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Real Experiences Starting a Chess Club

posted December 9th, 2014

Written by customer Kent W. Book

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Good Morning my chess friends,

I'm a new librarian in a small Kansas town that thought chess might be a fun activity for the kids after school and during the winter break. I didn't realize that it would quickly grow into a 30+ kid a day activity. We stay hopping with 9 boards going at a time, in every open corner we can find, and a waiting list to last until we close, and we've got kids from K-9th playing each other. One 1st grader is looking to be the next Capablanca. It's been great.

What's also been great is your customer service. The first 4 sets I ordered came quickly, but missing a few bags of pieces. Mistakes happen. I made a call, got in touch with a real person first off (which was pleasantly shocking), and she was very friendly and helpful....and I had my missing pieces in 2 days. Amazing. Seriously, that kind of service is hard to find these days.

Then we ordered 5 more sets, and they were here in a speedy zip.

Then I started looking over your web site and reading the articles. Terribly fun and informative.

Thank you, from a very pleased customer.

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We appreciate Kent's comments, and we're really excited that there has been so much success with the after-school chess activities in his local library. It is great for people to realize how easy it can be to get others involved in chess, and it can be contagious, too! This is a fantastic example of proving that having a chess club is not as intimidating as it sounds, and it's amazing how quickly clubs can grow. Children love to learn, plus there have been many studies on how chess can improve cognitive function, so we love to hear about kids getting involved and learning to play. Apparently, it's as easy as offering some kids the opportunity!

If you're trying to start a chess club or have inherited the coaching position in a club, and are looking for supplies to help your chess club members play and grow, we've got you covered. You'll want to take a look at any of our Club Chess Sets, but probably the best for new players is the Basic Club Chess Set Combo. You might feel like you need a clock or other accessories, but there's no need to complicate things even more for yourself until your players are past the fundamentals. And if you are going to be teaching a group of new chess players, you'll probably want some kind of demo set to make it easier for everyone to see tactics, moves, and strategies.

Remember, the bottom line of any successful club is to make sure the members of the club are having fun. Children will have the most fun when they're actually learning and playing, so teach them the basics, give them some pointers, and get them involved in some games. You'll be amazed at the success!


Book Review: "Chess Is Child's Play"

posted Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Review by IM Daniel Rensch

Laura Sherman and Bill Kilpatrick have written an easy-to-read and practical yet fun beginner's chess book...not for kids, but for parents and educators!

As a "chess professional" (as if there is such a title in the workplace), I have been around the block when it comes to chess literature. Though there is certainly no shortage of great chess books that provide concrete chess knowledge -- i.e., specific chess concepts, strategic ideas, opening repertoires, analytical manuals meant to serve as guides to improving your calculation, etc. -- the list of chess books that actually focus on teaching teachers how to teach chess is a short one.

In an attempt to provide a fresh perspective on how to teach children chess and "troubleshoot" (literally) the everyday issues that occur for a chess coach in the classroom, Laura and Bill tried several new tactics in this book.

I will get into a few of my favorites below, but before I do, I will make clear that my recommendation for this book is to parents, coaches, and educators -- not kids!

Adults who may or may not know much about chess, let alone how to teach the many different levels of chess understanding they will encounter in a classroom, will surely enjoy and learn a ton from this book.

First, what separates Chess is Child's Play from other "beginner-level" chess books and teaching manuals?

For starters, Child's Play provides practical tips that have as much to do with what's off the chess board as to what's on it, like "how do you teach a child that doesn't know their right and left hands yet how to set up a board?"

Any coach who's experienced teaching kids younger than four knows that getting kids to remember "white on the right" (light square h1 or a8, of course) knows that it's not always easy -- despite its fundamental importance to their ability to set up a board and play a game of chess.

Laura provides fantastic advice to these kinds of questions and others in her "troubleshooting" section at the end of each chapter.

Of course, there are more concrete chess troubleshooting tips too, such as "dealing with a child who's confused about stalemate vs checkmate."

All coaches know that can be a serious issue for beginners to handle.

I really liked the way each chapter is brought together with these final troubleshooting and practical tips, and I personally learned several practical "tricks of the trade" that -- despite being an international master and having taught chess in the schools for almost a decade -- I had never tried. (And I wish I had when dealing with some of my, um, trickier students.) Wink

Second, I loved the pacing, tone and readability of Child's Play!

The only negative feeling I had towards the book was its sheer size. Physically, it's the size of an eighth-grader's math or science book -- and I thought "OK, this is going to be way too much text for the simple task of teaching beginning chess concepts."

Those fears were quickly put to rest, however, when I began flipping through the book. Big letters. Easy to read font. Great spacing between one concept and the next, and the tone remains consistent and clear throughout.

Bill and Laura are talking to parents and coaches, and in doing so, they are delivering valuable tips and insights. I took a picture of one of my favorites here:

Laura's real-life, in-classroom experience dealing with kids proved valuable in this book.

If you're an experienced coach, you likely already do a lot of those things yourself, but if you're just learning the game and the concepts, having access to advice like "make sure you be silly, after all, you're talking to kids!"  Tongue Out can be really important.

Finally, I love coffee talk!

Anyone who knows me knows I'm not kidding! But specifically to this book, "coffee talk" refers to fun stories, tips, and lessons from Laura and Bill's real-world experience teaching kids chess.

Some of the quotes and stories like this one were absolute gems! Hilarious! And great teaching tools!

I may end up using that sumo wrestler line in a few videos from time to time.  Wink

One of my favorites that actually hit home was a coffee talk story about a two-year-old girl who recognized all pieces as "not a pawn."

I won't include a screenshot of that one, but having recently attempted to teach my own two-year-old daughter chess, I ran into the same idea that every piece was either a knight or "not a knight." (She loves horsies, what can I say?)  Tongue Out

I really connected with those fun stories. They make the entire book more enjoyable.

Obviously, I recommend the book. And get nothing from it! No affiliate links here to outside "revenue-generating" sources.

This is just a good, old-fashioned explanation of why I think  Chess is Child's Play is a great pick for educators and parents to teach their kids chess, especially for adults without much chess knowledge or chess teaching experience.


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