School Spotlight: Collinswood Language Academy

Young Master Chess holds chess clubs and chess instruction at elementary schools all over the area. This week's school spotlight is on Collinswood Language Academy in Charlotte!

Bright and early on a chilly Wednesday morning, chess club at Collinswood started right away with a warm up game! Kids paired up to get fingers warm, pieces moving and their brains in gear.

Coach Chris Callahan sat in at one board and reviewed an important concept to consider when starting a game: the 3 things you do in the opening! Number 1: Put a pawn in the center. Number 2: Move knights & bishops first. Number 3: Castle! (A special move with the king and the rook to help the king get to a safe place.)

Next up, the focus moved to the smart board, where Coach C was nice enough to accept some Slow game challenges! That means each player has 7 days to make a move (and that Coach C is going to have a lot of games going at one time!) Thanks Coach C!

This week’s lesson was all about which moves to consider during any game. How do you take a move into consideration? In chess games (like in tactics puzzles), moves are very often one of 2 types: checks & captures! So, always take a look at checks and captures. That doesn't mean PLAY checks & captures – but at least consider them.

The group worked together as a position was placed on the smart board to identify as many checks & captures as they could – the first two things to look at when considering a move.

Finishing up club time was the chance to play over the board chess in optional ladder groups. All chess club members started out the year in one of three animal groups based on grade level & whether they'd been in chess club before: the King Kongs, the Ducks & the Zebras. There was also one group added for special achievements: the Nuclear Pandas! (Nuclear Panda status can be won by beating one of the existing pandas…) And sure enough, this morning saw the crowning of another panda through an exciting game win!

Coach C & Assistant Coach (and Collinswood student) Kevin circulated around to assist with questions and offer move and game play suggestions. Keep up the great chess enthusiasm Collinswood students!


School Spotlight: Sharon Elementary

Young Master Chess holds chess clubs and chess instruction at elementary schools all over the area. This week's school spotlight is on Sharon Elementary School in Charlotte!

Sharon Elementary School students have an afterschool club on Friday afternoons. On this particular Friday, club started out with a quick check of the Fast Chess leaderboard on and a few rewards for club members who had played the most games online recently.

Everyone (in all YMC chess clubs!) has the ability to play a live game anytime they want to on their ChessKid accounts. That means a student doesn't have to pester mom, dad, a brother or sister for a game outside of club - it's as easy as logging in & clicking the button that says "Play Fast."

The group then split into two sections: returning students sat at the media center tables & the beginning group headed just around the corner together upstairs in another part of the library.

Coach Chris Callahan took out his teaching board and began the group lesson for the beginning section with a warning: it's going to be "difficult!" The lesson was introducing the special chess rule "en passant:" a French word meaning "in passing," and a move on the board that doesn't happen very often. Some of the beginners had already heard of this concept, but now the entire group got to learn and practice. This is a rule that was introduced recently to the game (only about 500 years ago or so...)

The group watched on the board how 2 pawns now had the ability to make up for a lost move: when one pawn goes 2 squares on it's first move, and there's another pawn next to it, the other pawn has the option to take it - and make up for a lost capture. Remember! The capture has to be made by a pawn, one pawn has to be on a move that goes 2 squares, and the capture has to take place on the very next move. (Mom, Dad, ask your young chess players to explain it to you!) Coach C reversed the roles - the kids became teachers & he became the student. He made a series of pawn moves to illustrate the new rule, and the students had to explain why each move was right or wrong.

Next up came this week's optional tournament ladder! All students have the opportunity to play over-the-board chess during chess club. Additionally each week, chess club members have the option to participate in the chess ladder. Coach C paired up players for games based on last week's results, and each win moves kids up another spot along the ladder throughout the year.

Over at the media center tables, National Master Chris Mabe had the smart board on and first showed a ChessKid video "Playing Tournament Chess" about playing strategy, thinking like your opponent, taking your time & examples from some famous games. This was in anticipation of what was to come next...this week's club tournament games! The chess sets came out & Coach Mabe paired the group based on last week's results.

He also let me in on a little secret chess players: next week, game notation begins! Notation is a great way to get in the good habit of taking time to think about your next move before making it on the board - and it's a great preparation to tournament play!
Keep up the great chess playing Sharon Elementary, see you in chess club -



School Spotlight: Charlotte Lab School

Young Master Chess holds chess clubs and chess instruction at elementary schools all over the area. This week's school spotlight is on Charlotte Lab School - in uptown Charlotte!

Charlotte Lab School students are lucky to have both chess instruction during the school day, as well as an afterschool club. Lab was the first school to start the chess club back up this school year, so they've been meeting for more than a month already. This means the advanced students are already getting ready to complete their first tournament cycle of the year, and the beginning students are already several weeks into instruction.

The beginning group was led by National Master Shawn Pealer and started this week's club with a few warm-up puzzles.

The group has been learning basic concepts for the past few weeks, and today's lesson began with a new activity: group computer drills! The students worked together to figure out how to beat the computer using two rooks vs. king and another win using a queen and king vs. king. These drills are available to all YMC students using their ChessKid accounts! Look for the "Computer Workout" section and you can practice anytime or anywhere -

After the group computer activity, they broke into individual over-the-board games - paired up based on the previous club games' results.

Down the hall in the Spanish classroom, the advanced group was led by National Master Chris Mabe. This group is in the middle of a fierce 5 week tournament cycle competition! Each week, they play another tournament game, rewarded at the end of the cycle with some fun variant games the following week. The goal is to alternate quality, focused tournament games followed by some chess fun!

Today's group lesson was about opposite side castling. What happens when one side attacks the king's castle with his or her pawns? The group looked at a game example together - by none other than Coach Chris Mabe himself! (It had a cool opening name too..."the Sicilian dragon." One side castled on the queenside (white) and the other castled on the kingside (black), and yes, it looked like the dragon was breathing fire diagonally down the board!

A quick check of the ChessKid Puzzles leaderboard revealed that the student in the lead attempted 142 puzzles the previous week! It's nice seeing some friendly ChessKid leaderboard competition. All of the students have access to the Charlotte Lab School Club leaderboard, and can see who's done the most activities on the site each week.

Club activity then turned to this week's tournament games. Game pairings were read out, boards & clocks came out and the piece action started. This was the last week of the first tournament cycle - so the pressure was on! The leader had 4 wins so far...
Chess clocks and notation sheets are the norm for the advanced group! Game notation is required for tournament games, and the club has practice clocks for the entire group to use, so everyone gets used to the idea of playing with a clock and writing down moves before they're played.


We'll see everyone in chess club next week! Keep up the good work!