Thursday, September 2, 2010

Winning Chess Puzzles for Kids volume 2

I just got Jeff Coakley's newest book, Winning Chess Puzzles for Kids vol 2 (aka the orange book -- compare to the green book, the blue book, and the red book). I've written before about how much I love Coakley's work here and here, and with time my feelings have only deepened.

I was having a conversation with someone many years ago about the pricing of the New York Times Sunday paper, and my friend was saying it was so thick and brought him so much reading pleasure, that he would spend $10-15 dollars on it, if that's what it cost. Coakley's green book, I would probably pay $500 for it, if I had to. Theoretical, obv, but it's saved my life so many times as a chess teacher, it's really a gold mine.
The orange book is a sequel to the red book, with tactics sheets and checkmate problems mixed in with some more unusual types of puzzles. I don't want to repeat myself, so I refer you to my earlier blog post for some preliminary thoughts on some of Jeff's original problems, and why I find them so instructive.

Actually, I will just repeat myself slightly to remind you of the two types of puzzles I love the most: double whammys, which teach the exact beginning thinking method of checkmate planning: "I go there, and then I go there, and that's checkmate!", and switcheroos, which maybe aren't so instructive but are usually very amusing. Because I mention them in the earlier post, I give you two new ones that are more difficult than what I would use in the classroom.
double whammy: White makes two moves in a row to checkmate black. The first move may not be check. Either move may be a capture. Black does not get a turn.

switcheroo: Switch two pieces so that the black king stands in checkmate. Any two pieces can trade places. Colors do not matter. the resulting positon must be legal. No fair putting pawns on the first or last rank or placing both kings in check.

A couple general observations about Coakley's work:
  • Jeff is quite a strong player, 2210 FIDE, and an experienced coach, so the chess in his books is generally both correct and relevant. (Lots of books have beautiful examples of things that never happen in kids' games.) This latest is a little more whimsical, but even the more fantastical problems tend to have some instructional value.
  • The material gets slowly harder, so you can trust that the problems on the first few mate in 1 sheets are very do-able for the whole class, but that the later ones are tricky. Authors don't always take the time to order problems correctly, and that's frustrating when you give a homework without looking at it closely and only realize that night that half the problems are insanely hard.
  • Positions are frequently grouped on the worksheets by similarity, which saves you precious setting-up time at the demo board. Some of the tactics problems ask a student to find 4 or 5 forks, which is obviously uber-efficient.
Two new things I love:
  • 20 "checkology" sheets: nine problems, of which the first three are mate in 1, the next there mate in 2 and the last 3 mate in three. These are very useful for classroom teaching because kids are rarely all at the same ability level, and these are homeworks you can give to a large group: everyone can do something and everyone gets a challenge.
  • Lily's Puzzlers are problems that ask kids to think about chess in new, creative ways. Some are paper and pencil problems, like switcheroos or double whammys, (I'll remind you what they are below), and that's great, but the rest of them are fun, hands-on exploratory activities that students can do in a class period with a partner and a chess set! Some examples:
  1. (pg 9): Hi BOYS AND GIRLS!!
    Here's a rook puzzle to keep you busy. Don't forget, a piece does not attack the square that it stands on, which means a second rook will have to attack any occupied squares. Good luck! Place 8 rooks on the board so that...

    A. every square is attacked except the four in the center (d4, d5, e4, e5)
    B. every square is attacked except the four corners (a1, a8, h1, h8)
    C. every square is attacked except c3, c6, f3, f6.
    D. the fewest squares are attacked.
  2. (p159):
    Here is another Sam Loyd puzzle. It's a real stumper.

Cut the board into four identical parts so that each part has one knight on it. (The kings should not be there. I had to add them in order to make the diagram in chessbase--EV) You don't need scissors. Just draw lines on the board to show the "cuts." The board must be split into four parts that are all exactly the same size and shape. Plus, there has to be exactly one knight on each of the 4 parts. Good luck!
3. (p. 131)Did you ever notice how chess pieces sometimes get in each other's way? In this puzzler, the eight bishops have just eleven moves to get from A to B. Twelve moves is easy. but I think you will find 11 a real challenge.
Starting in the position above, make 11 moves (6 white 5 black) to reach the position below.

The book also has word searches (silly, I know, but kids love them), 17 pre-made tactics mini-lessons (aka Combo Mombo), math puzzles, helpmates, triple loyds, retrograde puzzles, mazes, puzzles where you move pieces to create mates, place pieces to create mates, maximize square control, and checkmate problems that work from all four 90 degree degree rotations of the chess board (and involve pawns!).

It's really a treasure trove of instruction and fun. If you are a chess teacher or the parent of a kid rated between 100 and 1600, you are insane not to buy it.

6 comments:

anjiaoshi said...

The Loyd puzzle is going to have to involve the board's being cut into spirals somehow. Note that the problem doesn't specify that the knight is in the same place on each cutout.

Polly said...

I guess we'll have to buy the book if we want the answers. I got the first one, but the knight puzzle has me totally stumped.

Bill Brock said...

And 64/4 = 16.

There are four center squares, and four corner squares. One can find the solution by numbering the four center squares "1, 2, 3, 4" and looking for "moves" that obey both symmetry & Loyd's criteria.

Bill Brock said...

It's worth the trouble, Polly! I couldn't visualize it, so I used a legal pad.

Elizabeth Vicary said...

I'm not going to post the answers just yet, because I'd like to use it in class, but I will in 2 weeks. Email me if you're dying to know.

chesstiger said...

As a chess teacher i immediatly order the four books at amazon.com .

Thanks for bringing them to my attention.