21st Annual







Rocky Mountain News

Chess Column


Chess Life for Kids


CSCA Informant




for Kids



Chess Exhibitions



Teaching Chess

in the 21st Century

Chess Workbook

for Children

Chess Strategy Workbook



National Master 





Chess Quotes

Chess Sketches


























      Denver Chess Lessons   



Call National Master Todd Bardwick at 303-770-6696 (wk) for information on:

  • Private chess lessons

  • School chess programs

  • Group chess lessons

  • Chess teacher training

  • Guest chess speaker

  • Simultaneous chess exhibitions

  • Chess camps

  • Career Day speaker

  • Business motivational speaker  

Teaching chess interview (2006) with Fred Wilson

(Click on the link below. It may take a few minutes to download audio player/file.)



Denver and Colorado Chess Teacher referrals:


Contact Todd for a recommendation of a good chess teacher anywhere in Colorado. 


Todd is a nationally recognized by the other top master-level chess teachers in the country as a leader in the fields of chess instruction, education, and journalism. He has over two decades of full-time teaching experience in the classroom, camps, private and group chess lessons, and training other people how to effectively teach the game and is the most experienced chess master teaching in the Rocky Mountain region of the country.  


Todd grew up in Denver and knows most of the Denver chess players and Colorado chess players who give lessons. There are many quality chess instructors in metro Denver and Colorado that he can refer you to for lessons in your area.


Keep in mind that a competent chess teacher with a good reputation will not have to travel very far from home or to a new city in search of new students; his plate will be overflowing where he lives. Any chess teacher who looks for students outside his hometown or moves around the country should raise a red flag that something isn't right. History has shown that these individuals usually run low-quality programs and need to have a constant influx of new students to survive.


There a variety of people willing to give chess lessons across the country (and some know very little about the game!).  


Tips for selecting a chess coach


Here is some guidance on selecting a good chess coach in an article written by Dan Heisman (from Philadelphia), one of the top chess coaches the county. Dan wrote an excellent article on, entitled, "Finding a good Instructor," where he points out, "Keep in mind that there is only a weak relationship between the two skills of being a good player (which requires little or no interpersonal communication skills) and the ability to instruct (which requires excellent communication skills)".


Besides good communication skills, two things that are absolutely required of a top-notch chess teacher - high playing strength and an established system of teaching with proven student success. It takes years of experience to achieve both.


Playing Strength

Except for relative beginners (anyone deciding whether it is time get rated is not a beginner), if you truly want to get good at chess and maximize your time, you really need to look for a highly rated chess coach. A highly rated player has the proof that he has a decent knowledge base of the game to draw from. Of course, someone who can't play chess well has no business charging money to teach kids or adults how to play the can't teach what you don't know...but, amazingly, some people actually attempt to do this!

Some strong chess players are more brilliant and creative geniuses' and some are more methodical and logical. The best coaches I've observed definitely tend to fall on the methodical side (you can't teach genius and most of us aren't geniuses!) and tend to have engineering, computer science, or some other type of technical background. About ten years ago at one of my summer chess camps, one of the parents observed that almost every engineering field was represented on the resume of the instructors...we could probably build anything you would like and could teach chess well too!

Proven Teaching System

Proven teaching success is where looking at the player's coaching resume is key if you are comparing coaches. Years of experience developing an effective, proven, teaching system and learning how to best communicate the information to the student for maximum learning efficiency can't be emphasized enough. Most high rated chess players will tell you they are great teachers - even if they have relatively little experience - check their teaching resume to see if they have actually contributed anything to the field!

A few key questions to ask a prospective coach are:

Has the coach exclusively taught students who won State or National titles?

Is the coach held in high esteem by his peers locally and/or nationally? 

Is the prospective coach desperate to get your business...or is he willing to give other good referrals that may live closer to you? Ask for references. (Keep an eye open to someone claiming to having more experience than they actually have - this happens a lot ...teaching a fellow student way back in high school or teaching little brother 30 years earlier doesn't realistically add 30 years to the teaching experience part of the resume!)

A huge indicator of a person's character is does he embellish his resume to make himself look better...hoping nobody will logically think through the details. Remember you are considering allowing this person into your child's life as a role model.

Especially with the recent boom in popularity of the game, a good chess coach will never have to travel far from (or even leave!) his home to give private lessons as there are plenty of available students living nearby that are willing to come to him - if he is good, his schedule will be pretty well booked with students from his own classes wishing to also take private lessons.

Communication between student (or student's parents) and teacher are important. Realistic expectations from the parent are critical and unrealistic expectations are the most common reason someone looks for a change. If you have a good coach, there usually isn't a good reason to jump from coach to coach. If you are ever considering switching coaches, communicate perceived problems with the existing coach first. In most cases, the coach can put your concerns to rest - of course, he can't read your mind and you may have to ask if you have a concern - and, if the student is progressing naturally, he likely won't be aware of a potential concern. Experienced coaches will agree that jumping the student from coach to coach will often be detrimental to the student.

