More Chess Resources for Educators

In the fall of 2022, US Chess launched a new Chess in Education committee and program to provide resources to teachers, schools, districts, and state boards of education so they can leverage chess as an educational tool.

I was invited to join this committee, and one of our first steps was to compile and publish a list of Grants and Awards for Chess Educators and a list of free Resources for Chess Educators on the US Chess website. Please review these resources and give me your feedback.

We held one webinar in November and plan to have monthly webinars beginning in January. Please review the schedule of upcoming events and register for those that interest you. We will record each of these and share them in the Chess in Education YouTube playlist.

Chess Tournament FAQ

If your child or your chess club is playing in their first tournament, especially if it is a large one like the Triangle Championship or the NC K-12 Championship, then you may have some questions. Here are answers to the ones I have heard asked most frequently:

What should my child do the night and morning before the tournament?

Children should eat a good dinner and get a very good night’s sleep. Avoid scary movies, arguments, and negative conversations the night and morning before the competition. Please postpone sleepovers until after the event. Being well-rested will help children play with more concentration and focus. They will also have more energy in the later rounds. Solving puzzles on ChessKid or reviewing chess topics they have already learned is okay but trying to learn new material in the hours before a tournament is generally not helpful.

What should we bring to the tournament?

  • Have your child wear their school or club t-shirt, because it will be fun for them and will make it easier for you to see them. 
  • notation book, pencils (if your child knows how to take notation)
  • chess clock (if you have one, write your name on it and bring a spare battery. Set it for the tournament time control ahead of time)
  • sweater or sweatshirt (in case it gets cold in the tournament room)
  • portable chair (if your child is in K-1, you may want to sit outside of the K-1 tournament room)
  • snacks, drinks
  • any medication your child may need
  • chess set, book, game, or tablet and charger (in case your child finishes a round earlier, write your name on the chess board and bag)
  • phone or camera (share photos afterwards with your club, PTA, etc.)

When and where should we arrive?

Try to arrive early so you have time to meet with your team and help your child find their board for the first round. If you are registering onsite, try to arrive even earlier. If you have registered and paid in advance, then large tournaments typically do not require you to sign-in while small ones might (please check this in advance).

Confirm in advance if your team will meet in a team room or the “skittles room.”

The NC K-12 Championship usually allows teams to rent team rooms. For the February 10-12, 2023 event in the Raleigh Convention Center, the Indermaur Chess Foundation has reserved rooms 302a and 302b for the schools we support.

Other events like the Triangle Championship have a “skittles room” or waiting area. For the January 15, 2023 event, this will be rooms 301a and 301b in the Raleigh Convention Center.

Who from our school is registered? Can another parent watch my child if I cannot stay the whole time?

Large events usually provide lists of players who are already registered, so you can arrange carpools, child supervision, etc. Here are links to the registration lists for the 2023 Triangle Championship and the 2023 NC K-12 Championship.

Can I still register my child? Can parents play, too?

Most events allow late and even on-site registration (although usually at a higher fee than if you had registered early). Some events like the Triangle Championship have Adult or Family sections.

Where can I find my child’s US Chess membership number?

You can search for it at https://new.uschess.org/player-search

How will I know who my child will play and where they should sit?

The tournament director will post new “pairings” on a physical bulletin board before each round. Many events now also post these online. The pairings are typically in alphabetical order by last name. Find your child’s name, what color they will be playing, and on what board they will be playing. Tips: take a photo of your child’s pairing and, once they are seated, make sure your child is seated across from the correct opponent, as the other child might be at the wrong board.

How are pairings generated? 

Large chess tournaments use “Swiss System” pairing. Players are initially ranked and grouped by their ratings. Swiss pairings split each group into two halves and pair the top of the first half with the top of the second half. For example, if, after two rounds, there are 16 players with 2.0 scores, #1 will play #9, #2 will play #10, etc. If there are 4 players with 1.5 scores, #1 will play #3, and #2 will play #4. This process repeats to cover all groups of players. This Wikipedia article that explains this in more detail including exceptions and special situations like accelerated pairing. 

