Western Invitational Chess Camp

IM Fins0905

Ah, the summer chess camp. Often misinterpreted as a threat ("You better be good this summer or I'm sending you away to chess camp") or a punchline ("Oh, you had a blast at adventure camp? Well, I had the time of my life at CHESS CAMP!), insiders know: chess camp can actually be pretty awesome! Top chess camps these days feature premier instructors, comprehensive chess learning, and plenty of fun activities and extras.

I had the privilege of teaching at two such week-long camps in July:

The Western Invitational Chess Camp has been organized since 2004 by my good friend, FM Robby Adamson (colloquially: "BLITZMASTER"!). Robby is extremely passionate about youth chess, and he has been influential in the development of many top young players around the country. He personally helped me to refine important aspects of my game when I was making the push to master in 8th/9th grade (though I'm still trying to recover from being forced to learn the Benko Gambit...just kidding, Robby!). Over the past couple years I had been prodding Robby to take me on as a instructor, and I was thrilled that he finally gave me the chance to teach. Robby selects his instructors very carefully (most are established Grandmasters and well-respected trainers), so I definitely appreciated the vote of confidence.

I joined fellow instructors GMs Melikset Khachiyan, Alejandro Ramirez, Josh Friedel, and IM Levon Altounian (plus Robby).

(left to right: me, GM Melikset Khachiyan, FM Robby Adamson)

Students in the top group this year all had ratings of 2100+ USCF. Even the "lower" groups boasted very high average ratings (average of around 1800 for the camp as a whole, I believe).

Instruction lasted from 9 am - 5 pm each day, with three main lectures (including a cool "practical exercise" portion). There was also a camp tournament running throughout. All of the instructors prepared very challenging lecture material, and the campers really rose to the occasion. Seriously, I was blown away by how on-point these promising young players could be. It was clear that everyone in attendance was genuinely interested in improving their game, and it thus made the teaching very enjoyable.

The camp also had a variety of fun evening activities: blitz/bullet/bughouse tournaments, bowling, a camp party, and a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises"! I was thoroughly exhausted by camp's end (with the activities we weren't getting home until 9:00 pm or later!), but it was TOTALLY worth it. I met a ton of great campers and parents, and everyone involved had a great time.

In a word, phenomenal! I encourage any interested reader to check out Robby's camp next year. A few pics:

(Camp tourney in progress)

(GM "Handi" Ramirez gives a lecture. Yes, the camp shirts really says '#swagCHESScamp' !)
(GM Melik managing the pairings for the bullet tourney)

 (Me explaining the finer points of pawn endings!?)

(Bughouse always livens things up!)

(Bowling at Fiesta Lanes)

(A unique camp tradition: older campers "vandalize" Robby's car!)

(...but he seems OK with it)

(Camp pic - courtesy of Linda Diaz)

This post is getting a little long, so I'll save my discussion of the similarly-awesome St. Olaf Olechess Camp for my next post. I taught at OleChess last year, and it nearly DOUBLED in size this year! The instructor list included GMs Alex Onischuk, Yury Shulman, Alex Yermolinsky, IM Irina Krush (US Women's Champion!), myself, and FM Kevin Bachler. If you're up to it, here are two interesting exercises I presented at OleChess (and subsequently to a couple of my students):
White is attacking our rook. What should we do?

White just played the provactive 25.Nf4-d5!? How should we react?