Speaking of rating expectations, the student's rating jumps do not normally move up in a straight is almost always a stair-step. To get a feel for a normal rating progression, here is an article I wrote back in 2003, entitled, "Observations about Chess Rating Distribution and Progression," that still holds true today and shows how a student's chess skills normally progress.


What to Look for in a Chess Coach:  


  • Make sure there is a large rating differential between the student and the coach.  Beginners are fine learning from Class A, B, C, and D rated players for a while.  Once the student reaches the 1000-1200 rating range, you may want to look for an Expert or Master level teacher in order to keep the chess strength differential high.  Keep in mind, however, that in chess as in any other field, the best players do not necessarily make the best teachers. 

  • Make sure your prospective coach has a track record of success with students in your rating range.  Ask the coach for referrals. 


Chess Coaches for Children: 


When it comes to teaching children, first and foremost you should look for an instructor who is a good role model for your child.  This day and age, it is prudent to screen and do a background check on anyone who is working with children (ALWAYS do background checks on any and all prospective chess teachers who are working for an organization from out of state prior to attending their event).  


Once again, ask for referrals and check out the reputation of the prospective instructor because adult chess players, as a subculture of society, can be quite a bit stranger than the average person you meet in the general public.


Characteristics of Good Chess Teachers  

  • A good chess teacher has a written plan or road map of their teaching philosophy and what areas are most important for the student's progression from beginner to the Expert level (95th percentile of all rated chess players).  Ask the teacher what his plan for your progress is!

  • A good teacher can give you referrals of current and previous students who are in your rating range. 


  • The teacher should focus on teaching the student the game, how to think, and how to correctly evaluate the position and how to come up with the proper strategy.  Chess fundamentals should be the focus.  The best teachers are skilled at getting inside the student’s head, relating to the student, and teaching at the student’s level.  


  • A chess teacher should not focus on giving out tactics problems, but structure the lesson based on a chess theme.  Tactics are an important part of chess, and they will come up naturally in the lesson as a matter of course.  The student can get a good problem book like Combination Challenge (Hays/Hall) or Chess Gems (Sukhin) and solve tactics problems on his own time.  


  • Openings (and opening traps) should not be the focus of the chess instructor's program, especially for students rated under 1200.  Inexperienced chess teachers tend to teach specific opening lines to beginners because they don't know what else to teach. Most of the games of players who are rated under 1400 (Class C), don’t get very far into chess opening book lines, and what the student does learn about openings, tends to be memorization, not chess understanding.  Does it really matter if you have to think on your own after eight moves instead of six? Without a fundamental understanding of the game, opening knowledge won't matter much in the end (especially to the beginner); the student gets little bang for their buck and study time by focusing on different opening variations.


  • Effective chess teachers spend time teaching, not playing against the student or having the student watch the instructor play online. Speaking of teaching online, it is usually much more effective to teach the student face-to-face, in person. Also, it is a good idea not to allow children to play chess online because most sites have a "chat" feature and you don't know who your child is talking too (see warning about chess teachers from out of state below). 




 Chess Class Instruction for Children 


Teaching chess classes requires additional skills than just teaching private students. Not only should the teacher have the traits listed above (good role model, sufficient playing strength, and a proven plan of action), but also be an energetic and exciting speaker, relate well to the class (getting inside many student’s heads simultaneously), keep control of the class, and make chess fun for the students. As a general rule, the higher rated and stronger the chess teacher is as a player, the poorer the social skills and ability to relate to and effectively teach the children in the class. Carefully check out the personality of a chess teacher before hiring him. Strong chess players tend to have social interaction issues and may act in a quite strange manner to normal people. Children quickly identify weird acting adults ... always put good role models in front your students! Your students will learn much more from a normal, average rated player with a more limited knowledge about the game who makes learning fun, than a master, with communication and personality issues who can't effectively relate chess knowledge to young students.


For chess curriculums for teaching school classes, go to


Denver Chess Classes


Todd has trained and helped out many people in the Denver area and across the country who are new to chess to run successful chess programs at their schools.  Give a call if you wish to have some assistance in running a successful chess program.



National Master Dan Heisman of Philadelphia is generally recognized as one of the finest chess coaches in the country. He gives an extensive list of recommended chess books for the student here. From this link on Dan's website, you can click around and find a wealth of information on pretty much anything chess related on his website.

(Both my workbooks, Chess Workbook for Children and Chess Strategy Workbook are on Dan's recommended list.)


BEWARE OF "CHESS TEACHERS" or "CHESS COMPANIES" FROM OUT OF THE REGION OR OUT OF STATE (or ones that move from out of state and establish residency in Colorado):


It is a shame to have to bring this up, but as many of you know, the Colorado Front Range region of the state in the last several years has been plagued by a number of unscrupulous individuals and organizations that have committed various immoral and criminal acts (with prosecutions) passing though the area from other states looking to make a quick buck here by teaching and/or organizing chess activities. The quality of the chess teaching from such entities has also been really, really poor.

Their hope and expectation is that parents won’t check into their background or their chess credentials (teaching resume and rating or lack of rating!) and that their scheme will fly under the radar, away from the established part of the chess community (where it would be quickly exposed).


