Transforming Lives with Chess

It is one of the most gratifying experiences as a chess coach. A young student from a disadvantaged background joins your chess club and begins to play. They enjoy the game and play more and more, gradually learning from every game, every mistake, and maybe even from some of your lessons. They keep playing and learning for months, or even years.

Then it happens. They do something that they never dreamed was possible and win against an older, stronger opponent. They are bursting with pride as they rush to tell you, “I beat a 5th grader!” It is exciting to congratulate them, but what happens next is the really gratifying part. As they reflect on their accomplishment, you see it hit them. Some even cry when they realize what it means: They are capable of much more than they had ever thought. If they can beat someone so much older at an intellectual game like chess, what else can they do? Suddenly, a new world of possibilities opens for them.

There are famous examples of this power of chess to transform lives. NC author Tim Crothers tells the inspiring story of nine-year old Ugandan Phiona Mutesi and her coach Robert Katende in The Queen of Katwe (which then became a Disney movie). Former NC scholastic chess champion Elizabeth Spiegel coaches the I.S. 318 chess team. The documentary, Brooklyn Castle, follows her inner city team as they face the challenges of poverty, school budget cuts, and even snow storms while pursuing state and national championships.

Every child, and for that matter, every adult, should have the opportunity to play chess and experience its transformative power, but sadly that is not the case.

The shocking death of George Floyd has exposed the reality and extent of racism in America. It has also motivated millions to understand, protest, and work for real, substantive change.

We want our small NC nonprofit to contribute to this change. We are committed to providing equal opportunity for all people, regardless of race, color, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, religion, physical ability, political affiliation, or economic status. 

We will continue to help more NC schools, libraries, and community centers start chess clubs, because we firmly agree with the US Chess Federation core value highlighted in their recent special statement.

“We believe everyone has a seat at the chess table.”

Start an online chess club for your school

With the coronavirus preventing chess clubs from meeting in person, we updated the Game Changer Program to help NC schools and community organizations start online chess clubs.

While many of our children’s activities have been canceled due to the coronavirus, some, like playing chess, can be done online from home. By starting an online chess club, you can help your students stay connected with their friends and enable them to receive the benefits of chess until your club can meet again in person. You will also make it easier for them to keep playing during summer break.

NC public, charter, and private schools, libraries, and community organizations starting new chess programs are eligible to apply for our online Game Changer Program to receive an online chess club starter kit with a ChessKid Gold account for their chess program coordinator, ChessKid basic accounts for their students, online support, and more. You can apply using:

We will support your online club with blog posts like, “Help a child play chess online with a friend,” “Using Online Resources to Teach Young Children How to Play Chess,” and “Playing in a ChessKid Fast Chess Tournament.”

We will also arrange online tournaments for your club. Since NC schools closed in March, we have run 136 online tournaments on ChessKid.com to support our clubs and to enable their students to keep playing with their friends. In the eight weeks since schools closed, 295 students from our clubs have played 10,529 Fast Chess games, completed 650 lessons, and tried 13,885 puzzles!

Apply for your online starter kit today!

Help a child play chess online with a friend

Now that chess clubs are playing online instead of meeting in person, many children are missing the social aspects of chess club. They miss being able to see and talk with their friends while playing chess.

Here is how you can help your children do this with ChessKid.com:

First agree on a time with the parents of your child’s friend and then connect the children with a phone call or video chat at that time. You will need to do that with your phone or a separate video app as ChessKid intentionally does not have social networking features. (It may be easier to use a laptop for ChessKid and a separate device for the phone or video call.)

Both children can then log in to ChessKid and click on “Play vs. Kid.” You should also make sure that they know each other’s ChessKid usernames.

They should then click on the “friends and clubmates” tab, which is the rightmost one. This will show which of their friends are currently in the “Play vs. Kid” area of ChessKid. Each child will be listed with either a binoculars icon or a “hand holding a pawn” icon. The binoculars icon means that that child is currently playing a game which you can watch by clicking on the binoculars.

If a child has the “hand holding a pawn” icon next to their username that means that they are available to play and you can invite them to a game by clicking that icon. In the example above, if EagerPuzzler is your child’s friend, they can invite or challenge EagerPuzzler to play a game. This will display the following panel which will allow your child to select how much time they would like each player to have to make their moves. Since they would like to socialize during this game, having more time would be best, and they should select 15 minutes.

Once their friend accepts the challenge, the game will begin!

Please note that these instructions assume that children are in the same club within ChessKid as clubmates will be listed on the “friends and clubmates” tab. If your child’s friend is on ChessKid but not in the same club, you can still connect them using the instructions in this “How to Understand ChessKid’s Safety Features” article.

Parents and coaches can also play games with a child if they are “guardians” on that child’s account. If you would like your child to be able to play with another adult relative like their grandparent, you can add that relative as a Secondary Guardian using the instructions in this ChessKid “How to Manage Guardianship” article.

Using Online Resources to Teach Young Children How to Play Chess

Many parents are leveraging online resources to teach their young children how to play chess, especially during this time when school and community chess clubs are meeting virtually. The online tools are so good that older children can learn how to play on their own, and parents can teach their young children, even if they do not know how to play chess themselves.

The primary tool we use is ChessKid.com, because it has excellent lessons designed specifically for children. Each lesson has a brief, fun video followed by interactive exercises so children can practice what they just learned. The interactive exercises for the introductory lessons have audio as well as text explanations so children who do not know how to read can still do them with help from their parents. The lessons follow a natural progression and are organized into levels beginning with the Pawn-level lessons which teach how the pieces move.

ChessKid “Meet the Rook!” Lesson

Children can then practice moving the pieces using the “Learn to Play” game in the free ChessKid app on iOS and Android devices. In this game, children keep moving a piece until they capture a star by landing on it.

Another good resource for learning and practicing the basics of chess is lichess.org/learn#/. Children can use this part of the lichess.org website without creating an account. This has a similar game where you move a piece to a star, but it has more advanced levels with multiple stars.

When there are several stars, children get more points by reaching all the stars in fewer moves; while they are practicing moving pieces, they are also starting to learn more advanced chess concepts, like visualization, planning, and evaluating alternatives. Even experienced players enjoy these exercises!


lichess.org Learn Chess Basics exercises

Once children learn these basics, it will be easier for them to participate in their chess club’s virtual meetings, and they will enjoy playing their friends using the ChessKid “Play vs. Kid” and “Puzzle Duel” features.

Please let us know if you are using other online resources to teach your young children how to play chess. You can do this by adding a comment to this blog post or by contacting us directly. Thank you!

How to add students to your group within ChessKid

Since we have a ChessKid Enterprise account, we have created separate Groups within ChessKid for each of the school and library chess clubs we support through our Game Changer program. (If your club is not part of our program and you do not have your own Enterprise account, you can still organize your students in ChessKid using the Club feature as this article explains.)

Here are instructions for the leader of each chess club in our Game Changer program, so you can add Kid accounts to your Group. 

We recommend the first method for students who are new to ChessKid.  If a few of your students already have ChessKid accounts, then you can use method 3 to add their existing accounts to your Group. If you have students in an existing Club in ChessKid, then we recommend method 4.

There are 4 ways to add Kids to your Group, depending on the situation: 

1) You create the accounts for the Kids and give them their username & password

2) Kids create their own accounts using the Group Signup Link

3) Kids who need to move existing accounts into your Group use the Registration Key

4) You can add Kids from an existing Club into your Group using the Add Club Kids feature

For Kids who do NOT already have a ChessKid account: 

Method #1:

Create the Kid accounts from within your Group & give the Kids their logins

(Recommended! This is a very organized way of creating accounts: you control the custom usernames and all students will have an account immediately.)

  • Enter the Group you’d like the Kids added to,
  • Click Add New Kids from the right side menu:
  • Complete the spreadsheet with your students’ details. We recommend real First Name, Last Name, a Custom Username & an easy-to-type Password. Parent & Kid Email are completely optional fields.
  • Be sure to give your Kids their Usernames & Passwords – and explain how to log in.
  • A great way to do this is with the Print Login Cards tool! This creates a printout with your kids’ names, usernames & passwords that you can distribute during a class or club. Find this on the right side menu of your Group page:

Method #2:

Use the Kid Signup link (Kids will create their own accounts)

  • Enter the Group you’d like the Kids added to,
  • Find the Signup Link on the “Info” tab page.
  • Give this unique url to your students & suggest a custom username.
  • This sign up link requires that the Kids enter a custom username, first name, last name and parent email. The kids will automatically be added to your Group.

On the same page, you’ll find a Printable Sign Up Sheet – that automatically includes your Group’s unique sign up link, in case you’d like to print out copies for schools or events:

  • Click the Print Signup Page icon.

For Kids who have an existing ChessKid account: 

Method #3:

Use the Registration Key

  • Find the 6-digit Registration Key on the “Info” tab page of your Group. Give this code to the Kid.
  • Have the Kid log in to his own account & click the grey Settings icon. **They’ll need to log in from a browser for access to this page.**
  • Enter the Kid’s first & last name, and parent/guardian email.
  • Click “Do you have a Group Registration Key”
  • Enter the 6 digit Registration Key & click Save. The kid will be added to your Group.

For Kids who have an existing ChessKid account and are in one of your existing Clubs in ChessKid: 

Method #4:

Use the “Add Club Kids” Feature

  • Enter the Group you’d like the Kids added to
  • Click the More Tools drop-down from the right side menu and then click Add Club Kids:
  • Choose a Club from the list of your Clubs and then click Submit to add the kids from that Club to this Group

Using the new ChessKid Analysis Board

ChessKid has an exciting new feature, the Analysis Board Editor, which you can use to review your children’s games or to set up positions for lessons.

To review your children’s games you will need to get them in PGN of Portable Game Notation format. If your child has a ChessKid Gold account, then ChessKid will save all of their games in their Game History, and if they have a Basic account, it will save their last 30 days of games.

Children can access their Game History by clicking on their username in the upper left part of the screen and then “Game History” in the top middle of the screen. This will list their games in chronological order. Select a specific game by clicking on the result (won, draw, or lost) for that game. Then click on the “options” button followed by “Get PGN” to download that game as a PGN file.

To review a game go to the Analysis Board Editor, click on “Setup” and then the “PGN/FEN” button.

Then copy and paste the text from the PGN file to the “Enter PGN” box and start your analysis!

Another great source of games to use in your lessons is ChessStream.com as it has PGN files for many NC scholastic players.

  • Go to ChessStream’s list of the “Top NC Schools in Chess
  • Find your school or click on one of the top schools to see a list of that school’s students who have played USCF-rated games
  • The “Games” column will show the number of games that ChessStream has for each player
  • Click on the games link for a player
  • Click on the game you would like to see

ChessStream then gives you several options for that game:

  • Copy and paste the notation into the ChessKid Analysis Board
  • Step through the game within ChessStream
  • Click on “Computer analysis by lichess.org” to analyze the game using lichess.org
  • Download the game as a PGN file which you can load into other analysis tools

Keep your chess club playing online

As we collectively respond to coronavirus, more and more of our children’s activities and events are being canceled. Fortunately, some of those activities, like playing chess, can be done online from home. Hopefully, continuing activities like this will be reassuring to our children and help maintain the sense of community and support they receive from their chess clubs.

Over 1,000 kids have ChessKid accounts through the clubs we support, so they can keep playing chess even if their school or library clubs cannot meet in person. We will schedule regular Fast Chess tournaments for them to play. We will also help several of our clubs run their end-of-year tournaments via ChessKid.

If your NC school chess club would like to add ChessKid accounts for students, you can apply for an “online starter kit” using our application form at https://indermaurchessfoundation.org/programs/

Until we update the application form to add this option, please use the comment field at the end of the form to request the online starter kit. We will create a ChessKid Gold account for your club leader and a group where they can add your students.

ChessKid has published a helpful article on “How to run ChessKid events online” which describes how to run tournaments, host Puzzle Duels, teach lessons online, and more.

ChessKid is also running Fast Chess tournaments twice a day. Any child can participate by joining the ChessKid Official Club. To join, click on “Clubs” and then “Public Clubs”. If the ChessKid Official Club is not yet listed under your “My Clubs” list, find it under “Public Clubs” and click its orange “Join Club” button. Please note that only children can join this club, so adults will not see this club on their clubs lists.

Wishing you all good health!

Playing in a ChessKid Fast Chess Tournament

We regularly schedule Fast Chess tournaments on ChessKid.com to give students in our clubs the opportunity to play each other online. They get to play multiple games against kids from all over NC, and, since it is Fast Chess, the whole tournament usually lasts about an hour.

