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.”