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2024 ChessKid National Festival Highlights
ChessKid National Festival team winners. Photo: Daniel Schipper/Charlotte Chess Center.

2024 ChessKid National Festival Highlights

ChessKid
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That's a wrap! The inaugural ChessKid National Festival concluded President's Day weekend, February 16-19, 2024, in Charlotte, NC. The four-day chess celebration was ChessKid's first-ever over-the-board tournament event for kids and families. 

ChessKid National Festival Photo Booth
Kids posing in the photo booth. Photo: Christine VanCott.

In partnership with the Charlotte Chess Center, the festival entertained over 400 kids with various tournaments, including blitz, bughouse, and bullet chess, and unique side events, such as Puzzle Bee, Hula Chess, Chess Fencing, and the Super Soaker Challenge. Kids even had the chance to meet popular chess personalities, including FM Mike Klein (FunMasterMike), IM Levy Rozman (GothamChess), the Botez sisters, and more!—It was the experience of a lifetime.

ChessKid National Festival Tournament
The packed tournament hall. Photo: Martin Collette/ChessKid.

Rewatch all rounds of the 2024 ChessKid National Festival tournament on twitch.tv/chesskid or  youtube.com/chesskidofficial and review games on Chess.com's event page.


Festival Highlights

The event kicked off a thrilling VIP simul with 140 kids playing against FunMasterMike, GothamChess, WGM Jennifer Shahade, IM Danny Rensch, FM James Canty, and GM Daniel Naroditsky

ChessKid National Festival VIP Simul
Day 1 simultaneous exhibition with the VIPs. Photo: Martin Collette/ChessKid.

The day ends with a hilarious pieing, setting the bar high with bursting excitement and energy for the rest of the festival.

ChessKid National Festival Pie FunMasterMike
Puzzle Bee winner pies FunMasterMike. Photo: Martin Collette/ChessKid.

Alongside the main tournaments, many fun side events took place.

In Super Soaker Chess, kids leveraged water guns in an attempt to stop Rozman from winning a game. Even with a rain poncho and getting water shot up his ear, Rozman was undefeated.

ChessKid National Festival Super Soaker Chess
Super Soaker Chess Challenge moments. Photo: Mike Klein and Sam Copeland.

Hula Chess is Shahade's specialty. The challenge is to play chess while hula-hooping. If you drop your hula hoop, you're out. To some, this may be more difficult than it seems!

ChessKid National Festival Hula Chess
Hula Chess with Jen. Photo: Martin Collette/ChessKid.

Aside from active events, kids and parents had the opportunity to attend informative VIP lectures and get chess lessons from the masters. 

ChessKid National Festival Girls Event with Jennifer Shahade
Jen's Girls-Only Event with the Botez sisters. Photo: Martin Collette/ChessKid.

If all these thrilling chess activities weren't enough, chess fencing surely topped it! Representing USA Fencing, Sasha and Anna, two incredible sabre fencers, teamed up with Klein and Rensch for an exciting demonstration and game.

When a fencer scores a point, or "touch" in fencing, their chess player teammate makes a move on the board—so black could open, or one could make multiple moves in a row.

In a three-game match, Team Anna and Rensch won 2-1 against Team Sasha and Klein. 

ChessKid National Festival Chess Fencing Debut
Live chess fencing demonstration by Sasha and Anna. Of course, Danny and Mike had to try it too! Photo: Vaibhav Chopra/ChessKid.

Talk about starstruck meeting your favorite chess idols—Throughout the festival, kids got to connect with famous creators and chess masters and get autographs and pictures with them.

ChessKid National Festival Book Signing with Levy Rozman and Jennifer Shahade
Levy and Jen held book signings. Photo: Ivette Garcia and Kulsum Qasim/ChessKid.

There were also many non-chess-related festivities, including face painting, balloon animals, a popcorn vendor, and an exciting live band performance from "Benjamin Blundercheck & The Poisoned Pawn," for the whole family to enjoy.

ChessKid National Festival live band performance by Benjamin Blundercheck & The Poisoned Pawn
Benjamin Blundercheck & The Poisoned Pawn. Photo: Martin Collette/ChessKid.

Tournament Winners and Standings

The main focus of the ChessKid National Festival was the chess tournaments. There were seven six-round Swiss tournaments with sections based on age and rating covering K-8th grade.

ChessKid National Festival Trophies
ChessKid National Festival trophies. Photo: Martin Collette/ChessKid.

Of those competing, three 2000-plus-rated kids and multiple countries represented, including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Trinidad, and Tobago.

ChessKid National Festival individual winners

View the team standings and full tournament standings.

Congratulations to all winners and participants! 


Closing Remarks

Reflecting, Klein, Head of ChessKid Content & Scholastic Growth, had this to say when it came to organizing the event:

The ChessKid National Festival was the culmination of a year's worth of work by the team to bring the same fun and joy of the online experience to a real-life event.

—Mike Klein

A lot of planning and hard work was put into making this festival so spectacular for kids and families to experience and enjoy chess together. As Klein puts it:

You are the reason that we're here. We want lifelong chess players, we want the skills that chess teaches to be evident."

ChessKid National Festival ChessKids
ChessKids at the festival. Photo: ChessKid and Chess.com

Testimonials

What was your favorite part of the festival?

  • "Playing chess and meeting new friends." - Muhammad, Kid
  • "... [the] simul with [WGM Jen Shahade and WIM Ivette Garcia]... I brought my daughter with me, so it was nice to see that type of female leadership..." - Anita, Parent
  • "I liked hearing Danny Rensch's talk... he had some excellent answers to the questions the parents and the kids had." - Diana, Parent
  • "[The kids] enjoyed meeting all these people they see on YouTube or the ChessKid videos... and the bughouse tournament, they all loved [that]." - Ryan, Parent

How does this tournament compare to other tournaments?

  • "Better. There are side events like bughouse, blitz, and stuff that aren't chess related, like balloon [animals]." - Beatrice, Kid
  • "You can tell that the whole festival [and] tournament was geared towards kids and the family. There was lots to do for the player, my daughter, but also her younger sister, and my husband. So it was really a family fun-filled event compared to other events." - Anita, Parent

From a parent's perspective, how has chess helped with your child's development?

  • "Planning ahead and preparation is so important in life... so I'm excited that my first grader is getting this experience so early on in a fun and safe environment." - Anita, Parent
  • "Chess is great because it does help with critical thinking skills, training [to] slow down... in academics, taking his time and thinking things through before making decisions... This game is [beautiful] and I think it has helped [my son] develop discipline and confidence in other areas of life." - Terrence, Parent

Advice to parents thinking about bringing their kids to one of these events

  • "... it's not only fun but it's a really good learning experience. It helps them [with] social, emotional, and especially [academic skills]. The kids have fun whether they're winning or losing... because they're just too excited. When they get out of the rounds, there's [always] something else fun for them to do. The coolest part of it, you get to meet chess masters!... The kids are getting that up close, personal experience with them and these are people that they follow on ChessKid. That was one of the biggest excitements they had. - Georgia, Parent
  • "Your kid is going to be going up against good competition... be ready and prepared." - Terrence, Parent

Thank you, everyone, for making this event one of the most special and memorable moments in ChessKid history. 

ChessKid
ChessKid

ChessKid.com is the scholastic extension of Chess.com, and is #1 chess website for kids! Safe, fun and educational - ChessKid has a curriculum (both written and interactive on the site) to help take kids from beginner to "serious tournament player" level. This account is used to publish updates and articles about ChessKid.com and the special events held on this site.