Chess-Steps has been developed in 1987 by Rob Brunia and Cor van Wijgerden in order to teach children to play chess.
Embraced by the Royal Dutch Chess Federation Chess-Steps became the single most popular method in The Netherlands. It spread throughout Europe and is now available world wide. Chess-Steps is praised as one of the most innovative chess instructional programs in the world.
This step by step method consists of six steps. Each step has a workbook with exercises and summaries for the student and an accompanying manual for the teacher / trainer / parent. The exercises in the workbooks are categorized by subject. A typical page has a title indicating the problem and 12 puzzles diagrammed. The workbooks are very useful for self study as well. The manuals contain complete scripted lessons for the teacher, as well as aids that address the learning stages and development of children. The answers of the workbook exercises can be found after each subject of the manual. The books are written in such a way that the actual level of the teachers chess knowledge is of lesser importance.
Chess-Steps works well in all teaching situations including schools, chess clubs and individual lessons. The step by step approach is an effective teaching tool for all ages.
Chess-Steps is a step by step method for teaching and learning chess. The combination of workbook and manual creates a school like situation. All lessons are structured and contain clear goals. The books cover everything from how the pieces move in Step 1 to important endgame strategies in Step 5 and 6.
Most attention is given to tactics. The strength of Chess-Steps is that it chops all tactics into little building blocks. Solving a chess problem with a subject is significantly easier than a problem without. Not only are all tactics categorized, Chess-Steps offers a search strategy for every subject as well. Students will develop a feeling for tactical positions, a sense for when to be alert and take advantage of badly placed pieces and weaknesses. The cooperation between pieces becomes more important with each Step.
In the first stages of learning chess, positional play is far less important. Games are decided by blunders. Once players have reached a decent level and losing points in one or two moves deep becomes rare, positional play increases in importance. Chess-Steps starts dealing with positional factors in Step 4. The stronger a player becomes the more effective it is to analyze his/her games. The analysis of a game is a great opportunity to address the positional aspects of chess.
Chess-Steps is written for children, but works great for adults as well. It has been developed in a manner appropiate for group teaching. When teaching a group you need more then knowledge about chess. Skills on staying in control of the class, keeping children motivated and your lesson structured are equally important. Chess-Steps believes a professional teacher with hardly any chess knowledge will do better in teaching Step 1 and 2 then a professional chess player without teaching experience. This philosophy lead to the creation of a manual for every Step.
The manual offers a wide variety of support. It contains complete scripted lessons for every subject, making chess knowledge less important. It addresses the goal of the lesson, the needed knowledge prior to the lesson and gives examples to use for demonstration and the answers of the exercises. It also discusses how to handle questions, both chess and didactic related.
For chess trainers without teaching experience articles about the development of children specified for chess are included. It increases the didactic skills of the trainer and addresses learning stages. Chess-Steps offers ideas how to keep the children motivated and how to structure lessons to keep concentration optimal.
The workbooks are filled with exercises. Ideally every student has his/her own workbook (just like school) to work from. This way the trainer can easily follow the student's progress. Students with 3 or more mistakes a page may need extra attention. To solve the problems the student can draw lines (especially in the easy exercises) or notate the moves under the diagrams. For young children, Chess-Steps has introduced two additional books: Stepping Stones 1 and Stepping Stones 2.
Playing a lot of games is very important to improve your chess. When a student only solves chess puzzles, but never plays games, he/she won't be able to implement the learned knowledge into their games. Solving Step 4 problems correctly in your workbook, doesn't do you much good if you still miss Step 1 moves from your opponent. If the level of a student's game doesn't equal the level of solving chess puzzles, it's better to repeat a Step with workbook Extra or train in workbook Plus before proceeding to the next.