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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
We regularly schedule Fast Chess tournaments on ChessKid.com to give students in our clubs the opportunity to play each other online. They get to play multiple games against kids from all over NC, and, since it is Fast Chess, the whole tournament usually lasts about an hour.
To reduce the chance of technical problems, clear your browser cache and restart your browser before playing in a Fast Chess tournament. Play in a spot where you have a good wi-fi signal. ChessKid also recommends using a computer rather than a tablet or phone for playing Fast Chess. Fast Chess works best using Chrome or Firefox. Here are more Fast Chess tournament tips from ChessKid.
To play in these tournaments, log in to ChessKid using a browser (not the app) 5 to 10 minutes early. We schedule our tournaments to begin 5 minutes after the top of the hour. For example, for a 9 am tournament, you can join at 8:50 am, and the first games will start at 9:05 am. You will not be able to join after the games start. You will get to play 3 to 5 games, and each game will usually last up to 10 minutes, so you could get to play up to 5 games in one hour! If one of your games finishes early, don’t leave the tournament. Watch some of the other games instead. Also try to stay where you have a good internet connection (so you don’t get disconnected during a game). Have fun!
Here are more detailed instructions. About an hour or so before a tournament starts you should see the upcoming Fast Chess tournament in the lower left corner of you screen.
To get to a Fast Chess tournament, you can click on “Fast Chess Tournaments” in the lower left corner, or you can click on “Play vs. Kid” near the top of the screen.
You will see the names of upcoming Fast Chess tournaments on the right side of the next screen. Click on the name of the tournament you want, and then click the orange “Join” button.
Once you join the tournament, you need to stay in the tournament until it starts.
If an odd number of children joins a tournament, then one student will get a bye each round. They will get 1 point for that round like they would when they win a game. If you get a bye, or if you finish a game early, you can watch other games that are in progress by clicking on the binocular icon next to a game.
Please try to avoid switching to another program or leaving the room while you are waiting for the next round as you could easily miss your game. Having a book to read during this time would be a good idea.
If you get disconnected from a tournament, please try to rejoin. If you can rejoin before the current round ends, the ChessKid server will include you in the next round. If you miss two rounds, the server will remove you from the tournament.
Most of the tournaments we schedule use the “5 min + 5 sec” time control, which means you will get 5 minutes for all of your moves plus 5 seconds will be added to your clock for each move. The extra 5 seconds especially helps if you run low on time as you will still have 5 seconds for each turn. We also schedule some tournaments with the “10 min” time control, which gives you 10 minutes for all your moves but does not add incremental time each turn. These games give you more time to think and can last up to 20 minutes, so we limit these tournaments to 3 rounds so they will still last about an hour.
After the tournament is over, you can review your games by clicking on “Play” and then looking at your “Recent Games”. Click on the result (won, draw, or lost) of the game you want to see.
You can also compare your statistics with those of other students in your club or group by clicking “Play,” then “Leaderboard,” and then selecting your club or group. You can see how your Fast Chess rating, number of wins, and total number of games compare with your friends.
Please note that Fast Chess tournaments are only open to children. Parents, teachers, and coaches cannot join them. Outside of these tournaments, children can play Fast Chess with an adult, but they must challenge the adult. An adult cannot challenge a child to a Fast Chess game.
Please let me know if you have other questions, and I will update this blog post.