Introduction: At MATCH, we believe that complex skills are more easily learned by breaking them down and studying the component skills in depth. However, traditional drills can be, well, a little boring. So we use mini-games like Domination to make them fun and engaging so students actually want to play them. All the while, we know they are focusing on developing specific skills without having to simultaneously process the complexities of a full game.
Domination is actually a game about queens, not pawns. The pawns act like queens because they control all the ranks, files and diagonals on which they stand. We only use pawns to play because chess sets do not come with eight queens. By playing Domination, players quickly learn to see the lines of force emanating from the queens (represented by pawns), so they learn to see how powerful queens are. One important way to “hide” from queens is to stand a knight’s move away. Since queens do not move like knights, a player standing an L-shape away will not be in any danger (Don’t tell your students this, let them discover it for themselves. Of course, you can guide them to this discovery during post activity discussion). Hence, when playing Domination, players reinforce how both pieces move.
In this clip from the video-based teacher training files of our curriculum, GM Maurice Ashley provides chess teachers with detailed instructions on how this skill builder is played.
Materials: Student boards and sets, Chess clocks (optional)
Directions: Each player gets 8 pawns. Take turns starting first. Players take turns putting pawns on the board. The only restriction is that a player may not place a pawn on the same file, rank or diagonal as an opponent’s pawn. The game ends when a player is unable to place a pawn on any legal square. If both players exhaust all eight pawns, the game ends in a draw.
Variation 1– The ‘nice way’: If a player makes an illegal move, the opponent allows them to take the move back.
Variation 2-The ‘mean way’: If a player makes an illegal move, they lose the game immediately. If you play it up, kids love to hear about the ‘mean way’. It’s sounds just naughty enough to intrigue and motivate them to learn the variation 1 well enough to try it.
Variation 3-Add a time limit: As students become more adept, you can decrease the time control for extra challenge and excitement.