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Scholastic chess

  • billwall
  • | May 22, 2007

I've been involved in scholastic chess for many years and have seen the benefits of seeing chess promoted in the schools. I was a coach and trainer at Alexander Central High School in Taylorsville, NC, and it won the state championship three years in a row when I was involved there. I also coached and trained Jordy Mont-Reynaud and Vinay Bhat, and they became the nation's youngest masters at 10, while being involved in the Palo Alto Chess Club in California as junior players and playing in lots of tournaments.

It seems that all the active junior chess players did well in school. Joe Zachary, first board at Alexander Central in the little town of Taylorville, NC went on to MIT and got a PhD. Jordy attended Stanford. Vinay became an international master at 16 and has several grandmaster norms. He attended UC Berkeley.

Chess helps you to concentrate better. You can focus on a problem better and look for mutliple solutions or the best solution. Chess makes you a better observer. Chess helps you visualize problems better. Chess teaches patience. The better players do not make the first move they think of. They have patience to find even a better move or make sure the first move thought abot is the best move. Chess players are able the think ahead better. In chess, you think first, then act after careful thought. Chess teaches you to look at alternatives and consider the pros and cons of the choices (candiate moves in chess) being though about. Chess is good in pattern recognition and it does help train the memory to work better. You don't need the best memory to play chess, you need solid logic and how to analyze correctly. There are social benefits to chess. There are organized clubs and tournaments. Ideally, kids are taught about sportsmanship and how to win or lose graciously. For kids with talent, there is increased motivation to get better and study more, with books or a coach or even with computer databases nowadays.

Independent studies show that kids involved in chess do better in math and reading skills. Visual memory, attention span, and spatial reasonin skills are all improved in children involved in chess.

So what's it take to start a scholastic chess club. Well, you need players and volunteers. Ideally, the volunteers are chess players themselves who have been involved in organized chess. Many times, parent or teacher volunteers do not know how to play chess or know how to organize a chess club. There may be someone in the community who has been involved in chess and would volunteer in a school, but that person may not know about a school chess club. I found out about one elementary school chess club that I volunteered to help after one of my students in tennis (I am also a tennis coach) told me about his chess club in his school. I then volunteered for several years getting the school club started and introducing the kids to local clubs and tournaments.

You also need chess equipment. You need chess sets and boards, and if you can afford it, chess clocks. Chess sets and boards can be cheap and found in most stores or online. Many of the kids may have chess sets of their own or get borrow one from the parents if there is a chess set in the home. Chess clocks would be nice, and they can be more expensive and harder to get.

You need a place to play chess. I have seen chess played in the school library or cafeteria or school classroom after school hours. Also look for chess clubs around the area or perhaps at one of the homes of a volunteer or one of the kids.

If you can raise money, then you can fund for trophies, travel to tournaments, entry fees, even a letter for the school jacket if it is approved like a sport.

You are never too young to play chess. The younger, the better. And let the girls play, too. There are more and more girls participating in chess tournaments. It is no longer a boy's or men's game.

And it is not just for nerds. Chesplayers include: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, Nicholas Cage, Madonna, Kareen Abdul-Jabbar, Bono, Sting, Roger Federer, Laurence Fishburne, Michael J Fox, Jamie Foxx, Chris Rock, Anna Kournikova, Jude Law, David Letterman, LL COOL J, Keanu Reeves, Julia Roberts, Kate Jackson, David Lee Roth, Barry Sanders, Tom Selleck, Brooke Shields, Will Smith, Kevin Spacey, and Evander Holyfield among others. I listed a lot more celebrities and famous people who played chess in a book called Chess for Success, by Maurice Ashley. This is an excellent book for scholastic chess players, along with Searching for Bobby Fischer, by Fred Waitzkin. I recommend these two books for the scholastic player.

 Here are some scholastic chess links:

http://www.af4c.org/club/scripts/public/public.asp?ns=public - America's Foundation for Chess

http://aschess.org/ - American Scholastic Chess Federation

http://www.chessintheschools.org/ - Chess in the Schools

http://www.chesskids.com/ - ches kids academy

http://www.chessmates.org/ - Chess Mates Foundation

http://www.chess-math.org/ - Chess 'n Math

http://www.thechessacademy.org/Resources_for_Educators.htm - chess for educators

http://www.amchesseq.com/Guide/2003SCguide.pdf - A Guide to Scholastic Chess

http://www.chessctr.org/ - US Chess Center

http://www.geocities.com/chess_camp/index.html - USCF Scholastic Council

http://www.usscholasticchess.org/ - US Scholastic Chess





  • 5 years ago


    Because of economic inflation, people are used in loaning. The celebrity rags have been buzzing about the Nicholas Cage financial problems. It appears that his former business manager neglected to pay any of the taxes Cage would have owed, which was his charge, and mismanaged his investments and properties, to the point that Nicholas Cage broke from paying the IRS and creditors might be a possibility, or at least that's what is alleged by the lawsuit Cage filed.  If this guy tried to pull a Bernie Madoff, then he not only deserves to pay Cage back every penny, but do some time in the clink. Seeing the Nicholas Cage financial problems story unfold makes one think about doing some credit repair for one's self.

  • 6 years ago


    Cool that you listed some famous people that play chess, too. Hopefully, that will help to get more people involved.

  • 7 years ago


    Yes, I played in one LERA event and went to Kolty Club a few times. I've drifted in and out of tournament chess for years, so can't say I was ever a regular at any of these events.
  • 7 years ago



     Did you ever play in the LERA evants, or at the Kolty Club in Campbell?  There were a few San Jose Opens that I played in.  I ran the Palo Alto chess club at the time and we had over 100 members, including Jordy and Vinay.  Jordy's parents (Randy) soon started bringing Jordy over my house every few days, and the Bhat family showed most of the time at the club.  Another student was Alan Stein, who became a master.  Lot of talented kids at the time.  I directed and played in dozens of events during my time there from 1985 to 1991 (worked at NASA Ames).


  • 7 years ago


    Great reading Bill. Nice to know what happened to Vinay Bhat and Jordey. I was a junior/senior in high school playing in the chess club here in San Jose when they were right around 10 years old. I actually played against Vinay Bhat in the nor cal chess championships! I was only rated 1400 at the time, but I was playing on board 2 in ROUND 4!!  I won my first couple games against 1600 or so rated players, and then ended up playing Jenny Frenklach in round 3, who was ~2150. I beat her somehow, best win of my life for sure. So then in round 4 I played against Vinay, and lost in an endgame, he had one more pawn than me. :)  Then in round 5, i played against another 2000+ player. What a tournament, 3 2000+ players when I was only rated 1400.


    Anyways, great info. I too have taught chess at elementary schools, both here in San Jose, and in Utah. It's a lot of fun.

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