Frequently asked questions


How old should my child be to enroll with Common Sense Chess?

Common Sense Chess specializes in working with students ages 7-14, although exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis. The most important requirements are that the student has a desire to learn chess and the maturity to accomplish that goal.

Can my child join at any time, or do we have to wait for the next registration cycle?

We are happy to accept registrations at any time! Our small groups are flexibly constructed, and able to accommodate new children easily. Private lessons are also quick to begin!

Does my family have to commit to working with Common Sense Chess for a certain length of time?

CSC has no formal "commitment" requirements. However, we do request that students looking to sign up for small groups plan to stay with their group for at least three months, due to the difficulty of planning and organizing these groups based on age, skill, and personality. While we have never codified this into policy, this does improve our ability to serve both your child and the children with whom they will be interacting.

Is there a free trial period for Common Sense Chess?

Yes! We offer a free first lesson to every new student. Our first step for every new student is to offer an evaluation lesson of approximately 45 minutes, where new students can meet their coach, establish a relationship, and determine if they'd like to sign up to work with them. This also gives us a chance to ensure we are offering the best advice to parents about what small groups may be appropriate for their child, or plan a course of study for private lessons. In cases where the child already has a specific group in mind (having been recruited by a friend, for example), they might just jump into the group for an hour instead and then see how they feel about continuing. In all cases, CSC strives to ensure that every new student meets with success, and is placed in an optimal learning environment for their unique needs.

Level of Play

My child doesn’t know how to play, but wants to learn. Are they eligible to work with you?

Of course! Many of our students learn chess for the very first time with us, and thoroughly enjoy themselves while they do so.

Does my child need a rating to work with you?

Not at all. Unlike many of our competitors, we neither require nor encourage our students to receive a USCF rating while working with us. Less than 0.25% of the chess playing public possesses a rating, and for most children a rating will be both inaccurate and disheartening. Given that their steady improvement will muddle any attempt to measure their strength through the ELO system, and considering the pernicious effect that being told that they are “only” a rating x can have on a child's formative relationship with both chess and themselves, we actually discourage ratings for most of our students.


How old should my child be to learn chess?

Every child is different, although most children will be ready to begin exploring the game between 3-5 years old. More focused training, however, is usually not helpful until a bit later in their development. If you have a precocious learner on your hands, and would like some help getting them interested in the game, we'd be happy to offer some advice! Common Sense Chess specializes in working with students ages 7-14, although exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis. The most important requirements are that the student has a desire to learn chess and the maturity to accomplish that goal.

How does Common Sense Chess teach?

CSC prides itself on our flexible educational approach, offering a variety of teaching methods to encourage each student to play to their strengths. While every student and group will master the various elements of a good game, each will follow a slightly different path as they explore their talents and build their own, unique relationship with their friends, their coach, and chess itself. Some students will spend a great deal of time studying classic chess games, thrilling to the exploits of the legends who have gone before. Others may find joy in one of the many alternative forms of chess and stake their claim as a “specialist” at one of these variations. Still others may fall in love with mastering the tactics of the game, and delightedly explore the many puzzles and riddles that chess has to offer. And of course, many will simply play their hearts out at every opportunity, developing their practical skills in the most rigorous of all forms of training: challenging their friends and coach, and learning their lessons from each victory and defeat. We know that there is no “one size fits all” answer to education, and take pains to ensure that every child's journey through chess permits them to follow their interests and instincts throughout the class. Our reward is the cheerful enthusiasm of our students, and the growing competence that results from their love of the game.

Do you only teach online?

Due to the outbreak of COVID, all of our classes are held exclusively online. We are currently using Zoom and as our teaching platform, and have found this provides a workable, enjoyable alternative to our previous classrooms. Our educational flexibility has allowed us to adapt fairly seamlessly to the new environment, and expand our footprint far wider than in pre-coronavirus times! As always, our greatest commitment is to our students, and their reviews of our online classes have been glowing as we work to keep them (and us) safe!