Aside from the risk of potential criminal activity, individuals and organizations that pop-up from time to time from out of state and attempt to teach chess in Colorado tend to run low-quality programs for several reasons: 


1) The individual running the organization usually has limited chess teaching experience him/herself (often has less than even 5 years of full-time, hands-on, experience or claims that he has more years of full-time teaching experience than he actually has) - often the individual even has no tournament experience himself or even a USCF rating! ; and


2)  The individual (who himself is usually a terrible chess player) attempts to hire anyone he can find willing to teach a chess class (or classes) for him where he makes a large percentage of the tuition. People willing to work for such an arrangement usually have even less chess teaching experience or no experience at all (of course, when hired, these recruited teachers are promised quality training ?but from who?!). 


While this business model usually doesn't last long, unfortunately it really damages the reputation of the chess community as a whole. The chess community is relatively small and word gets around quickly when incompetency appears. Parents DO figure out the teacher doesn't know the game (and often the classroom is often out of control - keeping the kids focused is a teaching skill that is easier said than done and an important skill set for any teacher).


The problem for those running this type of business model is that it is difficult to find a quality chess teacher foolish enough to go in for this type of arrangement since they already have the chess instructional skills and experience to teach on their own and have no reason to pay someone else or ride under their banner for the privilege to teach.


The goal of the person trying to hold chess events who tries to hire other instructors to work for them is nothing more than an attempt to get rich quick by making overrides on another's time. After developing a poor reputation in one city, they usually move on to the next one. Being able to teach a technical subject well requires more than just teaching a few classes here and is a skill that is developed over  time. If by chance a company does manage to successfully recruit someone to work for them, the overall quality usually decreases quickly due to the problems listed above. It is important to remember that quality chess teachers don't work for other people - they work for themselves! Check out these companies (and the particular chess teacher very carefully so you don't end up paying for a high-priced babysitter to watch your kids play chess!


The end result of these situations is the consumer ends up paying a higher price for far less quality then they would by hiring someone who is established locally with more teaching experience and historically with a much better program and reputation. There is a network of Colorado-based instructors who have a proven track record of running solid programs. As with most things, it is better to go for quality, not quantity ?you will be happy you hired a chess teacher who is confident enough in his/her own teaching skills that they work for themselves and not others.


Never pay money to anyone who doesn't have a United States Chess Federation (USCF) Rating rating (or a low USCF rating) for chess lessons of any kind (private lessons, classes, camps). To check out the chess strength (or rating) of a prospective teacher, go to the USCF website and look up the player's rating at this link. If the search on his name doesn't appear in this database, he doesn't have chess tournament experience. Go ahead and hire him as a babysitter - if his background check is acceptable to you - but don't kid yourself into thinking he knows anything about the game. If you need help checking someone out, give me a call and I'm happy to assist you. If a "chess teacher" shows up at your child's school and you can't find his name in this database, notify your Principal who would certainly want to be aware that someone is charging money to the parents of their students to teach something they aren't at all qualified to do. No Principal wants bad programs at their school as that would reflect back on them. (Don't you think your school Principal would want to know if, say, a Spanish teacher only knew how to count to ten and the days of the week in spanish?)

Chess Teachers (or "Chess Companies") who don't volunteer or hide their individual and teacher's names, do it for a very specific reason - they don't want anyone to look them up and expose their lack of skill level and qualifications - chess ability is a measurable skill - look up the name in the USCF database.  Before paying anyone to teach you or your kids chess, look up their rating to see if they even know how to play! Always check out the teacher's resume (if he doesn't have one, run!!). Chess is a complex game - there are many wrong ways to teach it and, unfortunately, some people will prey off you, if you don't check them out first . 

Teaching chess effectively and correctly so that the student doesn't develop bad habits is a very important skill. Children who take lessons or classes from non-rated or low-rated chess teachers are usually far worse off than those who are starting from scratch because the bad habits they are taught are hard to change. I have taught many elementary school children over the years who are better chess players than these supposed hired "chess teachers".  

The bottom line is it is impossible to teach something you don't know and chess knowledge is measurable and easy to check out. In the course of the class or when the students are playing against each other, they will ask questions. A weak chess teacher will answer most of these incorrectly and not be able to quickly and accurately recreate specific chess positions when disputes occur between the students when they are playing - hopefully you won't actually be paying for this bad chess advice!

If you need help checking someone out, give me a call and I'm happy to assist you.


Todd has referred hundreds of students over the years to other quality chess instructors with good teaching skills living in Colorado who are in it for the long haul and teach good local chess programs. Should you have a question pertaining to a particular program in the state, give Todd a call at 303-770-6696. He will be happy to discuss your options.


Colorado and Denver area chess instructors for years have acted respectfully toward each other by not soliciting each other's students. Most coaches are of good moral character and don't try to acquire students of others for themselves should the opportunity arise - unfortunately for everyone involved, exceptions to this rule do occasionally pop up once and a while.




Click here for an article on how a student will normally progress up the rating scale and what realistic expectations should be expected.



Denver Chess Camp and Class Instruction


For group chess instruction in the Denver metro area, click on Denver Chess Academy or Denver Rocky Mountain Chess Camps





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