Chess Coach Interview ~ Robin Ramson, DC Chess Girls

Chess Coach Business Interview

This spring, we had the chance to catch up with Robin Ramson, the Founder of DC Chess Girls: a Washington, D.C. based chess non-profit dedicated to encouraging more girls to play chess. When we spoke, she had just returned from a national tournament where her daughter got to compete with children from all over the country.

I know you have lots of stories about chess making a difference. Can you share one story with our readers?

The first one that comes to mind is that of a girl in our program who also participates in a school-based program. There weren’t many girls in the school-based program and the boys were much better than her when she started. Her mom said her daughter almost gave up many times, but ultimately had the courage to keep going due to her continued involvement with with DC Chess Girls. The other girls in the club were really supportive and we do a lot as a club to encourage tournament play. I think providing this kind of encouragement is essential. It takes so long time to get good at chess that recognition for effort and achievement of certain milestones can make a huge difference. I think girls respond well to people noticing their effort (not that boys don’t), so we make sure that we do just that. The other girls in our program are competitive, but they don’t participate in school programs. Even though the other kids on the school team had much higher ratings, it was this girl who ended up getting awards. In addition to the support, we’ve been lucky to have great coaching. I say ‘lucky’ because we are an all-volunteer organization and I hire only experts or above. Our coaches analyze games and provide lectures to prompt thinking about how the girls can take their games to next level. In addition to the chess improvement, the mom said her daughter has become more focused, less intimidated about taking tests, and shows more persistence when tackling difficult subjects. Continue reading “Chess Coach Interview ~ Robin Ramson, DC Chess Girls”

Top 10 MATCH Chess Curriculum Blog Posts of 2016

MATCH Chess Curriculum Top 2016 Posts

  1. Domination: Our top post in 2016 shares a skill building game that teaches students to see the board at a glance. This post includes video instruction by GM Maurice Ashley and ideas for making the game more challenging (hint: play the “mean way” and use a clock). If you like Domination, you might also like Quibs, a skill building game using queens and bishops.
  2. Managing Varied Skill Levels in the Chess Classroom: Our second most popular post highlights creative ideas for making a class engaging when you have students with varied skill levels in the same class. If this is an issue for some of your classes, you might also find our post on using learning stations helpful.
  3. Continue reading “Top 10 MATCH Chess Curriculum Blog Posts of 2016”

Chess Puzzle ~ Mate-in-Two

Keep your students thinking with this mate-in-two puzzle from the MATCH Student Workbook.  Checkmate Puzzle from the MATCH Curriculum

If your students are stumped, you can offer this hint: Remove whatever is stopping your queen from doing what it wants to do!
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Chess Classroom Activity: Skill Building Mini-Game with Queens and Bishops

Chess Skill Building Game Quibs

Skill builders and games are used throughout the MATCH Chess Curriculum to practice important chess and cognitive skills in an engaging way. By using a game format, students are more willing to engage in the repeated practice needed to improve important techniques that have a direct crossover into chess tactics. In previous posts we have covered how to use two such games: Pawn Mower and Domination. In this post, we discuss another game that we call Quibs (Queen Intercepts Bishops) which was designed to help students improve their ability to see/defend against threats, especially forks.

What is a fork? In chess, a fork is when an opponent attacks two pieces at once. When this happens, one of the pieces is likely to be captured because it is often impossible to save both pieces.

You can use any of these games to reinforce important lesson concepts, make productive use of small blocks of time, prime your students’ brains at the beginning of class, drill key skills, or provide an alternative activity for some students while you work with others.  The two keys to success are to make sure you really understand how each activity works and to present them as fun activities in their own right.  Don’t hesitate to make it exciting with game show commentary, time limits and general enthusiasm. Continue reading “Chess Classroom Activity: Skill Building Mini-Game with Queens and Bishops”

Academic Connections: Boost Learning and Develop Context for Chess Games through Chess-based Unit Studies

How to create chess unit studies to help make academic connections

In a previous post, we discussed how integrating other subjects into chess lessons can be beneficial. The idea is that the more you integrate other subjects into your chess classes, the more likely what they learn will be applicable to academic performance and increase motivation to succeed in subjects outside of chess. This is particularly the case if students have some choice in what they learn (learn more here and here).

