves made and where the game was won and lost. This offers opportunities for students to give and receive compliments.
Lesson Plan: Lesson 4 – The Dark Knight Game
Lesson Slides: Lesson 4 Slides – Etiquette – The Knight (Part 2)
Mini-Game Demonstration Video: The Dark Knight Game
Mini-Game Poster: Dark Knight Poster
Numeracy Puzzle: A Knights Tour (coming soon)
Lesson 5: Teamwork - The Bishop
Lesson five focuses on the concept of teamwork. While this may seem odd given the traditionally individual nature of chess, the concept will be explored on the chess board where the Pawns can be shown to play together to overcome supposedly superior opponents. Teamwork is an important aspect of any chess club or group. Indeed, if your school plans to enter Ficheall.ie regional tournaments players will be entered in teams of eight which will encourage them to learn together and share their tricks and strategies with one another.
Lesson Plan: Lesson 5 – Teamwork – The Bishop
Lesson Slides: Lesson 5 Slides – Teamwork – The Bishop
Piece Demonstration Video: The Bishop Explained
Mini-Game Demonstration Video: Bishops’ Rule
Mini-Game Poster: Bishops’ Rule Mini Game Poster
Bonus Mini-Games for Practice:
- Bishop v 3 Pawns
- Chess Without Royalty
Lesson 6: Decision Making - The Queen
Lesson six focuses on the concept of decision-making and no better time to do so alongside the game’s most powerful piece; the piece with so much choice – the Queen! Firstly, students will explore the decisions and choices they make both big and small in their lives. A simple tool to help students make decisions will be introduced – namely the chess points/value system – once students have had a chance to experiment with the focus mini-game. The lesson moves at pace and incorporates a warm-up mini-game for revision, a simple game to practice the Queen’s rules before students have the opportunity to apply the decision-making tool to a mini-game involving all chess pieces except for the King. Finally, students are asked to apply the decision-making tool to their everyday lives.
Lesson Plan: Lesson Plan 6 – Decision-Making – The Queen
Lesson Slides: Lesson 6 Slides – Decision-Making – The Queen
Mini-Game Poster: Team vs Queen Poster
Piece Demonstration Video: The Queen Explained
Mini-Game Demonstration Videos
Chess Without Royalty
Team v’s Queen
Target Chess (coming soon – see lesson slides for explanation)
Lesson 7: Patience - The King
Lesson 7 attacks the concept of patience. While this can initially be thought of as patience in waiting for an opponent to take their turn, the lesson focuses on developing students’ patience with themselves (impulse control). The lesson prompts students to wait and analyse the board; good chess players make a list of possible moves before deciding on the best move. The lesson also teaches students the rules of the King; a piece limited in terms of its mobility but is always the most important piece on the chess board (this will be explained in later lessons).
Lesson Plan: Lesson 7 – Patience – The King
Lesson Slides: Lesson 7 Slides – Patience – The King
Mini-Game Poster: The Hungry King Poster
Piece Demonstration Video: The King Explained
Mini-Game Demonstration Videos:
- Indoor Football
- A Knight’s Kingdom
Bonus Mini-Games for Practice:
- The Hungry King
- A King’s Escort
- Early Chess
Lesson 8: Safe & Unsafe - CPR Method
With all six pieces taught through lessons 1-7 it is now time to understand the rules of how to win a real game of chess. This lesson begins with a discussion on safe and unsafe situations (a common SPHE topic) and links this to chess. This leads to introduction of the rules of check (an attack on the King) before outlining how to save the King using the CPR method. If no CPR options are available then the game is over and checkmate has been achieved!
Lesson Plan: Lesson 8 – Safe & Unsafe – CPR Method
Lesson Slides: Lesson 8 Slides – Safe & Unsafe – CPR Method
Mini-Game Demonstration Videos:
- 3 Check Chess
Lesson 9: Resilience - Checkmate
This lesson begins by extending lesson 8’s CPR method to how students may respond to bullying or personal attacks from others; speak back, have a friend as a shield or move away. In this way students are shown that while chess can teach us how to behave in a positive manner (showing respect, working as a team, appropriate etiquette, etc.) it can also teach us how to react in times of difficulty and adversity; to demonstrate resilience.
The chess lesson further develops students’ understanding of checkmate through mini end-games, chess puzzles and Fast Forward Chess.
Lesson Plan: Lesson 9 –Resilience – Checkmate
Lesson Slides: Lesson 9 Slides – Resilience – Checkmate
- CPR Method
- Queen & Rook v King End-Game
- Rook & Rook v King End-Game
- Example 1: Back-Rank Mate
- Example 2: The Glass Ceiling
- Puzzle 1 – White to move, mate in 1
- Puzzle 2 – White to move, mate in 1
- Puzzle 3 – Black to move, mate in 1
- Puzzle 4 – Black to move, mate in 1
- Puzzle 5 – White to move, mate in 1
- Puzzle 6 – White to move, mate in 1
- Puzzle 7 – White to move, mate in 2
Lesson 10: Practice - Full Chess
Lesson 10 is the final lesson in this series of beginner chess lessons. If students know how all the pieces move and understand checkmate (how to win and lose a game of real chess), then they know how to play chess. Of course the world of chess goes much, much deeper, understanding checkmate is the access point. The level each person achieves in chess is then down to practice, practice and more proper practice.
This chess lesson uses construct-a-checkmate puzzles to conclude the teaching of checkmate before devoting the rest of the lesson to allowing students play (for many students) their first real game of chess for an extended period of time.
Lesson Plan: Lesson 10 – Practice – Real Chess
Lesson Slides: Lesson 10 Slides – Practice – Real Chess
Construct a Checkmate Puzzles:
- Task 1 (see slide 8 in PowerPoint above for solutions)
- Task 2 (see slide 10 in PowerPoint above for solutions)
Lichess.org have excellent interactive lessons on different checkmate patterns here.