On Chess: Club is taken over by 16 young talents
The growing interest in chess at grade schools has significantly increased the number of young prodigies. Those quickly rising stars serve not only as role models to scores of chess enthusiasts wishing to emulate their success and fame. They are now the backbone of the U.S. Youth Teams for world events and transform into America's leading chess players.
To cultivate and further help these youngsters a few altruistic programs have emerged. These offer different types of assistance in terms of instruction and guidance, aiming to offset the otherwise very substantial out-of-pocket expenses the parents of these players often incur.
This past week, two of the programs, the Schein-Friedman Scholastic Project and U.S. Chess School, have joined resources to run a tuition-free, accommodations-free, invitation only chess camp to some of the most promising youngsters. Sixteen bright talents from across the country, ages 9 to 13, have gathered at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, which generously hosted the camp and the players.
The main instructor for the camp was U.S. Youth Team coach, International Master Armen Ambartsoumian. He prepared an impressive curriculum for the intensive 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., five-day camp. Additional instruction was provided by the U.S. Chess School founder, International Master Greg Shahade, accompanied with a humorous lecture by local Grandmaster Ben Finegold.
Watching these very young champions sit in full concentration, thirstily absorbing every new concept and advice conveyed by the able instructors, was a sight to be seen! One could hear a pin drop in the lecture area, as everyone was focused on the large projector screen. There, chess software featuring a large chessboard, was used to demonstrate the positions culled by the instructors.
Only one thing eclipsed this aforementioned conveyance of material - the incredible gift that our juniors possess. Time and again they rose to the occasion and successfully answered the challenges the instructors put in front of them; often these were examples of lessons or ideas just recently discussed in class. Don't let the campers' young age fool anyone. Despite their youth, all of them are highly ranked (expert and master level) players with years of experience, national scholastic titles and an impressive list of beaten opponents to their names.
This indefatigable bunch demonstrated their love for the royal game. Even during breaks or when the daily activities ended, these students used every spare minute to compete and play against each other. Blitz chess (fast paced games where players gets anywhere between 1 to 5 minutes for the game), and bughouse (a chess variant where teams of two compete against another and captured pieces are passed to one's partner), were most popular.
When the week ended and it was time to go home, one could tell that these kids could have gone another full week if time allowed them to prolong their stay. According to Mike Guo, a father of one of the participants, “The camp was also fun at the same time; Arthur socialized and made many friends over there. Arthur rated the camp as the best chess training he's ever had with only one drawback, it was too short for him. He felt sad when the camp was all over.” Still, the goals of the camp were successfully achieved: meeting and making friends among peers, learning new ideas and concepts and, arguably most important, getting new study ideas for independent work in the upcoming months.
Guo and his son also said they were “very impressed by the Club itself: the set up, decorations and the whole atmosphere inside and outside of the Club. We even saw Fabiano Caruana have lunch next door.” Guo continued, “Arthur said he'll try his best to improve his chess so he could come to the Club to compete in the top tournaments in the future.”
The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis hopes to continue these free of charge classes for top players and potential prodigies alike.
Aviv is a FIDE Senior Trainer who has been coaching amateurs at all levels for more than 30 years, including two decades as the head of the U.S. Youth Delegation in world events. His camp, the Schein-Friedman Scholastic Recognition Program, has given away tens of thousands of dollars in awards to promising American juniors, helping to offset some of the financial burden posed to younger champions who strive to improve and dedicate themselves to chess. On Chess is provided through the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis.