Nearly everyone knows that chess is a powerful mind-strengthening tool. Regular play improves concentration and memory and has a profound effect on confidence and decision-making. But did you know that children who play often also have opportunities to develop crucial social skills which positively impact their educational experiences?
At the Indermaur Chess Foundation, we partner with NC schools to offer these and other benefits of chess to all students, especially those at risk, through our Game Changer Program. We provide each school accepted into our program with 5 chess sets, Chess Step instructional materials, and ChessKid.com subscriptions.
This fall, US Chess introduced a new program supporting affiliates who offer chess at Title I schools, providing each school with 16 free youth memberships and 8 additional chess sets. We’re excited to announce that we applied and were accepted into the new program on behalf of Wiley International Studies Magnet Elementary, a Title I school in Raleigh, NC. We look forward to helping their new chess club run tournaments as well as making it possible for them to play other NC schools online via ChessKid.
“We are so grateful to the Indermaur Chess Foundation for helping to get Wiley’s chess club off the ground! Our group of 28 students are in first through fifth grade and are getting so much out of the program. The guidance from the Foundation has been invaluable. We are also thankful for their help in securing support for the club from US Chess,” said Bridget Harrington, Wiley’s parent lead for the chess club.
If you’re interested in starting a chess club at your NC school, consider applying to our Game Changer Program! Let us know if you’re a Title I school so we can also apply for the US Chess program on your behalf.
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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 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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
Since we have a ChessKid Enterprise account, we have created separate Groups within ChessKid for each of the school and library chess clubs we support through our Game Changer program. (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.)
Here are instructions for the leader of each chess club in our Game Changer program, so you can add Kid accounts to your Group.
We recommend the first method for students who are new to ChessKid. If a few of your students already have ChessKid accounts, then you can use method 3 to add their existing accounts to your Group. If you have students in an existing Club in ChessKid, then we recommend method 4.
There are 4 ways to add Kids to your Group, depending on the situation:
1) You create the accounts for the Kids and give them their username & password
2) Kids create their own accounts using the Group Signup Link
3) Kids who need to move existing accounts into your Group use the Registration Key
4) You can add Kids from an existing Club into your Group using the Add Club Kids feature
For Kids who do NOT already have a ChessKid account:
Create the Kid accounts from within your Group & give the Kids their logins
(Recommended! This is a very organized way of creating accounts: you control the custom usernames and all students will have an account immediately.)
Enter the Group you’d like the Kids added to,
Click Add New Kids from the right side menu:
Complete the spreadsheet with your students’ details. We recommend real First Name, Last Name, a Custom Username & an easy-to-type Password. Parent & Kid Email are completely optional fields.
Be sure to give your Kids their Usernames & Passwords – and explain how to log in.
A great way to do this is with the Print Login Cards tool! This creates a printout with your kids’ names, usernames & passwords that you can distribute during a class or club. Find this on the right side menu of your Group page:
Use the Kid Signup link (Kids will create their own accounts)
Enter the Group you’d like the Kids added to,
Find the Signup Link on the “Info” tab page.
Give this unique url to your students & suggest a custom username.
This sign up link requires that the Kids enter a custom username, first name, last name and parent email. The kids will automatically be added to your Group.
On the same page, you’ll find a Printable Sign Up Sheet – that automatically includes your Group’s unique sign up link, in case you’d like to print out copies for schools or events:
Click the Print Signup Page icon.
For Kids who have an existing ChessKid account:
Use the Registration Key
Find the 6-digit Registration Key on the “Info” tab page of your Group. Give this code to the Kid.
Have the Kid log in to his own account & click the grey Settings icon. **They’ll need to log in from a browser for access to this page.**
Enter the Kid’s first & last name, and parent/guardian email.
Click “Do you have a Group Registration Key”
Enter the 6 digit Registration Key & click Save. The kid will be added to your Group.
For Kids who have an existing ChessKid account and are in one of your existing Clubs in ChessKid:
Use the “Add Club Kids” Feature
Enter the Group you’d like the Kids added to
Click the More Tools drop-down from the right side menu and then click Add Club Kids:
Choose a Club from the list of your Clubs and then click Submit to add the kids from that Club to this Group
ChessKid has an exciting new feature, the Analysis Board Editor, which you can use to review your children’s games or to set up positions for lessons.
To review your children’s games you will need to get them in PGN of Portable Game Notation format. If your child has a ChessKid Gold account, then ChessKid will save all of their games in their Game History, and if they have a Basic account, it will save their last 30 days of games.
Children can access their Game History by clicking on their username in the upper left part of the screen and then “Game History” in the top middle of the screen. This will list their games in chronological order. Select a specific game by clicking on the result (won, draw, or lost) for that game. Then click on the “options” button followed by “Get PGN” to download that game as a PGN file.
To review a game go to the Analysis Board Editor, click on “Setup” and then the “PGN/FEN” button.
Then copy and paste the text from the PGN file to the “Enter PGN” box and start your analysis!
Another great source of games to use in your lessons is ChessStream.com as it has PGN files for many NC scholastic players.
As we collectively respond to coronavirus, more and more of our children’s activities and events are being canceled. Fortunately, some of those activities, like playing chess, can be done online from home. Hopefully, continuing activities like this will be reassuring to our children and help maintain the sense of community and support they receive from their chess clubs.
Over 1,000 kids have ChessKid accounts through the clubs we support, so they can keep playing chess even if their school or library clubs cannot meet in person. We will schedule regular Fast Chess tournaments for them to play. We will also help several of our clubs run their end-of-year tournaments via ChessKid.
Until we update the application form to add this option, please use the comment field at the end of the form to request the online starter kit. We will create a ChessKid Gold account for your club leader and a group where they can add your students.
ChessKid has published a helpful article on “How to run ChessKid events online” which describes how to run tournaments, host Puzzle Duels, teach lessons online, and more.
ChessKid is also running Fast Chess tournaments twice a day. Any child can participate by joining the ChessKid Official Club. To join, click on “Clubs” and then “Public Clubs”. If the ChessKid Official Club is not yet listed under your “My Clubs” list, find it under “Public Clubs” and click its orange “Join Club” button. Please note that only children can join this club, so adults will not see this club on their clubs lists.