Learning Chess Through History

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    Learning Chess Through History

    November 3, 2017

    This is addressed to those who have taught chess to youngsters: what do you think about a chess instruction course in which the history of the game is taught in depth?

    I ask this because there is a new book out in which just that is attempted.

    The book is:

    Great Moves: Learning Chess Through History
    By FM Sunil Weeramantry, Alan Abrams and Robert McLellan
    Published 2017 by the Mongoose Press
    371 pages

    From the introductory Note to Teachers and Parents

    Great Moves Learning Chess Through History is the first course book designed to teach students how to improve and excel at chess while set against the backdrop of the game’s illustrious history.

    The benefits of teaching chess to children go far beyond their time spent in front of a chessboard. Chess has been proven to cultivate and sharpen study and life skills. Through chess, students hone their critical thinking, deductive reasoning and strategic planning aptitudes. Chess improves focus and teaches children to stay on task. Parents and teachers have increasingly recognized that, as students gain confidence and become inspired by chess, they carry their newfound skills over to other disciplines, be it math and science or literature and the arts.

    In Great Moves, children trace the history of chess through the palaces and cafes of London, Paris and New Orleans and through such historical periods as the Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment and the American Civil War. Throughout their journey they are introduced to diverse cultures and geography and learn new vocabulary. The authors take a synoptic approach to the general history sections, which provide context to the development of chess and will, we hope, spark a curiosity so students are inspired to study each era in greater detail. The chess players and chess instruction receive more in-depth attention.
    This book will work best with students who read at a minimum fifth-grade level. It is designed for those who already know how the pieces move and understand the concept of checkmate. The level of instruction increases in complexity as the student progresses through the book.

    Great Moves: Learning Chess Through History has been reviewed by a panel of educators to ensure it is aligned with state standards around the country for English language arts and literacy in history and social studies it has also been field-tested in public and private schools, both as part of the core curriculum and in after-school programs.”

    For lesson plans and additional resources visit


    Sunil is well-known in chess education and is perhaps better-known as the stepfather of GM Hikaru Nakamura. He is the author, with Ed Eusebi, of Best Lessons of a Chess Coach, 1993.

    The book is workbook-sized in five Parts with comprehension questions at the end of each section.

    Quite frankly, I think that if the average adult player of today were quizzed on some of the historical writers and players presented, they would have a hard time of it.

    The contents of Part I: Chess: Origins and Development:

    The First 2000 Years of Chess
    The Beginning of Modern Chess: Luis Ramirez de Lucena
    Pedro Damiano: The Giuoco Piano
    Ruy Lopez de Segura
    The Fork
    Pins and Skewers
    Combining the Tactics
    The Battery
    The Italian Era: Giovanni Leonardo da Cutri and Paolo Boi
    The King’s Leap/Castling
    En Passant
    Giulio Cesare Polerio/The Fegatello Attack
    Scholar’s Mate
    Finding Checkmate
    Possible Outcomes of a Chess Game
    Checkmate or Stalemate?
    Checkmating the Lone King: Pattern Recognition in the Endgame
    Gioacchino Greco
    Discovered Attacks
    Removing the Guard
    King Safety

    Part II. Dawn of the Modern Era

    Part III. Chess Competition Turns International

    Part IV. The Romantic Era

    Part V. The First American Genius


    There are colour diagrams and illustrations throughout. It is a bit pricey at about 40 CAD.

    Certainly, a curriculum such as this would be standard in something like the Kasparov School. That it could be taught now all around the USA is quite surprising to me. Too ambitious?

    I would be interested in what ChessTalk members think.
    Last edited by Wayne Komer; Saturday, 4th November, 2017, 12:01 AM.