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!

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!

Anyone – Even Adults – Can Learn This Game!

Can old dogs really learn new tricks?  If they’re a few ticks past middle age, like I am, there’s hope!  Over the years when my husband taught our children to play chess, I stayed in the background and didn’t get involved.  After all, I was a tired mom who was busy with other responsibilities and who had decided that it would be too challenging for me to learn such an intricate game.  We’ve all heard the stories about how chess is for brainiacs, right? By the time I’d birthed my sixth child, it was news to no one that I’d lost more than a smattering of brain cells. Give me Scrabble, Boggle, Bananagrams, or any other word game … but chess?  Nope.  That was not going to happen in this lifetime. I was too scared to give it a try. What if I couldn’t learn how the pieces move? I mean, this game has a knight, amirite? Forwards “L,” backwards “L,” right-side-up and upside-down “L” moves – what if I were even more spatially challenged than I thought? Patterns just aren’t my thing. (One time I tried to follow a pattern to sew a pair of shorts, and they fell apart in two panels the first time my daughter wore them). And don’t even get me started on castling, putting my opponent in check, or recognizing that I was the one in check!  I had completely talked myself out of ever being able to learn this game. I was content to smile politely and nod at the appropriate times when other chess parents were discussing their child’s chess moves. When they exclaimed with excitement, “Did you see little Jimmy whip out the Ruy Lopez in that game? Wow, what a great opening!” I, having no idea what they were saying, heard “Living La Vida Loca” start to play in my head. The Sicilian defense?  I was dreaming up delicious pasta dishes.  

Running an elementary chess club alongside my husband, Mark, didn’t require any special skills from me other than behaving like the mom that I am.  Kids are kids, and they need supervision, encouragement, and, on occasion, reining in.  I could perform all three duties with aplomb.  Even though I could set up a chess board at lightning speed and had learned to field questions about whether or not someone’s king was in check, I knew it was time for me to begin getting acquainted with this game.  I was inspired by the enthusiasm that five and six year olds had for learning how the pieces move, so I started doing puzzles on ChessKid and found them to be all sorts of fun.  Chess mom Beth C., who says she learned chess “by accident” when her daughter was new to chess club, agrees: “The children were encouraged to do lessons on ChessKid. At home, we used the lessons as a privilege that our daughter could have while eating dinner. Since electronics aren’t normally allowed at dinner, this served as a great motivator for her to do her ChessKid lessons.” Beth added that she got sucked in to those lessons and, before she knew it, ChessKid dinners had become a nightly ritual in her house. The enjoyment she experienced in learning the game surprised her, and she says she “certainly didn’t expect it to become such a source of bonding” with her daughter.  She had so much fun that she had to stop herself from logging into her daughter’s ChessKid account to do the lessons while her daughter wasn’t home! 

Beth went on to hone her new skills by teaching beginning chess to the youngest members of Hunter Elementary School’s Chess Club in Raleigh, NC. 

Crystal W. concurs, explaining that her chess playing youngster urged her to learn the game after his coach, Mark Indermaur, challenged the children in the chess club to teach their parents to play.  She also relied on ChessKid to learn how the pieces move and was soon sitting across the board from her son as his worthy opponent. Like Beth, Crystal found the most valuable part of learning the game the “added closeness” with her son. “When he wanted to test out new strategies, I was a willing victim. When he wanted to excitedly chatter about how a tournament game had gone, now I could follow along.” 

Whether you want to keep your brain sharp, or connect with others, or even if you just want something to do to pass the time, why not give chess a try? These resources can get you started.

Remember, anyone can learn this game – even adults!

Online Activities for Your Chess Club

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.

If you would like to start an online club at your NC school or library, please apply for our online Game Changer Program.

Start an online chess club for your school

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 support your online club with blog posts like, “Help a child play chess online with a friend,” “Using Online Resources to Teach Young Children How to Play Chess,” and “Playing in a ChessKid Fast Chess Tournament.”

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!

Apply for your online starter kit today!

Help a child play chess online with a friend

Now that chess clubs are playing online instead of meeting in person, many children are missing the social aspects of chess club. They miss being able to see and talk with their friends while playing chess.

Here is how you can help your children do this with ChessKid.com:

First agree on a time with the parents of your child’s friend and then connect the children with a phone call or video chat at that time. You will need to do that with your phone or a separate video app as ChessKid intentionally does not have social networking features. (It may be easier to use a laptop for ChessKid and a separate device for the phone or video call.)

Both children can then log in to ChessKid and click on “Play vs. Kid.” You should also make sure that they know each other’s ChessKid usernames.

They should then click on the “friends and clubmates” tab, which is the rightmost one. This will show which of their friends are currently in the “Play vs. Kid” area of ChessKid. Each child will be listed with either a binoculars icon or a “hand holding a pawn” icon. The binoculars icon means that that child is currently playing a game which you can watch by clicking on the binoculars.

If a child has the “hand holding a pawn” icon next to their username that means that they are available to play and you can invite them to a game by clicking that icon. In the example above, if EagerPuzzler is your child’s friend, they can invite or challenge EagerPuzzler to play a game. This will display the following panel which will allow your child to select how much time they would like each player to have to make their moves. Since they would like to socialize during this game, having more time would be best, and they should select 15 minutes.

Once their friend accepts the challenge, the game will begin!

Please note that these instructions assume that children are in the same club within ChessKid as clubmates will be listed on the “friends and clubmates” tab. If your child’s friend is on ChessKid but not in the same club, you can still connect them using the instructions in this “How to Understand ChessKid’s Safety Features” article.

Parents and coaches can also play games with a child if they are “guardians” on that child’s account. If you would like your child to be able to play with another adult relative like their grandparent, you can add that relative as a Secondary Guardian using the instructions in this ChessKid “How to Manage Guardianship” article.

Using Online Resources to Teach Young Children How to Play Chess

Many parents are leveraging online resources to teach their young children how to play chess, especially during this time when school and community chess clubs are meeting virtually. The online tools are so good that older children can learn how to play on their own, and parents can teach their young children, even if they do not know how to play chess themselves.

The primary tool we use is ChessKid.com, because it has excellent lessons designed specifically for children. Each lesson has a brief, fun video followed by interactive exercises so children can practice what they just learned. The interactive exercises for the introductory lessons have audio as well as text explanations so children who do not know how to read can still do them with help from their parents. The lessons follow a natural progression and are organized into levels beginning with the Pawn-level lessons which teach how the pieces move.

ChessKid “Meet the Rook!” Lesson

Children can then practice moving the pieces using the “Learn to Play” game in the free ChessKid app on iOS and Android devices. In this game, children keep moving a piece until they capture a star by landing on it.

Another good resource for learning and practicing the basics of chess is lichess.org/learn#/. Children can use this part of the lichess.org website without creating an account. This has a similar game where you move a piece to a star, but it has more advanced levels with multiple stars.

When there are several stars, children get more points by reaching all the stars in fewer moves; while they are practicing moving pieces, they are also starting to learn more advanced chess concepts, like visualization, planning, and evaluating alternatives. Even experienced players enjoy these exercises!


lichess.org Learn Chess Basics exercises

Once children learn these basics, it will be easier for them to participate in their chess club’s virtual meetings, and they will enjoy playing their friends using the ChessKid “Play vs. Kid” and “Puzzle Duel” features.

Please let us know if you are using other online resources to teach your young children how to play chess. You can do this by adding a comment to this blog post or by contacting us directly. Thank you!