Chess Chat: Q&A with Lauren Goodkind, Chess Educator Extraordinaire

I first me Lauren around in the Spring of 2000 as I was an assistant tournament director assigned to help out in the High School room for the CalChess Scholastic Championship. Since then, we’ve crossed paths numerous times at tournaments I worked at in Fremont, California, then at the Sojourner Truth Tournaments in Menlo Park, California and finally at the U.S. Amateur Team West Events. Lauren has always been one of the nicest people you could possibly run into a chess tournament and even back in the day, I always felt she would become a success story through chess. And did she ever!

Now in her mid thirties, Lauren is one of the top chess teachers in Northern California, a rising YouTube star and the author of three popular chess books. So it is my pleasure to present a written interview with Lauren Goodkind as part of a running series I call Chess Chats.

Lauren, Thank you so much for your time today. How old were you when you first learned how to play chess? Who taught you?

I learned the game from my mom when I was about 8 years old. My mom is just a casual chess player so she didn’t know all the rules of chess .  She thought that stalemate was checkmate and she didn’t even know what en passant was.   At this time, chess was just like  any other board game, such as checkers and Monopoly.  A long time ago, I remembered that I “checkmated” my mom, when it was really a stalemate.

I didn’t take chess seriously when I first learned. I only played chess from time to time since I was more into playing with Barbie dolls. I remember that I sometimes just casually played with my sister, my brother, and our babysitter.  We didn’t know any real chess strategy. My brother had a crazy “killer king” strategy at the beginner of the game. I used to move up the rook pawn two spaces for the very first move since I didn’t know anything about controlling the center.

I took chess seriously  when I started playing in United States Chess Federation tournaments when I was 15 years old. I was still a beginner at age 15. I didn’t even know how to checkmate with a lone rook and king. After two years of playing in USCF chess tournaments, my rating was in the 1500s.

Off the board, has chess helped you succeed in life? If so how?

Yes, chess has helped me succeed in life. If I didn’t play chess, I wouldn’t have met interesting people. Through chess, I am happy to meet interesting people of all ages, including a former tennis player, a Rubik’s cube expert, and more! I value the friendships that I make and I hope to be in touch with these people for many years.

Teaching chess has helped me a lot, financially, too. Chess has given me a big purpose in life and I enjoy sharing my chess knowledge and experience with others. I have learned about world cultures by teaching at people’s homes and apartments. For example, I know what a dosa is!  A dosa is a type of thin pancake food that comes from Indian cuisine.

When did you realize that chess would become your career?

Here’s my story:  To be honest, I don’t know really when I realized chess would become my career. I just fell into teaching one-on-one chess privately, after a frustrating job search that lasted several years. My life coach at the time encouraged me to teach chess privately since she knew that I was a good chess player. I am so thankful that she encouraged me!

I got my first two local students by responding to a mother’s email from a local email chess club list. Eventually, I got more students by word-by-mouth referrals. Since I got more referrals, I knew that I was good at teaching chess, one-on-one and I wanted to keep going. I’ve been teaching chess privately for over eight years and I’m still  enjoy it! I teach kids and adults. Some of my students live in different states.

How would you describe your style as a chess player? As a coach?

As a chess player, I consider myself as a well-rounded chess player. I like to attack if the opportunity arises. For the most part, I am not afraid to sacrifice pawns for an attack.  I love to attack with my queen since she is the most powerful piece in chess. As white, I like to open up with e4 and my one of my favorite openings is the Ponziani. I will not play the Danish Gambit or any sharp openings since those openings are too aggressive for my style of play.

As a coach, I am an easy-going coach, yet serious. I care about my students and their success as a chess player.  I want my students to enjoy learning chess, so I try to make the lessons fun for them. I teach people of all ages and I am patient with my students.

I teach all aspects of the game, including tactics, strategy, endgames, good sportsmanship, how to play in a chess tournament, and more.  Overall, I enjoy giving puzzles and exercises to the student.  I like to ask questions to get her or him to think. If I’m teaching specific endgame positions, then from time to time, I’ll review those specific endgame positions with the student to make sure they remembered what they  learned.

