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Manage your ChessKid Group in a New School Year

We provide each school in our Game Changer Program with their own Group in ChessKid. (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.)

Each school year, you will want to add new students to your group and decide how to handle students from last year’s club who are no longer at your school. Here are several options:

1) Keep them in your group: This would be a good option for students who have graduated to middle school or high school and now would like to volunteer with your club.

2) Remove them from your group: Their ChessKid account would remain active as a personal account outside of your group. Their parents would still be able to manage the account if you included their email address on the account. With this option, these students would no longer be able to play in the online tournaments that your club or our nonprofit runs. To remove an individual student, click on their menu icon and select “Remove”.

3) Move them to our “Misc Kids” group or to an “Alumni” group for your school: Their account would remain active and parents could still manage the accounts. With this option, the students would not be in your current club but could continue to play in our online tournaments. Please let us know if you need help creating an “Alumni” subgroup or if you would like to move kids to our “Misc Kids” group. To move kids between groups, click on “Groups” and the “More Tools” drop-down menu on the right. Then click on “Move Kids”, select the “From” and “To” groups and click the “Select which kids you want to move” box to move specific students.

You will also want to add new Teachers and Coaches to your group using “Invite Adult Team Members”.

Painting Your Own Outdoor Chess Boards

Here’s a fun project to consider for your school or library chess club!

After getting approval from their principal and PTA, one local elementary school chess club gathered students and parents to paint sidewalk chess boards using special concrete paint. They ordered medium-sized “giant” pieces to fit the boards, and they use these boards and adjacent picnic tables for outdoor lessons and for other fun events.  

A second school club purchased plain concrete tables and benches and then spray painted boards on them.  

You can also visit some of the many outdoor chess tables throughout the state. 

Get creative and enjoy some outdoor board time!

“Check” out outdoor chess in NC

Let’s face it: we’ve all had to modify our lives since COVID’s arrival in early 2020. We’ve successfully moved many indoor activities outdoors, and chess is no exception. Here in North Carolina, the winters are mild enough for folks to play outdoor chess year-round, making it a safe and fun option for everyone. 

If you’re looking to get a game going on an outdoor board, here are some safe spaces from west to east in NC that you can “check” out:

Pritchard Park, Asheville – stone tables, bring your own pieces

Winston Square Park, Winston-Salem – metal table, bring your own pieces

NC Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill – giant chess set

Church Street Park, Morrisville – concrete chess tables, bring your own pieces

Playtime in the Park, Downtown Park, Cary – chess table, bring your own pieces

Fayetteville Street, Raleigh – stone chess tables, bring your own pieces

Moore Square Park, Raleigh – view the Moore Square Programs and Events Calendar and look for the regularly scheduled 10am – 5pm “Game On!” events which include giant and regular chess

Marbles Kids Museum, Raleigh – giant chess inside museum, admission required 

Artsplosure, Raleigh – giant chess set provided by Moncure Chessworks

Sheppard Memorial Library, Greenville – keys to the giant chess set are available at the library front desk


There is also a chess park proposed for Mebane.

Please let us know about any other outdoor chess spaces in NC, and we’ll update this article.

Chess for Charity

If you know a student who’s looking for ways to get in some service hours, here’s a creative idea: how about hosting a chess tournament for charity?  

That’s exactly what a group of Enloe High School Student Council members, in cooperation with the Enloe chess club, did last month to support Charity Ball, an annual philanthropic event that has raised well over $1 million for various community nonprofits since it was created by an Enloe student in 2004.

The single elimination tournament, which took place right after the school day ended, included 32 participants and raised over $200 by charging a small entry fee. The winner was awarded a gift basket filled with candy, a prize anyone would love!

Why not plan a charity event for your club? Please add a comment below to let us know how it went!

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.

Can I Teach a Preschooler How to Play Chess?

Two of the most common questions we get from parents are: “Can a 4-year old really learn how to play chess?” and “Can I teach my child the game even if I don’t know how to play?” We know from our own experience that the answer to both is a resounding “Yes!”  In other words, children don’t have to know how to read to learn this game.  They just need a little assistance from someone who can read.

 
We recently connected with the parent of three, ages 9, 7, and 4, who wanted to teach their 4-year old the basics of chess. The 9 and 7-year olds learned to play at school, and the youngest child, who is not yet in school, was motivated to learn so that she could keep up with her siblings. The parent had a slight advantage in that they used to teach preschool and used to play chess when they were small, but their chess skills were a bit rusty from lack of use. In other words, they weren’t all that confident they could teach their youngest how to play, but they were willing to give it a try. Their daughter is a pre-reader who recognizes letters and numbers but can’t yet decipher words. Here are a few tips they shared on introducing chess to a pre-reader:

  • Use ChessKid in order to keep your little one engaged; it’s one of the best tools out there for learning the game. Try using it on a tablet rather than on a computer or laptop since a 4-year old’s motor skills aren’t yet fine-tuned.
  • Narrate for non-readers. This is more than simply reading to them what’s on the screen; it also encompasses conversing with them about which instructions they’re hearing and what they’re learning. For example, if ChessKid tells them to “find all the squares where the pawn can move,” then it’s important to ask them what they heard as well as to offer encouragement as they are solving the puzzle. Ask them what the puzzle is teaching them, and maybe even ask them to teach you what they’ve just learned.
  • Pack your patience. If they express frustration while learning a new concept, help them push past it by working with them rather than letting them quit. Offer plenty of praise and remind them they are getting closer and closer to learning the game. 
  • Allow for mistakes and remind them this is how we learn (trial and error).
  • Encourage your child to actively observe older siblings or other family members working puzzles and/or playing a game. Have older siblings help younger ones; you can even call them “Chess Buddies.” 