Why does my child have to play such a highly rated player?

The pairings for the first round or two in big tournaments typically have the largest disparity in ratings. After that the games are much more evenly matched. Most children will get to play some opponents who are rated higher than they are. They may also play some who are rated lower or are un-rated. Please encourage your child to focus on their game – not their opponent’s rating. If they play someone un-rated or with a low rating, the opponent could be a strong player who is new to tournament play. They should not let their guard down but instead focus on playing their best. When children play higher-rated opponents, they should stay focused, play thoughtfully, and look for any mistakes their opponent may make (as their opponent may let their guard down).

How many rounds will my child play? Could they get eliminated?

Every child gets to play every round. No one is eliminated. That is one of the advantages of Swiss System pairing.

What should I do if my child needs to miss a game?

Please request a bye for the round that your child will miss. You can do this via the tournament website. If you request this in advance, your child will receive 0.5 points for that round. It also prevents another student from being paired with your child that round and sitting at the board waiting for your child. 

How are tournaments scored? 

Players earn 1 point for a win, 0.5 points for a draw, and 0 points for a loss. In big tournaments, your child will need to walk with their opponent to a scorer’s table and report their score together. Your child’s tournament score is the total of the points they earned from each of their games. Team scores are usually the total of the top 4 individual scores.

How are ties broken?

Ties are broken using formulas based on your opponents’ success in the tournament. For example, if you are tied with someone for first place and your opponents did better than theirs in the tournament, then you would receive the first place trophy. There is also a good Wikipedia article describing these tie break calculations.

How many trophies and medals are awarded?

Large tournaments like the Triangle and NC Championships typically present over 100 awards for all ability levels. Students will be able to win individual and team awards. 

What can my child do to prepare? 

I included tips in my previous article, “Benefits of Playing in a Team Tournament.” ChessKid also has several articles that explain what to expect:
https://www.chesskid.com/learn/articles/tournament-time
https://www.chesskid.com/learn/articles/top-3-state-championship-tips
https://www.chesskid.com/learn/articles/even-more-state-championship-tips

Here are some specific preparation tips:

  • Play in some school or local tournaments
  • Solve ChessKid puzzles to practice tactics
  • Review your games and those of potential opponents. Ask yourself questions like, “Why did I do this? What was their plan?” and try to answer them. Try to remember what you were thinking during the game. You can also replay your ChessKid games by clicking “Play,” selecting “Game History,” clicking on the result for a specific game, and then clicking on the magnifying glass icon to step through that game. 
  • Defending against Scholar’s Mate: Please encourage your child to watch these videos to learn how to defend against Scholar’s Mate before the Triangle Championship. Many young players try this trap in tournaments, so it it good to know how to defend against it.
    https://www.chesskid.com/learn/videos/scholars-mate
    https://www.chesskid.com/learn/videos/opening-traps-the-scholars-mate
    https://www.chesskid.com/learn/videos/opening-traps-more-scholars-mate

Please let me know via a comment if you have any other questions, and I will update this article.

Enjoy your tournament! 

Continuing to Serve At-Risk Youth with US Chess

We absolutely agree with US Chess that “chess is transformative for children by improving their focus, aiding in decision making, and teaching that choices have consequences — lifelong skills that can be immediately applied in the classroom,” so we are excited that they are continuing their Outreach Program for At-Risk Youth.

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, ChessKid.com subscriptions, and online support.

When US Chess announced their outreach program in 2021, we applied on behalf of Wiley Magnet Elementary School and helped them start their chess club. Now in their second year, Wiley’s club used the free memberships provided by US Chess to enter a team in their first US Chess-rated tournament. You can tell from the photos they shared in their PTA newsletter that they had fun and gained good experience!

US Chess recently opened their 2022-2023 Outreach Program for At-Risk Youth 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 Vance County Middle School and Graham High School!