I encourage my students to play in chess tournaments, but this isn’t a requirement. Some of my students are serious and play in USCF rated tournaments.  If my students play in a big and local chess tournament, then I’ll go to that chess tournament to support my students between rounds.  I analyze my students’ games between rounds.  I have done this several times. Of course, this was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some students don’t play in tournaments and that’s perfectly fine with me.  I understand that some people simply don’t like to compete and I’m okay with this. Those people enjoy playing chess on a casual level.

My lessons vary with the individual student.  In one lesson, I might be going over my student’s games that they played from a tournament.  Or I might be talking about the world’s top chess players, such as Grandmaster Wesley So.  Since chess is played all over the world, my students get to learn geography too.  For example, since GM Wesley So is from the Philippines, then I show the student where the Philippines is on a map  Since Bobby Fischer was born in Chicago, then I show my students where Chicago is on the map.

When did you first decide to write a chess book? What prompted you into that direction?

I believed I first decided to write a chess book around year 2014 because  I wanted to expand my chess business. By writing my first chess book, “How To Win at Chess By Answering Questions”, that enabled me to help grow my email list.  Earlier this year, I updated the book and the book is free to download on my website, www.ChessByLauren.com. This book is for beginners.

How long did it take you to write, “How to Win at Chess by Answering Questions”? What was the writing process like?

I forgot how long it took me to write, “How to Win at Chess By Answering Questions?”.  Maybe a several months to a year?

The writing process takes a lot of time. I wrote the manuscript in Microsoft Word. After writing the manuscript, I hired an editor to ensure that the manuscript is in perfect shape. Then after more proofreading, I did the layout on the computer. Then the e-book was finished!

What type of chess players would benefit the most from studying from your second book, 50 Poison Pieces?

I estimate that players who are rated under 1000 would benefit from reading “50 Poison Pieces”.  I noticed that beginner chess players tend to move without thinking and that’s a bad thing.  To solve the puzzles in this book, you have to think at least one move ahead.  The puzzles will help beginner players recognize basic tactics, such as fork, skewer, pin, and more.

Your “Chess by Lauren” YouTube Channel is fantastic. What inspired you to make chess videos?

Thank you!  To grow my chess business, I want to establish a strong and global online presence. I strongly believe that making YouTube chess videos is a great way to do that! At this time, I publish a chess video once a week on Wednesday.  On my channel, I play the chess.com bots, play blitz games, and more. I hope that my channel will help beginners get better at chess.

Here’s the link to my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCP5SPSG_sWSYPjqJYMNwL_Q

Also, I hope that my channel inspires more girls and women to play chess.

My YouTube chess channel is actually not my first major video chess project.  For your information, a long time ago  from January 2007 to April 2012, my twin sister and I produced nine chess TV episodes at the local TV station in Palo Alto. Several of the episodes was sponsored by CalChess organization. We interviewed top chess players, taught chess strategy, and more. Some top players we interviewed were Daniel Naroditsky (before he was a Grandmaster), Chess master Amanda Mateer, and more.

Here’s the website: http://chessdiva.show.tripod.com/index.html .  The website is really outdated by the way.

Here’s a highlight video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvMwCjmZnqA

Other videos of “Chess Diva” :

1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otRKcuVVyx4&t=393s

2) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rzRK3g3SW0

3) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbSeo4fneEU&t=290s  (Interview with Daniel Naroditsky when he was kid).

Another huge chess project that I did was creating 500 interactive two-choice chess puzzles for the beginner.  Here’s the URL: http://chessbylauren.com/two-choice-puzzles.php . I worked hard on this project and this project probably took more than one to two years to complete. My puzzles are endorsed by FM James Eade and other respected chess professionals.

What is your favorite aspect of creating chess videos?

I enjoy explaining my moves in my videos. I hope that my explanations help players get better in chess!

Who are some of your favorite chess YouTubers and why?

I like IM Eric Rosen’s YouTube channel since he is  fun to watch.  He’s a great teacher and is good at explaining specific moves.  About two years ago, I used to get private chess lessons from him.  Recently, I managed to beat a WFM in a FIDE tournament earlier this year.   I probably would have drawn the game if Eric didn’t teach me a specific pawn/rook endgame.

I also like IM Levy Rozman’s chess channel (GothamChess) because I find his content to be instructional to watch.

How do you balance finding time to play chess, teach students, write books and create videos?

