Game Changer Program to help NC schools start new chess clubs

We are excited to announce that the Indermaur Chess Foundation will help up to 100 North Carolina schools start new chess clubs with our new Game Changer Program!

NC public or charter schools starting new chess programs are eligible to apply. Accepted schools will receive:

  • a Chess-Steps Learning Chess instructor manual
  • a Chess-Steps Learning Chess student workbook (and discounts on additional workbooks)
  • help setting up ChessKid accounts for their club
  • 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.

Now, it’s your move!

Apply now to bring the benefits of chess to your school.

If you would like to help more schools start chess clubs, please donate to support this Program.

Buying chess sets and equipment

Parents and teachers starting new clubs often ask me where to buy chess sets and equipment. There are many good chess suppliers online.

I buy chess sets, demo boards, chess books, score books, and key chain pieces (as incentives) from WholesaleChess.com. They provide good service, volume discounts, and free shipping if your order is large enough.

If you would like to see an item before buying it, large tournaments like the NC K-12 Chess Championship and the NC Open have chess stores onsite.

If your chess club has been using the same pieces for several years, you may have some broken kings or rooks (as they seem to break more easily than other pieces). You could buy a new set of pieces from any chess supplier. I also found that ChessHouse.com sells individual pieces at reasonable prices and with good service.They give you a discount if you buy 10, 50, or 100 pieces.

After you have bought enough chess sets for your club, you may want to buy some digital chess clocks to help students prepare for tournaments. I have bought DGT North American clocks from Amazon.

I have also bought a few items from US Chess Federation Sales. A friend of mine buys his club’s supplies from American Chess Equipment. If you are looking for a special chess set, House of Staunton has an excellent selection of beautiful sets.

What other suppliers do you recommend?

Play in a team tournament!

Many school chess clubs are getting started, so this is a great time to start planning to play in a team tournament with other schools. Team events are excellent first tournaments for students for several reasons:

  • they have fun playing with their friends
  • competing as a group relieves pressure that some students may feel (if they lose some, or even all, of their games, they can still encourage their teammates and contribute to the team’s success)
  • they can wear school t-shirts, sit together and enjoy snacks as a group between rounds, building 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 also good for coaches and organizers since announcing the team’s success (at school, in the PTA newsletter, etc.), displaying team trophies at school, and taking photos at the event for the yearbook are great ways to promote a chess club. Parents and teachers can also network with their peers from other schools and get ideas for improving their programs. You can enter most team tournaments with as few as 3 or 4 players on a team, so you do not need many students to get started.

You can choose from several team tournaments that the NC Chess Association already has in their K-12 tournament listing:

Please encourage your clubs to enter at least one team event this year!

Why should schools have chess clubs?

School chess clubs provide many benefits to students and schools, but very few schools have them due to financial constraints or a lack of support for volunteer chess organizers. We have personally seen hundreds of families experience these benefits through the clubs where we volunteer, so we started the Indermaur Chess Foundation to help more North Carolina schools start chess clubs.

Students playing chess can improve academic skills such as concentration, reasoning, creativity, and problem solving. Numerous studies have confirmed that chess improves academic performance including these compiled by:

Children can also enhance life skills through chess, such as learning from mistakes, considering consequences, thinking ahead, and building confidence. Compared with other sports or academic competitions, chess is a great equalizer. Chess players do not have an advantage based on their age, gender, physical size, race, religion, or socio-economic status. In fact, young children who practice can routinely beat older opponents.

Chess clubs can also contribute to a school’s sense of community as children can play and become friends with students from every grade and class in their school. Parents who volunteer get to know parents from other grades, and families with multiple children at the school can have them all participate in the same club.

Unfortunately, very few NC schools have chess programs or clubs. In the 2015-2016 school year, NC had 2,433 public schools, 159 charter schools, and 742 private schools based on “Facts & Figures 2015-2016” and “NC Private K-12 School Statistics.”

While direct statistics on the number of NC school chess clubs are not available, most school clubs will have some students play in outside tournaments, so tournament statistics can be used to estimate the number of schools with chess clubs. According to ChessStream.com, in 2018-2019, 348 NC schools have at least 1 student who has have played in a US Chess Federation-rated tournament, and 129 NC schools have at least 4 students who have played in a rated tournament. Based on these statistics, we estimate that fewer than 10% of the 3,334 schools in NC have chess clubs.

Most schools follow one of these models to form a chess club:

  1. Schools that have more financial resources will hire a professional chess academy or coach to run their club.
  2. Many schools will have a teacher or parent who knows how to play chess lead their club.
  3. Some schools will have a student who is an experienced player lead their club with a teacher or parent sponsor providing support. Most high school clubs use this approach.
  4. Some schools will collaborate with their local public library to form a chess club that meets at the library. These clubs may be run by library staff, a school teacher, or a parent and can meet in the evening or on the weekend to accommodate students from multiple schools.

To form a chess club without hiring a chess coach, schools will need a teacher, parent, or older student who knows how to play chess to lead the club. Most of the parents or teachers who would like their school to have a chess club do not have previous experience teaching chess and may feel nervous about volunteering to lead it. This is where the Indermaur Chess Foundation can help. Our goal is to provide these potential club leaders with instructional materials and access to online resources and support to help them succeed.