The next steps this parent would like to take is to give ChessKid Adventure on the tablet a try and then move over to an actual board for a game. Plan on using a large chess set with sturdy, plastic pieces that your child can manipulate easily rather than a fancy wooden set. We’ll continue to follow along with them as they move forward and report on their progress!

Here are additional resources you might find helpful:

Library Chess Resumes

One of our goals at the Indermaur Chess Foundation is to promote and support chess clubs in public libraries around North Carolina (see Libraries Up Their Game By Adding Chess).

When COVID arrived in 2020, the libraries took a hit like everything else, and chess was suspended.  We were excited to learn that the chess club at the Eden Public Library, in Rockingham County, has been up and running again since October with 10 children and 4 adults regularly participating.  Rachel, the coordinator, said that the children have had a blast getting to know one another across the board and are even enjoying their own inside jokes.  She’s planning on hosting a tournament in the spring, and we’re looking forward to hearing all about it!

If you’d like to start a chess club at your local NC library, please apply for our Game Changer Program.

Anyone – Even Adults – Can Learn This Game!

Can old dogs really learn new tricks?  If they’re a few ticks past middle age, like I am, there’s hope!  Over the years when my husband taught our children to play chess, I stayed in the background and didn’t get involved.  After all, I was a tired mom who was busy with other responsibilities and who had decided that it would be too challenging for me to learn such an intricate game.  We’ve all heard the stories about how chess is for brainiacs, right? By the time I’d birthed my sixth child, it was news to no one that I’d lost more than a smattering of brain cells. Give me Scrabble, Boggle, Bananagrams, or any other word game … but chess?  Nope.  That was not going to happen in this lifetime. I was too scared to give it a try. What if I couldn’t learn how the pieces move? I mean, this game has a knight, amirite? Forwards “L,” backwards “L,” right-side-up and upside-down “L” moves – what if I were even more spatially challenged than I thought? Patterns just aren’t my thing. (One time I tried to follow a pattern to sew a pair of shorts, and they fell apart in two panels the first time my daughter wore them). And don’t even get me started on castling, putting my opponent in check, or recognizing that I was the one in check!  I had completely talked myself out of ever being able to learn this game. I was content to smile politely and nod at the appropriate times when other chess parents were discussing their child’s chess moves. When they exclaimed with excitement, “Did you see little Jimmy whip out the Ruy Lopez in that game? Wow, what a great opening!” I, having no idea what they were saying, heard “Living La Vida Loca” start to play in my head. The Sicilian defense?  I was dreaming up delicious pasta dishes.  

Running an elementary chess club alongside my husband, Mark, didn’t require any special skills from me other than behaving like the mom that I am.  Kids are kids, and they need supervision, encouragement, and, on occasion, reining in.  I could perform all three duties with aplomb.  Even though I could set up a chess board at lightning speed and had learned to field questions about whether or not someone’s king was in check, I knew it was time for me to begin getting acquainted with this game.  I was inspired by the enthusiasm that five and six year olds had for learning how the pieces move, so I started doing puzzles on ChessKid and found them to be all sorts of fun.  Chess mom Beth C., who says she learned chess “by accident” when her daughter was new to chess club, agrees: “The children were encouraged to do lessons on ChessKid. At home, we used the lessons as a privilege that our daughter could have while eating dinner. Since electronics aren’t normally allowed at dinner, this served as a great motivator for her to do her ChessKid lessons.” Beth added that she got sucked in to those lessons and, before she knew it, ChessKid dinners had become a nightly ritual in her house. The enjoyment she experienced in learning the game surprised her, and she says she “certainly didn’t expect it to become such a source of bonding” with her daughter.  She had so much fun that she had to stop herself from logging into her daughter’s ChessKid account to do the lessons while her daughter wasn’t home! 

Beth went on to hone her new skills by teaching beginning chess to the youngest members of Hunter Elementary School’s Chess Club in Raleigh, NC. 

Crystal W. concurs, explaining that her chess playing youngster urged her to learn the game after his coach, Mark Indermaur, challenged the children in the chess club to teach their parents to play.  She also relied on ChessKid to learn how the pieces move and was soon sitting across the board from her son as his worthy opponent. Like Beth, Crystal found the most valuable part of learning the game the “added closeness” with her son. “When he wanted to test out new strategies, I was a willing victim. When he wanted to excitedly chatter about how a tournament game had gone, now I could follow along.” 

Whether you want to keep your brain sharp, or connect with others, or even if you just want something to do to pass the time, why not give chess a try? These resources can get you started.

Remember, anyone can learn this game – even adults!