I keep a schedule on my iPhone and my computer’s calendar to keep track of time each day.  I teach six days a week.   Since my chess lesson schedule is pretty stable and consistent, I schedule making videos and doing other activities around the chess lessons that I give.

At this time, since there’s more to life than chess, I acknowledge that I don’t play a lot of tournament chess these days and pursuing other activities such as playing tennis and crocheting. I have crocheted some scarfs and gave them to several of my students, friends, and family members.

I do play a lot of casual online chess to get content for my social media posts. Since my books are already published, I am currently not writing a chess book now. I do plan on writing more chess books, but not anytime soon as I am focusing of working on my YouTube channel and other projects.

Overall, I believe in a healthy work-life balance.

I have heard rave reviews for your third book, Queen for a Day: The Girl’s Guide to Chess Mastery. What inspired you to write your third chess book?

First of all, chess is a male-dominated game. Therefore, I wrote this book to inspire more girls and women to play chess. Second of all, I wanted to reach out to a lot more people on a global level, so a book does a good job doing that. As I a mentioned before, I plan to write more chess books in the future, but not anytime soon.

What is one of the most interesting things you have learned while writing and publishing your books?

From start to finish, I learned that writing a major book is a huge project that takes much longer to finish than expected because of unexpected delays and waiting for people to respond to emails. It took me an average of  about two to three years to write “50 Poison pieces” and “Queen For A Day: The Girl’s Guide To Chess Mastery”. Since I self-published my three books, I also had to work with other people to make publishing the book possible, including grammar editors, chess master editors, graphic designers, and more. I learned that some people are easy to work with and some people are frustrating to work with.  Writing a book takes lots of proofreading which takes lots of time.  When the project gets frustrating, perseverance is important.

What’s the nicest comment you’ve received about one of your books or videos?

No particular comment comes to mind, but for my “Queen For A Day: The Girl’s Guide To Chess Mastery” book,  I am honored that I got nice endorsements from WGM Jennifer Shahade,  WGM Jennifer Yu, FIDE Chess Master James Eade and other respected chess professionals!  Even though I am not even a master and have been a  class A player for over 12 years, I am still making a positive difference in the chess community in my own unique way.

With three books, a growing YouTube channel and a successful teaching career, what advice can you offer to girls or young women thinking of making a career out of chess?

First of all, remember these things:

1) Be passionate about chess.

2) Be good with people. Understand that students have their own individual goals in chess.

3) As a self-employed teacher, you get to create your own schedule. Teaching days can be long.  Before the pandemic, I used to go from house to house to teach.  I did a lot of driving so I used to fill my gas tank in my car once a week.  Get a car with good gas mileage.

4) Show up several minutes early to the lesson, so you will be on-time.   Be punctual.

5) This is not a typical career.  Not a lot of women can teach chess, so be proud to be a woman chess teacher!

6) When teaching, you will have mostly good days and some frustrating days too.

7) Networking with other chess teachers, math tutors, and others is beneficial.

8) Teaching at a library or other public place is also another way to get new potential students.

Girls, young women, and others can always reach out to me anytime with questions about teaching chess.

Could you please leave us with a favorite piece of chess wisdom to conclude this interview?

Nobody likes to lose in chess, however, losing is part of the game.  I don’t even like to lose myself.  Therefore, if you did lose a game, accept it!  Then go over the game with your coach or a much stronger player to see what mistakes you did.  Hopefully, you can learn from the mistakes that you made in the game. Also, do not cheat in chess! Simply play your best and have fun!

Published by chessmusings

Chris Torres is a nationally renowned scholastic chess coach working in the San Francisco Bay Area. His classes have attracted players of strengths ranging from rank beginners to world champions. A chess professional since 1998, Chris is widely recognized as one of the main driving forces behind the explosion in popularity and sudden rise in quality of scholastic chess in California. Chris Torres served as the President of the Torres Chess and Music Academy from 2005-2020 and currently is recognized as a correspondence chess master with the United States Chess Federation. Since 1998 Chris Torres has taught 6 individual national champions as well as led multiple school teams to win national championship titles. In addition, Chris Torres has directed and taught at 10 different schools which have been California State Champions at chess. In 2011 and 2012, several former and current students of Chris Torres have been selected to represent the United States at the World Youth Chess Championships. Mr. Torres’ hobbies include playing classical guitar and getting his students to appear on the national top 100 chess rating lists.

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