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.
It’s no secret that libraries have always been wonderful gathering places for folks of all ages within their communities. While everyone expects that they’ll offer not only the best books and, occasionally, even a few lectures or classes, did you know that some also host “Gaming Day” programs? Many of the rural libraries that we’ve reached out to have already set aside a specific time of the week to provide board games for their patrons in order to foster a little friendly competition among both old and young, alike. Now, they’re upping the ante by adding chess to the mix.
While plenty of games offer a brain boost, chess is different. It’s an “activity that has been shown to improve cognitive abilities, emotional intelligence, and academic performance as well as being fun,” writes a 32-year veteran elementary school teacher and librarian in rural N.C. “Playing chess gives your brain a workout and develops beneficial skills, such as problem solving, strategic thinking, and concentration that spill over into other intellectual pursuits,” says a librarian who is constantly on the look-out for personal enrichment activities for members of the community. Even though some have admitted to being a bit intimidated by the game, they are willing to learn by going through the workbooks we provide in order to instruct their patrons. After that, they can all continue learning together.
One of the most common reasons these librarians want to start a club is their desire to bring an intergenerational community together. The relationships that are sure to develop between players of different ages will strengthen community ties. While it can be a challenge to find activities that appeal to such a broad age range, chess can close that gap. It’s a game for the ages, because it’s a game for all ages. A few of the librarians who reached out to us have plans to contact their local high school chess clubs for ideas, instruction, and inspiration, while others will leverage the partnerships they have with the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, and their local homeschool association. As one woman wrote, “Libraries are well positioned to promote the Game Changer Program.”
Holidays and breaks from school are a great time to hold scholastic tournaments since so many students are available. 34 students and 3 parents had fun playing in our Game Changer tournament today at the Triangle Chess Center while Wake, Durham, and Orange County schools were out.
You can give even more students a chance to play by holding a tournament at school on the afternoon of an early release day or on a teacher workday. For example, we had 122 students play in a tournament on an early release day before winter break in 2017. These events are convenient for parents, too.
Are you a parent or teacher looking to start an elementary school chess club? Here are some good first steps:
1) Register your club. Follow your school’s process for registering your club and getting support from your PTA. This will help you reserve space to meet, promote your club in the school/PTA newsletter, and potentially get funding to buy some chess sets. Apply for our Game Changer Programto get 5 chess sets, and see our previous post for recommendations on where to buy more.
We are excited to announce that the Indermaur Chess Foundation has enhanced the Game Changer Program to provide 5 chess sets along with instructional resources and support to each accepted school. Our goal is to help 100 North Carolina schools start new chess clubs!
NC public or charter schools starting new chess programs are eligible to apply. Accepted schools will receive:
5 chess sets each with a 20-inch vinyl board and a set of chess pieces (We currently have colorful, weighted pieces. Please let us know your school colors so we can try to match them.)
online support for their chess program coordinator
help arranging online or over-the-board matches with other schools in this Program
To apply for our Game Changer Program, please complete this application.
Are you interested in starting a chess club at your school?
Our goal is to provide you the resources and support so that you feel comfortable doing exactly that! Soccer leagues across NC help thousands of parents coach recreational soccer teams even if they have no previous experience teaching soccer. Through this Game Changer Program we will provide you similar help so you can start and successfully run a chess club at your school.
Resources we selected for you:
We selected the resources for this Program after testing instructional materials with elementary school, middle school, and home school chess programs led by school teachers, parents, and older student volunteers.
Learning Chess: Step 1 Manual and Workbook: the Chess Step method was originally developed in the Netherlands to teach children to play chess. It quickly spread across Europe and is now available worldwide. Each of the six steps in the method has a workbook with exercises and summaries for the student and an accompanying manual for the trainer. The manuals contain complete scripted lessons for the teacher as well as aids to address typical challenges children face at each stage of learning. The books are written so that trainers do not need extensive chess knowledge. Step 1 explains all the rules of chess and helps students develop the basic skills needed to play chess (from beginner up to a USCF rating of 800).
ChessKid.com:ChessKid is a fun, safe website and app for children to learn and practice chess. The new ChessKid Classroom Lesson Planner guides teachers and students through the most important 30 lessons that every new chess player needs to learn. We found that students really enjoyed the video lessons. Beginners liked playing against the robot while more experienced students liked playing against other students and solving puzzles. Students who practiced with ChessKid at home improved more rapidly.