Starting a high school online chess club

Would you like to keep your high school chess club meeting online or start a new online club during the pandemic?

Your friends will really appreciate you running the club during this challenging time. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try different things to see what works best for your club. There are several free platforms that you can use to play like chess.com and lichess.org. These articles describe how to use their club/team features:

It is important to provide your club members a way to socialize when you meet otherwise they could just play online on their own.  You could use Google Meet or Zoom.

You could start your meeting with announcements, looking at your club leaderboard (https://support.chess.com/article/781-what-are-leaderboards), warm up with puzzle rush (https://www.chess.com/puzzles/rush) or by reviewing an interesting game from one of your members, and then play. During some meetings you could play blitz or bughouse (https://www.chess.com/bughouse).

Since other high school clubs are also meeting online, you could arrange some friendly online matches with other NC schools. Your school’s foreign language teachers may have relationships with high schools in other countries, so they may be able to help you arrange a match with one of those schools. 

Please add comments to let us know what works (and what didn’t work) for your club.

Thank you!

Starting a high school chess club

Would you like to start a chess club at your high school?

Several NC high schools have started chess clubs through our Game Changer Program. The teachers sponsoring these clubs and the students leading them provided these suggestions based on their experience:

1) Find a sponsor and a meeting location. Ask a teacher to sponsor your chess club, let you meet in their classroom, and let you store chess sets and clocks there. If you are not sure which teacher to ask, try contacting STEM teachers first.

2) Contact the PTA to officially register your club. Find out if there used to be a chess club. If so, ask who might know where their chess sets are. Ask if there is a small amount of funding left in this year’s PTA budget to buy a few more chess sets. Also ask for an amount to be allocated in next year’s budget.

3) Pick a meeting day and time with your sponsoring teacher. If your school has a common lunch period, meeting during lunch would allow more students to participate. If not, then pick a day when the club could meet after school that would not compete with activities that chess club members might also want to do.

4) Publicize your club. Find out how to publish information about the club on the school website and in the PTA newsletter. Find out when the Open House for the next school year will be and ask if the chess club can have a table there. Set up a chess set there and answer questions.

5) Try to find any chess sets from previous chess clubs. If you need more, buy a few chess sets online.

6) Start playing chess! Some of your stronger players could also teach some lessons.

Once the club is underway, club members could set goals like these:

  • Take a club photo for the yearbook. This will help publicize your club.
  • If at least four students are interested, play as a team in a local team tournament or in the next NC K-12 Championship. If you do well, submit your results to be included in the school announcements and PTA newsletter and display your trophy at school. This will also help publicize your club.
  • Arrange a friendly match with another high school. This website lists the NC high schools that have at least 4 students with US Chess ratings, so some of them might be interested in match. http://chessstream.com/TopNCSchoolsInChessByGroup.aspx
  • In the spring time, arrange a friendly match with the middle schools that feed your school. This would be fun and would help recruit players for the following year.
  • Design a club t-shirt
  • If a club member has contacts with a school in another country through their family or through the foreign language department, arrange a friendly online match using a combination of chess.com and Zoom or similar tools.
  • If any of the chess club members need community service hours, they could volunteer with the chess clubs at the middle schools or elementary schools that feed your school. They could also hold a tournament or simultaneous exhibition to raise money for a charity.

Please add comments with your suggestions for high school chess clubs! Thank you.

Reading a US Chess Rating Report

Congratulations for playing in a US Chess rated tournament or for encouraging your child to play in one!

If you asked to get notified when your rating is updated in your US Chess membership profile, then you will receive an email with a link to your tournament’s rating report.

If you played in one of our rated tournaments, then you can also access your event’s rating report from this list: http://www.uschess.org/msa/AffDtlTnmtHst.php?H6041494

I will use this example from the 2021 US Championship to explain how to read your rating report:

Before your name, you will see your pairing number for the event. In this example, Fabiano Caruana has pairing number 1, and Wesley So has pairing number 2.

Under your name you will find your US Chess member ID, the type of rating (R=regular, Q=quick, B=blitz, OR=online regular, OQ=online quick, OB=online blitz), and your rating before the event followed by your rating after the event. In our example, Caruana’s regular rating changed from 2871 to 2861.

The next column will show the total number of points that you earned in the event. You will get 1.0 point for 1 win, 0.5 points for a draw, and 0 points for a loss. In our example, Caruana, So, and Sevian tied for first with 6.5 points.

If you do well in a tournament, you may earn a norm. If you do, then the information below the “Total Pts” score shows the highest norm you earned in this event. For more information on norms, see The USCF Title System.

The columns after the “Total Pts” column will list your result for each round in the tournament (W=win, D=draw, L=loss, X=forfeit win, F=forfeit loss, U=unpaired), the pairing number of your opponent, and whether you played the W=white or B=black pieces. In our example, in round 4 Caruana got a draw with So while playing Black.

For more information about US Chess ratings and rating reports, please see:

Congratulations, again, on playing in a rated tournament!

Now that your child knows their new rating, please help them analyze their games using the ChessKid Analysis Board.

If you have any questions about reading your rating report, please ask by submitting a comment below.

Motivating Students with National Events

Twenty-six NC players, including many students, competed in the 121st US Open during the summer of 2021 in Cherry Hill, NJ. Everyone in this event played in a single section, so they had a good chance of playing a FIDE Master, an International Master, or even a Grandmaster. If one of your students does get to play in an event like this, please ask their parents to take photos to share with your club.

Getting to play in an event like this or a national scholastic championship would clearly be an exciting experience for any student, but, even if they cannot attend one of these events in person, you can still use them to teach and motivate your students.

First, you can follow the events using articles on uschess.org or other chess websites. You can also find players for your students to follow and root for. For example, this page, www.uschess.org/tournaments/2021/usopen/?page=ADVANCE lists the players registered for the US Open by section and by state.

Then you can review games from the top players as part of your chess club lessons. You can leverage expert analysis to help you prepare for these lessons. For example, this US Chess article describes the US Open event and summarizes some of the top games: https://new.uschess.org/news/three-schedules-one-task You can also prepare by watching live streams or recorded video analysis of top games using sites like: https://www.twitch.tv/uschess

It will be exciting to see your students cheer for and learn from top players!

Getting the most from your new US Chess account

Set up your US Chess account

Once you or your child have joined US Chess, you will want to set up your account to get the most out of your membership. Then you can get emailed as soon as your child’s rating is updated and score major “chess parent points” after every tournament!

Click on “Member Site Login” which is to the right of the big blue “DONATE” button at the top of the uschess.org home page.

Create your US Chess website login

On your first visit, you will need to set up a new login and password.

US Chess does not require you to have a unique email address on file to become a member and get an ID number, but to use their new membership system you will need to have a unique email address associated with your membership. 

Parents registering multiple children will need to use a unique email address for each child.

If you are certain your email address is attached to your ID number, click the “Reset Your Password” button, and enter the email address associated with your member record on the form that appears.  You will receive an automated email with a one-time link that will allow you to set up a new login and password.  Once your new login is confirmed, you may return to the above screen and log in.  

If you know your email address is NOT attached to your ID number, or you are not sure whether it is, click the “create a new website login” link, and complete the form you see there.  The form will attach the email address you specify, and set up your new login.  You will receive an automated email with a one-time link for setting up a new password.  Please note, this form is intended for members who do not have an email address already associated with their ID number.  

US Chess strongly recommends choosing a login that is NOT your email address.  Users do not have the ability to change their logins, and if your email address changes, you will avoid confusion if you follow this recommendation.

When you successfully log in to the new system, you will see your user dashboard.

Update your US Chess profile

From your dashboard, click on “Manage My Profile” to add or update your address. At a minimum, enter your “State/Province,” as that will help Tournament Directors find your information (especially if you have a common name). It will also qualify you to play in special events like your state championship.

To get notified by email when your rating or your child’s rating is updated, select “Ratings” under “Communication Settings“. Then you will get an email (at the email address in your child’s profile) as soon as their tournament has been rated. The email will have their old and new ratings and a link to the tournament rating report. You will often receive this email several minutes before the new ratings are posted on the uschess.org website, so you could score extra “chess parent points”!

In the “Tournament Announcements (TLAs)” section, you can sign up to be notified of upcoming tournaments in your area.

If you would like to play online rated games on US Chess’ online partner sites like ChessKid.com, Chess.com, or lichess.org, then you can link your US Chess Member ID with your user account on those sites in the “Online Chess Partners” section.

Accessing US Chess publications

Once you have set up your child’s account, they can access Chess Life Kids magazine by logging in to uschess.org and going to: https://new.uschess.org/chess-life-kids-magazine-issues. This link is also on the bottom of the US Chess home page. Then they can read issues online in the digital viewer or download them as PDF files.

You can also access Chess Life magazine in the same way at https://new.uschess.org/chess-life-magazine-issues.

For more information about the new US Chess Information Technology (IT) systems, please refer to these US Chess blog posts:

Online Activities for Your Chess Club

When NC schools switched to remote learning in March, many of the chess clubs we sponsor also switched to meet and play online. Thanks to tools like ChessKid.com and Zoom, they could continue to meet remotely. Many families appreciated staying connected with their school community through chess club while so many other school activities had to be cancelled.

We continued to support our clubs by scheduling weekday tournaments which are open to all of their students. Since schools closed in March, we have run over 230 of these free online tournaments, and we have also helped run several low-cost, online USCF-rated tournaments.

Through all of these online chess activities, we and our chess clubs have gained experience and would like to share how to make the most of this online environment.

Let’s start with which activities children and parents liked the most. At the end of 2019-2020 school year, one of our elementary school chess clubs surveyed their families about online chess club activities, and 33 familes representing 44 children responded. Here are the results of their survey.

During the summer, children wanted to keep playing chess online as a club and in rated tournaments but were less interested in lessons. Parents also said that their children wanted to continue the social and relationship-building aspects of chess club, so we provided instructions to “Help a child play chess online with a friend.

Families preferred weekdays for summer chess activies.

The vast majority of students would join chess club again next year even if it were online. Some families explained that they had planned to do other activities next year, but since those could not be done online, they would rejoin chess club instead. The few who said that they would not join really preferred playing chess in person with their friends.

During the school year, children would like a broader range of chess club activities, and they are much more interested in having lessons. Our clubs can leverage “Using online resources to teach young children how to play chess” for these lessons. Parents commented that their children looked forward to the social and relationship-building aspects of chess club. Clubs can definitely leverage tools like Zoom or Google Meet to enable students to interact while they are playing online. Larger clubs can use these tools’ breakout room features to split into smaller groups for more interaction.

Children would also like to play with other NC schools and even with schools in other states or countries. This Raleigh News & Observer article, “Hunter Elementary students play chess with Nigerian school,” shows how schools can use ChessKid and tools like Skype or FaceTime to play with schools in other countries.

Familes preferred weekdays after school for school-year chess activities.

Most parents in this club were also interested in getting Chess-Step workbooks to supplement the online chess learning resources.

Please use these survey results to help plan your chess club’s online activities, and please share your club’s ideas and suggestions in the comments below.

If you would like to start an online club at your NC school or library, please apply for our online Game Changer Program.

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!