To reduce the chance of technical problems, clear your browser cache and restart your browser before playing in a Fast Chess tournament. Play in a spot where you have a good wi-fi signal. ChessKid also recommends using a computer rather than a tablet or phone for playing Fast Chess. Fast Chess works best using Chrome or Firefox. Here are more Fast Chess tournament tips from ChessKid.

To play in these tournaments, log in to ChessKid using a browser (not the app) 5 to 10 minutes early. We schedule our tournaments to begin 5 minutes after the top of the hour. For example, for a 9 am tournament, you can join at 8:50 am, and the first games will start at 9:05 am. You will not be able to join after the games start. You will get to play 3 to 5 games, and each game will usually last up to 10 minutes, so you could get to play up to 5 games in one hour! If one of your games finishes early, don’t leave the tournament. Watch some of the other games instead. Also try to stay where you have a good internet connection (so you don’t get disconnected during a game). Have fun!

Here are more detailed instructions. About an hour or so before a tournament starts you should see the upcoming Fast Chess tournament in the lower left corner of you screen.

“Fast Chess Tournaments” in the lower left corner

To get to a Fast Chess tournament, you can click on “Fast Chess Tournaments” in the lower left corner, or you can click on “Play vs. Kid” near the top of the screen.

You will see the names of upcoming Fast Chess tournaments on the right side of the next screen. Click on the name of the tournament you want, and then click the orange “Join” button.

Once you join the tournament, you need to stay in the tournament until it starts.

Names of upcoming Fast Chess tournaments in the upper right corner

If an odd number of children joins a tournament, then one student will get a bye each round. They will get 1 point for that round like they would when they win a game. If you get a bye, or if you finish a game early, you can watch other games that are in progress by clicking on the binocular icon next to a game.

Please try to avoid switching to another program or leaving the room while you are waiting for the next round as you could easily miss your game. Having a book to read during this time would be a good idea.

If you get disconnected from a tournament, please try to rejoin. If you can rejoin before the current round ends, the ChessKid server will include you in the next round. If you miss two rounds, the server will remove you from the tournament.

Most of the tournaments we schedule use the “5 min + 5 sec” time control, which means you will get 5 minutes for all of your moves plus 5 seconds will be added to your clock for each move. The extra 5 seconds especially helps if you run low on time as you will still have 5 seconds for each turn. We also schedule some tournaments with the “10 min” time control, which gives you 10 minutes for all your moves but does not add incremental time each turn. These games give you more time to think and can last up to 20 minutes, so we limit these tournaments to 3 rounds so they will still last about an hour.

After the tournament is over, you can review your games by clicking on “Play” and then looking at your “Recent Games”. Click on the result (won, draw, or lost) of the game you want to see.

You can also compare your statistics with those of other students in your club or group by clicking “Play,” then “Leaderboard,” and then selecting your club or group. You can see how your Fast Chess rating, number of wins, and total number of games compare with your friends.

Please note that Fast Chess tournaments are only open to children. Parents, teachers, and coaches cannot join them. Outside of these tournaments, children can play Fast Chess with an adult, but they must challenge the adult. An adult cannot challenge a child to a Fast Chess game.

Please let me know if you have other questions, and I will update this blog post.

Thank you for helping us support 17 chess clubs at NC schools and libraries

Thank you for telling your principals, PTA presidents, teachers, and friends about our Game Changer grant program to help NC schools and libraries start chess clubs. Thank you also for contributing to our 501(c)(3) and playing in our fund-raising tournaments.

With your help, as of November 29, 2019, we are now supporting 17 NC schools and libraries spread across 13 cities in 8 counties and are making good progress towards our goal of helping 100 NC schools start chess clubs.

This includes 4 elementary schools (K-5), 2 middle schools (grades 6-8), 2 high schools (grades 9-12), 4 K-8 schools, 3 K-12 schools, 1 grade 6-12 school (which serves students from 6 counties), and 1 library (which serves an adjacent high school). You can see photos of many of these schools on facebook.com/IndermaurChessFoundation and twitter.com/IndermaurChess.

If you would like to start a chess club or class at your school, please apply for one of our Game Changer grants.

Thank you, again, for your support and for spreading the word about our program!