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.

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.

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.