If you, like me, are a small child living in a house with a chess set, you'll know that nothing delights your parents more than your showing an interest in the game. What follows is a synthesis of all I've learned about chess, which I hope you, like me, find to be a great way to expand your mind, bond with your family, and delay the specter of your inevitable upcoming bedtime.

The Pieces

NO ONE must touch the pieces but you. This is a fairly simple point, so WHY do I find myself explaining it AGAIN and AGAIN?

Now that that’s out of the way: the queens and the kings are married. White and black pieces MUST NOT be allowed to co-marry or fraternize, no matter how uncomfortable this fact makes your parents.

The queen travels around the board very fast, knocking over the other pieces, sometimes singing “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen.

The king never moves, and speaks only ever to say one word: “poopoo.” He’s a very funny part of chess, very witty and celebrated.

Horsies gallop erratically, neighing and whinnying VERY loudly. Remember: it’s not chess if there aren’t lots of loud horse sounds.

The pawns are the babies. To put them in the yogurt is to end the game abruptly and to be taken to bed immediately. And yet, in the yogurt is where they must go… One of the delightful contradictions of chess!

The castles can (and must) be stacked.

Setting Up the Board

Don’t even bother setting up the board until about 20 minutes to bedtime. Attitude is key. If you respond to all questions with a kneejerk “NO,” you know you’re in your chess zone.

White pieces go on white squares, black pieces go on black squares. This is always the case, except sometimes. Don’t let naysayers question your whims—chess has only one arbiter and that is YOU.

The Play

The movement of chess pieces is unpredictable. Like the weather, like bath-time, like when you can or can’t eat a muffin: there is no order, only chaos.

The pawns need to visit the Turtle Conservatory, which is located in various crannies around the house. You know you’re playing chess correctly if you end up with one fewer pieces than when you started.


The key to winning at chess is to extend the game well past bedtime. As I always say, if you’re waking, you’re winning. Here’s one simple strategy for beginners:

The Midgame Horsies Gambit

The horsies gallop off the board, into the barn in the living room. This has a decentralizing effect on your opponent that can be helpful in delaying bedtime efforts.

In order to maintain momentum, one of the horsies could develop a tummyache. Maybe you use your new stethoscope to take his temperature? Maybe give him some medicine?

Later some of your stuffed animals could join in for a picnic with cake and ice cream and spaghetti. Why don’t you get out your crayons and draw some flowers? It’s literally ALL chess!

Remember these tips and before long you might just become the next tiny Garry Kasparov—I hear that guy never went to sleep.