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Chess in the park!

What a great way to kick off a new year of chess!

GM Magesh Panchanathan and WFM Anu Patil of Kings and Queens Chess Academy in Cary recently hosted their fun “Play Chess in the Park” event for the third year in a row. Lots of kids and adults enjoyed playing chess and solving puzzles outdoors. Beginners got lessons to learn how to play. Everyone had the chance to play against masters in a simultaneous exhibition. They also learned about the new events the Academy has planned for this year including:

  • Friday Fall League (1300+): Sept. 27 – Dec. 20, 6:30pm, G/90;d5, $5/each for members, $10/each for non-members
  • Cary Saturday Rapids (U1000): Sept. 28, Oct. 5, 26, Nov. 2, 16, Dec. 14, 21 4:30pm, G/30;+5, $20 members, $25 non-members
  • Cary Super Sundays (1000+): Sept. 29, Oct. 27, Nov. 17, Dec. 22 10am, G/90;d5, $25 members, $30 non-members

Playing chess outdoors would be a great way for any club to kick off their year. It would be a fun way to celebrate at the end of year, too.

Buying chess sets and equipment

Parents and teachers starting new clubs often ask me where to buy chess sets and equipment. There are many good chess suppliers online.

I buy chess sets, demo boards, chess books, score books, and key chain pieces (as incentives) from WholesaleChess.com. They provide good service, volume discounts, and free shipping if your order is large enough.

If you would like to see an item before buying it, large tournaments like the NC K-12 Chess Championship and the NC Open have chess stores onsite.

If your chess club has been using the same pieces for several years, you may have some broken kings or rooks (as they seem to break more easily than other pieces). You could buy a new set of pieces from any chess supplier. I also found that ChessHouse.com sells individual pieces at reasonable prices and with good service.They give you a discount if you buy 10, 50, or 100 pieces.

After you have bought enough chess sets for your club, you may want to buy some digital chess clocks to help students prepare for tournaments. I have bought DGT North American clocks from Amazon.

I have also bought a few items from US Chess Federation Sales. A friend of mine buys his club’s supplies from American Chess Equipment. If you are looking for a special chess set, House of Staunton has an excellent selection of beautiful sets.

What other suppliers do you recommend?

Play in a team tournament!

Many school chess clubs are getting started, so this is a great time to start planning to play in a team tournament with other schools. Team events are excellent first tournaments for students for several reasons:

  • they have fun playing with their friends
  • competing as a group relieves pressure that some students may feel (if they lose some, or even all, of their games, they can still encourage their teammates and contribute to the team’s success)
  • they can wear school t-shirts, sit together and enjoy snacks as a group between rounds, building school spirit
  • team events are usually generous with team trophies so schools have a good chance of winning something, especially if they have multiple teams

Team events are also good for coaches and organizers since announcing the team’s success (at school, in the PTA newsletter, etc.), displaying team trophies at school, and taking photos at the event for the yearbook are great ways to promote a chess club. Parents and teachers can also network with their peers from other schools and get ideas for improving their programs. You can enter most team tournaments with as few as 3 or 4 players on a team, so you do not need many students to get started.

You can choose from several team tournaments that the NC Chess Association already has in their K-12 tournament listing:

Please encourage your clubs to enter at least one team event this year!

Why should schools have chess clubs?

School chess clubs provide many benefits to students and schools, but very few schools have them due to financial constraints or a lack of support for volunteer chess organizers. We have personally seen hundreds of families experience these benefits through the clubs where we volunteer, so we started the Indermaur Chess Foundation to help more North Carolina schools start chess clubs.

Students playing chess can improve academic skills such as concentration, reasoning, creativity, and problem solving. Numerous studies have confirmed that chess improves academic performance including these compiled by:

Children can also enhance life skills through chess, such as learning from mistakes, considering consequences, thinking ahead, and building confidence. Compared with other sports or academic competitions, chess is a great equalizer. Chess players do not have an advantage based on their age, gender, physical size, race, religion, or socio-economic status. In fact, young children who practice can routinely beat older opponents.

Chess clubs can also contribute to a school’s sense of community as children can play and become friends with students from every grade and class in their school. Parents who volunteer get to know parents from other grades, and families with multiple children at the school can have them all participate in the same club.

Unfortunately, very few NC schools have chess programs or clubs. In the 2015-2016 school year, NC had 2,433 public schools, 159 charter schools, and 742 private schools based on “Facts & Figures 2015-2016” and “NC Private K-12 School Statistics.”

While direct statistics on the number of NC school chess clubs are not available, most school clubs will have some students play in outside tournaments, so tournament statistics can be used to estimate the number of schools with chess clubs. According to ChessStream.com, in 2018-2019, 348 NC schools have at least 1 student who has have played in a US Chess Federation-rated tournament, and 129 NC schools have at least 4 students who have played in a rated tournament. Based on these statistics, we estimate that fewer than 10% of the 3,334 schools in NC have chess clubs.

Most schools follow one of these models to form a chess club:

  1. Schools that have more financial resources will hire a professional chess academy or coach to run their club.
  2. Many schools will have a teacher or parent who knows how to play chess lead their club.
  3. Some schools will have a student who is an experienced player lead their club with a teacher or parent sponsor providing support. Most high school clubs use this approach.
  4. Some schools will collaborate with their local public library to form a chess club that meets at the library. These clubs may be run by library staff, a school teacher, or a parent and can meet in the evening or on the weekend to accommodate students from multiple schools.

To form a chess club without hiring a chess coach, schools will need a teacher, parent, or older student who knows how to play chess to lead the club. Most of the parents or teachers who would like their school to have a chess club do not have previous experience teaching chess and may feel nervous about volunteering to lead it. This is where the Indermaur Chess Foundation can help. Our goal is to provide these potential club leaders with instructional materials and access to online resources and support to help them succeed.