Today I will describe a lesson I often teach to beginners in either chess camps or individual lessons. This would be for children who know the rules of chess but are still learning the basic principles of strategy, such as develop pieces, keep the king safe, and control the center.

In this lesson they learn not to make a basic mistake on the second move, but they also learn how to punish this mistake if an opponent plays in such a way. Additionally, it reinforces the basic strategic principles, and introduces the idea of "sacrifice".

I start out like this:

After playing these well-known moves on a demonstration board (or chess board, if it is an indivdual lesson) I then ask, "what does White threaten?" Most kids will quickly realize that White is threatening to take the e5 pawn. It may be necessary to rephrase the question "if White could move again, what would he do?" Some children will first become introduced to the concept of "threat" and "defense" by this lesson.

I then ask, "ok, how can Black deal with this threat?" Now kids will start suggesting a lot of moves: 2...Nc6, 2...d6, 2...Qe7, 2...Qf6, 2...f6. All of these moves directly defend the pawn; i.e. if White now takes the pawn with the knight, he will lose the knight.

As the children start suggesting moves like Qf6, f6, or Qe7, be sure to remind them about one of the main goals in the beginning of a game - to develop the pieces. Ask them if these moves develop the pieces. Point out that Qf6 blocks the black knight from the f6 square, and Qe7 blocks in the bishop on f8 (2...Qe7 is actually a playable move, since Black will develop the bishop in another way, but the followup requires delicate treatment. For didactic purposes it is best to just point out its flaws).

When moves like 2...Nc6 and 2...d6 are suggested, simply point out that they are good moves because they both help to develop the pieces. Also, you can introduce the concept of "defense by counterattack" - 2...Nf6 - if you feel the children are ready. Remember, throughout the lesson (and any chess lesson, for that matter) do not *tell *the children moves. *Lead *them to the moves. So, you can ask "instead of defending the pawn, could you attack something of White's? What move would do that?"

Finally, return to the move 2...f6. By now the children will realize that it is a poor move, which does not develop a piece, blocks the f6 square from the knight, and in general is not the most economical defense.

So now you can ask "if someone plays this move against you, what would you do?" Many moves might be suggested. If good moves such as 3.Bc4 or 3.d4 are suggested, praise those moves (for example, point out that 3.Bc4 prevents future castling by black, and note that this is another defect of the move 2...f6). But tell the kids that there is another, better move, which might be surprising.

Sometimes, a kid will suggest the best move, 3.Nxe5! Sometimes you may have to just show them this move, while pointing out that it opens the path for the queen to give a check on h5.

This move is a "sacrifice". If Black does not take the knight, he will be left down a pawn with a bad position. Here is how it might develop:

Here are some notes on doing this lesson:

* Let the children find *every *move. Don't just tell them the right move. If they have trouble, give closer and closer hints. But don't just show them the moves, or they will lose interest.

* Do not bother with the 6...d5 variation. The win for White after that move is too complicated for beginners. After 6.Bc4+, simply ask what legal moves Black has. They will say 6...d5 or 6...Kg6. After 6...d5, point out that after White takes the pawn, Black will have to move the king to g6 anyway. And move on to the immediate 6...Kg6.

* The critical move is 9.h4. Let the children find this move. You should give hints like "the queen and bishop did alot by themselves, but to win a game you need to use a combination of pieces. How could you get another piece into the attack?" They might suggest 9.Nc3. Point out that Black can then try to trade queens by 9...Qf6. Don't worry that Black is totally lost anyway; the best move is 9.h4 and the kids should find it. Also maybe hint that White needs to destroy Black's defenses. Usually some kid will come up with 9.h4 before long.

* After 9.h4 there are many possible ways for Black to play, but they all lose very quickly after 10.hxg5+ or 10.Bxg5+. Let them try a few defenses and find the way to a win.

At the end of the lesson, you can ask the children, "so why did Black lose so badly in this game?" Good answers are "they didn't develop their pieces", and "they didn't keep their king safe." Be sure to point out that it is very dangerous to move the "f" pawn early in the game, because this exposes the king on the diagonals.

With this lesson, besides learning about basic opening principles and how to punish a violation of these principles, the kids should also learn about attack and defense, sacrifice, forks (in the 4...g6 5.Qxe5+ sub-variation), discovered checks (8.d4+) and using pawn breaks to open files (9.h4). All in one easily-explained lesson with concrete variations!

Have fun teaching the royal game to kids!