It's true! Study after study has proven that chess playing improves critical thinking skills and academic achievement. In fact, chess is a required part of elementary curriculum in thirty countries. Former U.S. Secretary of Education Terrence Bell, known for rallying against mediocrity, even encourages parents to teach chess to their preschoolers. Whether your kids are new to chess or need encouragement to stay with it, the following sites are sure to help.
Two homeschooled brothers (both Oregon state chess champions) created this award-winning ThinkQuest Jr. site in 1999. If you are a beginner, start with their How to Play section, and then proceed to Basic Strategies. If you are already playing chess, take a look at Advanced Tactics, Opening Book, and the twelve Chess Puzzles. If you are considering entering a tournament, and are wondering just what to expect, be sure to read Tournament Play for an explanation of chess etiquette and the difference between Quads and Swiss tournaments.
ChessKIDS Academy is my pick of the day for parents, educators and students interested in chess for beginners. Kids enroll in the virtual academy by simply entering their name (real or otherwise) and then viewing the slide show chess instructions, and playing the online games, which include two versions of chess as well as other strategy games such Battleship and Tetris. Teachers will find resources to help them start a school chess club, and parents will find recommendations on chess software and books. A site with something for everyone!
Although it is not free, the Internet Chess Club is the premier place to play real-time interactive chess online. What makes them so good? In their own words: "We've been around longer, have more features, more tournaments, more learning opportunities, more computerized opponents, more anti-cheating features, more titled players, more customer service, and more fun than anywhere else." They offer one-week free trial and after that the cost for students is $24.50 per year. My son was a member for years, and (don't tell) but I'll be renewing his lapsed membership as a holiday gift this season.
"An hour to learn, a lifetime to master." Learn2 is a nicely organized introduction to chess. In just eight steps, the tutorial takes you from setting up the board to checkmate. If you want to print the tutorial, skip to the last step and click on "All steps at once." Now with a single print command, you'll get all eight steps. Learn2 hosts hundreds of other tutorials as well. From the chess page, you'll find links to the checkers and poker tutorials. A drop-down directory of other "2torial" topics is in the upper right-hand corner of each page.
Playsite is a free Java-based gaming site, and hosts hundreds of simultaneous chess games in lobbies that are divided into Beginner and Advanced; Social and Competitive. You can play as a guest, but registered users (registration is free) can chat and get a Playsite chess rating that increases or decreases with play. Other Playsite games include Scrabble, Monopoly, checkers and backgammon. All the games includes chat, so appropriate parental supervision is recommended.