My Week In Chess: Advocating for the Adult Beginner

I got a new coach, and I’m making beginner’s chess content for adults!

Hiker at the summit

Back at it this week with my blog. Last weekend was my birthday and I meant to write something up, but time got away from me. Even though I didn’t post an update, it’s been a busy two weeks of chess.

Prioritizing my chess needs

Two weeks ago, I made a hard decision. My chess coach was really nice and we got along, but I had to be honest: I needed more specialized focus. I have been flailing the past couple of months — there was no homework, and I tried to build the routine by myself. I had to admit I needed more structure because I’m new, I don’t know what I’m doing.

It’s interesting learning this game as an adult, but 99.9% of players learn as kids, including my coach. I need to understand why, I need to go deep to do that. Things don’t click for me until I hear things for 3rd, or even 4th time. Sometimes I’m slow to understand but once it cements in my brain, I’m good.

However, all the information I had been coming up against was so…simplistic. Generalized. Even my coach, who meant well and didn’t want me to get overwhelmed by chess theory, it felt like I was inadvertently being taught content in a child-like way. I don’t think that’s his fault or anything, it seemed like he was trying to teach me the same way he learned. Chess is more often than not taught to children, that’s how it goes. I don’t think it needs to stay that way though. If I came into this game from Queen’s Gambit, imagine how many other people did too.

Here’s an example, the classic mental checklist before you make a move. I hear this from other players as a new player, and to be honest, it drives me crazy.

As a player, you’re looking for:

  • checks
  • captures
  • threats

This list is too open-ended for me. It doesn’t give me anywhere to focus. It actually just overwhelms me because when there’s lots of pieces on the board, that just becomes too many options. I understand why this exists but this is essentially useless for me as an adult. As a kid, it is easy to memorize, and gives them something to work with. With my coach, we just kept reviewing this checklist every week, but it honestly felt like I was running into a brick wall.

I got a little sidetracked with my tangent.

My coach and I parted ways. I definitely learned a lot with my first coach, and I’m grateful for that. I got a new coach who has worked with adults at my level — what a big difference this has been.

Previously, I was meeting once a week with no regular homework, now I have twice a week lessons. He gives me homework that has nudged me back into more regular, daily 100 days of chess posts on twitter (I’m at day 60). It’s definitely helped me get back into the groove of daily chess study, and having to prioritize that in my life.

I admit the last couple of weeks prior to getting back into daily chess study, it’s been too easy to slack a bit, hang out with other chesspunks on twitter, doing my weekly chess chat on twitter spaces. I really love the online chess community.

The tournament is only 4 months away and there’s a lot of work to be done. I’m not looking to win or anything, either, but I want to do the best I can. That means upping the ante to prepare and getting serious.

Making My Dream Course — On Deadline

On Friday, I had a great idea for a course, and tagged Chessable in it.

I got great responses from folks who were interested (or who enabled me) to make this course. 34 likes! That’s wild. Then Chessable put the final nail in the coffin by reminding me about their Create Your Own Course contest.

The caveat is that the deadline for the contest is Monday. By Friday evening, I decided to just go for it. Because, why not?

Worst case, it’s not accepted and I got to make progress on building the adult beginner’s course I wish I had. If beginners aren’t out there, making content, how are other beginners going to know there’s content out there for them?

I didn’t have anything major planned this weekend, anyways. On Saturday, I started a thread where I post my updates here.

Of course, now it’s Sunday, and I have less than 24 hours. Luckily, Chessable has made it clear that it doesn’t have to be perfect and polished. I’m not thinking I’ll win the contest or anything, but I’d consider it a win if they wanted to work with me on it further. If I can show them what I can do in two days, imagine if I had more time! I’m excited to add “chess course creator” to my resume either way.

So, yeah! That’s been the big stuff with regards to chess. I’ve been working on some other chess things behind the scenes that I can’t quite share yet, but I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

Jessi is a UX Designer at DIA Design Guild. She lives in Los Angeles and can be found on twitter @jessishakarian.