My pro bono chess work in DC - 2016 recap and beyond

My pro bono chess work in DC - 2016 recap and beyond

NM eltenedor
Feb 13, 2017, 11:02 PM |

In April 2016, I stated my commitment to a cause: To provide chess lessons to the DC community at no cost. This blog is an update on what I did in 2016 and what I intend to do going forward. (This is my original blog in which I state my goals.)

The pro bono work I am doing has allowed me to carry out one of my core values--providing genuine opportunity for all, regardless of ability to pay--through the medium of a game that I am passionate about and through which I feel can help others. Chess not only is a rewarding game in itself, but it provides so many benefits--critical thinking, planning, grit, good sportsmanship, resilience, objectivity, open-mindedness, sound judgment, decision-making, lucid visualization, a bulwark against aging, and more. I enjoy helping my students to achieve these benefits, and feel that chess also provides a fantastic opportunity to mentor youth.

Here is a summary of what has happened so far. In April of 2016, I reached out to multiple community based organizations in DC. As a result, I developed lasting partnerships with So Others Might Eat (SOME) and Chess Girls DC (check out their awesome new site and donate to help 6 girls compete in the Supernationals this year!).

Every Sunday evening, I serve two hours at SOME's Harvest House, working with women who are in their last stage of overcoming addiction as they prepare to successfully re-enter the community; every other Wednesday evening, I serve two hours at SOME's Kuehner House, working with a wonderful group of low-income seniors. This video gives an idea of the powerful work that SOME does, helping to break the cycle of homelessness in our nation's capital.



Every Saturday, I serve two hours at Chess Girls DC, which empowers girls through the game of chess; guest leaders in the community periodically come in to teach about the connection between chess and leadership. Founder and Executive Director Robin Ramson is a DC native and has put in so much hard work to make this program a success. I look forward to working with her and the team of volunteers to see Chess Girls DC's impact continue to strengthen. Howard University Professor and author Dr. Quito Swan is also awesome, a pleasure to work with, and is currently giving me a hard time on's Chess960 (Fischer Random Chess)! 



My goal of 100 hours half-way through 2016 was a bit ambitious; though I worked diligently to meet it, I just passed 75 hours. However, with this volunteer schedule averaging five hours a week, hitting 150+ hours this year should not be a problem. 

Here is a story in pictures of pro bono chess in action last year. Kuehner House has a policy in which I can't post the photos of the amazing seniors I work with. All others have been authorized to be photographed and shared on social media.




With the wonderful ladies at Harvest House. They have shown a deep commitment to the game. I have recently begun working with a chess player, Loretta (not pictured here), who I am training to compete in chess tournaments this year and who is playing at A-level (1800+). I look forward to seeing what she and other residents at Harvest House will do with chess and in their lives! They are such wonderful people and inspire me every week I work with them.




Working one-on-one with Maria.




With the cheerful Constance (left) and Mimi, who was incredibly courageous and improved tremendously.




Robin from Chess Girls DC (second to left) came to volunteer one week.






Corinthea in deep thought




I had the chance to speak on a "Trailblazers" panel for DC Public Schools high school students through the Washington DC Hall of Fame Society. We had a fascinating discussion on education, career, and life.




I brought three of my fantastic students at Turner Elementary in Southeast DC to Chess Challenge in DC's Winter Tournament, which I think was a great first tournament experience for them. (Note: This one is not a pro bono gig, but the organization has a community impact mission.)




This was one of the first weeks I taught at Chess Girls DC, summer 2016. These girls are quite impressive and I look forward to seeing them go far, in chess and in life!




One of the students at Chess Girls DC demonstrates another technique for checkmating with king and queen. In addition to endgame technique, other early lessons included The Immortal Game (from 1851!), a great attacking game of Judit Polgar's (arguably the strongest female chess player in history), and methods for solving various tactics.




We set up clocks for the girls to get tournament-ready. Once the school year started, classes ranged from 15-20 students, and we are expecting up to 30 this year as the program continues to grow.

This work has made my coaching far more meaningful. Shortly after I began coaching in 2015, I felt that something was missing. My commitment to community work and social justice is steadfast, and I knew that I needed to do something more than just teaching classes and one-on-one lessons to students who could afford it. I feel that expanding access to chess throughout DC, and throughout the world (Queen of Katwe was a great example of how this is being done), is good work and I am happy to be a part of it.

Join in if you can--by teaching or by donating to these causes. The US Chess Federation is also committed to making chess education accessible and is a worthy cause.

To make a direct impact in the lives of 6 tremendously talented girls in DC who are training hard to compete in the Supernationals this April, consider chipping in to Chess Girls DC so that these students can experience the opportunity of a lifetime.

Thank you for reading and share with me your thoughts on pro bono chess, in DC and around the world!




Twitter: @ chessprof