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!

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.

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.

Motivating Students with National Events

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.

First, you can follow the events using articles on uschess.org or other chess websites. You can also find players for your students to follow and root for. For example, this page, www.uschess.org/tournaments/2021/usopen/?page=ADVANCE lists the players registered for the US Open by section and by state.

Then you can review games from the top players as part of your chess club lessons. You can leverage expert analysis to help you prepare for these lessons. For example, this US Chess article describes the US Open event and summarizes some of the top games: https://new.uschess.org/news/three-schedules-one-task You can also prepare by watching live streams or recorded video analysis of top games using sites like: https://www.twitch.tv/uschess

It will be exciting to see your students cheer for and learn from top players!

Partnership with US Chess to Serve At-Risk Youth

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.

Online Activities for Your Chess Club

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.

If you would like to start an online club at your NC school or library, please apply for our online Game Changer Program.

Transforming Lives with Chess

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.”

Start an online chess club for your school

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 support your online club with blog posts like, “Help a child play chess online with a friend,” “Using Online Resources to Teach Young Children How to Play Chess,” and “Playing in a ChessKid Fast Chess Tournament.”

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!

Apply for your online starter kit today!