In this post, we share an integrated lesson from the MATCH Chess Curriculum on chess history. We have researched and planned a history unit that includes many famous players for our curriculum, but the concept is simple and can be replicated. Continue reading “Academic Connections: Boost Learning and Develop Context for Chess Games through Chess-based Unit Studies”

MATCH Chess Curriculum Highlights and FAQ

MATCH Chess Curriculum Highlights

What is the MATCH curriculum?

The MATCH curriculum is a comprehensive chess program based on the training methods Grandmaster Maurice Ashley has been using effectively for over 25 years with the students in his classes, camps and private coaching. If you’ve seen Maurice teach, then you know that he keeps his classes moving and entertaining as he instructs with dynamic interaction and fun activities. We’ve taken all of that and crammed it into a curriculum that includes not just the content, but the activities and games that make his teaching so engaging. It is all provided in a digital presentation format so you can easily focus on teaching your students. No more hustling to pull together puzzles or other activities. The lessons are planned out and waiting for you to bring it to life. If you would like, you can also purchase the hard copy student manuals or simply print out the specific resources you want to incorporate. Continue reading “MATCH Chess Curriculum Highlights and FAQ”

Classroom Tips for Chess Teachers ~ Managing Varied Skill Levels

Classroom Tips for Chess Coaches Managing Diverse Skills

Teaching a class with children with different skill levels can seem quite daunting. Chess coaches facing this challenge have devised interesting tricks over the years to stimulate inexperienced students while keeping the advanced ones focused. Here are some ideas and activities that you can use to keep your classroom buzzing.

  • Focus on activities that allow those of different levels to learn different things (e.g., the Pawn Game and Domination – In the pawn game, beginning students focus on how the pieces move and capture and advanced students learn about pawn structure. In Domination, both groups improve their board visualization skills).

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Chess Activities ~ Increase Engagement with a DIY Chess Set

How to make a chess set craft for coaches

There are as many ways to make your own chess set as there are people to imagine them.  Naturally, it’s best to use what you have on hand or can obtain easily obtain. If the ideas below don’t fit your needs, a quick internet search will yield all kinds of creative ways to make chess sets out of a variety of different materials. 

If you aren’t sure why you should take on this project, click here to read about why we think it’s worth the trouble.

Wooden game pieces 

This is our favorite for several reasons. It takes multiple sessions to complete (which is a good thing). It is one of the many ways for kids to express their own personality, which in the long run builds their investment in playing. It’s also relatively inexpensive, while still being reasonably durable.

We recommend that this project be broken down into 15-20 minute session across multiple classes to make the project more manageable and help meet the goals of the project [click here to read about those].
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Easy Ways Use Algebraic Notation to Boost Learning in the Classroom

Tips for using and learning from chess notation.

Teach your students how to take short algebraic notation. You can use the image below as a reference. Once your students are familiar with the basics, it’s time to practice.

One great way to reinforce what they have learned is by reviewing famous games.  You can start with one of the most famous chess games of all time, The Opera Game (scroll down for the moves), but more are easy to find via a quick internet search. You can even find games that are analyzed/annotated by strong chess players to help you guide discussion as you play through games. Play through the chosen game on a demonstration board or projector while your students notate the game.  This allows them to practice notation without having to simultaneously think about their game.  It also makes it easy for you, their classmates or volunteers to check their work.  As a nice side effect, they will be exposed to the kinds of moves made by strong players.
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How a Simple but Powerful Chess Tool Can Teach Independent Learning, Game Improvement & More

What kids can learn from writing down their games

Chess notation is like a music score for chess. When a game is recorded using chess notation it is forever saved for review by the player, friends, coaches or future generations. Thanks to notation, we can replay games from as far back as two or three hundred years ago. We can relive the moment, imagining how the great players of the past thought and felt as they played the classics that would stand the test of time. We can experience the highs and lows of a game and vicariously feel the impact of each thrilling victory, crushing defeat or fighting draw.  The game score is like instant replay in sports, allowing the student to dissect the game down to its smallest detail. This can be very exciting, but, most importantly, it is also a phenomenal learning tool. Continue reading “How a Simple but Powerful Chess Tool Can Teach Independent Learning, Game Improvement & More”