“We are so appreciative of all you have done, and we look forward to working with the Indermaur Chess Foundation to expose our students to this awesome game/experience. Our chess club will meet three days a week after school, and we plan to incorporate it into our AVID college readiness program,” explained Dwaynna Ramsay-Morgan, Vance County Middle School teacher and chess club leader.

“You’ll be happy to know that student interest is high, and the club is very lively. I’ve been reading the book that you sent with the sets to become a better trainer myself. I very much look forward to the opportunity to send students to tournaments,” said Nikola Filajdic, Graham High School teacher and chess club leader.

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.

Benefits of Playing in a Team Tournament

Please encourage your school chess program to enter a team tournament!

Team events like these in North Carolina are excellent first tournaments for several reasons:

First and foremost, students play with their friends, which is really fun!

Competing as a group relieves pressure that some students may feel, because if they lose some – or even all – of their games, they can still encourage their teammates and contribute to their team’s success.

They can wear school t-shirts, sit together, and enjoy snacks as a group between rounds to help build 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 a great way for coaches and organizers to promote their chess club! They can announce the team’s success at school and in the PTA newsletter, display their team trophies at school, and submit photos of the event to the yearbook.

Parents and teachers can also network with their peers from other schools and get ideas for improving their programs.

Now that I have convinced you to enter your club in a team event, here are some great ChessKid articles to help you prepare your students and their parents:

Have fun!

61 Chess Clubs across 32 NC Counties

Happy National Chess Day!

As a chess nonprofit, National Chess Day seems like a good time to reflect on our plans and progress. When we launched in the summer of 2019, we set a goal of helping NC schools and community organizations start 100 chess clubs and, so far, through our Game Changer Program, we have helped them establish 61 chess clubs across 32 NC counties. Thank you for your support and for telling interested schools and libraries about us!

During the pandemic, we helped several of these clubs continue to meet online. In our most recent year, 317 students completed 2,109 lessons, played 21,965 games, and attempted 41,698 puzzles through the ChessKid accounts we provided. We also organized 49 ChessKid and 24 US Chess-rated tournaments for these clubs. We applied and were accepted for a US Chess Federation program for Title I schools to provide additional resources to help a Wake county school start a chess program.

If you would like to start a chess club at your NC school, library, or community organization, please apply for one of our grants. This year we will continue to provide chess sets, instructor guides and workbooks, and ChessKid accounts to help organizations establish chess clubs in NC.

We will organize weekly ChessKid tournaments and other events to enable students from these clubs to play each other.

Someone recently donated a 25-inch giant chess set which we plan to use at events with our clubs.

We have also received donations of gently used chess books which we will provide to NC libraries with chess clubs.

Thank you, again, for your support!

Manage your ChessKid Group in a New School Year

We provide each school in our Game Changer Program with their own Group in ChessKid. (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.)

Each school year, you will want to add new students to your group and decide how to handle students from last year’s club who are no longer at your school. Here are several options:

1) Keep them in your group: This would be a good option for students who have graduated to middle school or high school and now would like to volunteer with your club.

2) Remove them from your group: Their ChessKid account would remain active as a personal account outside of your group. Their parents would still be able to manage the account if you included their email address on the account. With this option, these students would no longer be able to play in the online tournaments that your club or our nonprofit runs. To remove an individual student, click on their menu icon and select “Remove”.

3) Move them to our “Misc Kids” group or to an “Alumni” group for your school: Their account would remain active and parents could still manage the accounts. With this option, the students would not be in your current club but could continue to play in our online tournaments. Please let us know if you need help creating an “Alumni” subgroup or if you would like to move kids to our “Misc Kids” group. To move kids between groups, click on “Groups” and the “More Tools” drop-down menu on the right. Then click on “Move Kids”, select the “From” and “To” groups and click the “Select which kids you want to move” box to move specific students.

You will also want to add new Teachers and Coaches to your group using “Invite Adult Team Members”.

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.