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.
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:
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
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 a 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:
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.