|Start a Scholastic Chess Club in a Library|
To start, you must know how to play chess, be outgoing, and like kids. Working with scholastic players takes a bit of effort, but can be quite rewarding!
Who's been down this road before? Network with others who have run chess clubs in libraries, schools, or other venues. They'll have valuable advice about what's important, what the pitfalls are, and shortcuts to effectiveness. You may also find these people by looking for chess clubs near you on the Internet.
Contact the director of the library which you want to host the club's meetings, explain your idea, including a schedule of meetings for a year, give your qualifications (if any), and see if they are interested. What's in it for the library? They perform an additional community service by hosting the chess club, and they get younger people into the library.
The benefits of chess may not be obvious to the library. At the very least, chess encourages concentration, focus, logic and decision-making; teaches cause and effect; rewards planning ahead and strategy; patience; and playing by a set of rules, and respect for others. Losing games is part of playing chess, and learning from one's losses and handling them graciously are more benefits of chess that carry through to life in general.
Decide what range of ages you want your club to cater to. K-12 is too large a range, so pick something like K-4, or 3-6.
Optimally, have the library assign the club to a separate room, as the activity of the club may make noise that is inappropriate for library patrons. Also, you want the players not to have the distraction and noise of people using the library.
You'll need a starting budget of about $100 for 10 members. You may fund this yourself, or find local sponsors, such as merchants.
If your library is interested, you'll need the following:
- Material about chess, such as "Complete Idiot's Guide to Chess" by Patrick Wolff, or "Everyone's Second Chess Book" by Dan Heisman, both available in the library or online from sources like amazon.com. And there's plenty of other material online, of course.
- Chess equipment from chess equipment web-sites such as www.cajunchess.com. Vinyl roll-up chess boards come with chess pieces to form inexpensive sets. A great tool is a demo board, which enables you to show positions and problems on a tilted board for many people to see easily. Or you may borrow equipment from friends, or from any local adult chess club, as they may want to encourage scholastic chess locally.
Publicity: Several weeks before the first meeting, create a simple, colorful flier with the club's name (often that's simply the library name plus "Chess Club"), place and time of meetings, any fees, range of player ages, your phone number and email address, and post it in several places in the library, and in stores nearby. Local schools may also accept fliers for posting. If there is a web-site you can utilize, create a lively, colorful page on it and mention the site in the flier.
Talk up the new club and the date of its first meeting to everyone you know. You'll be surprised how effective this can be. Everyone wants to help worthy activities.
How to Run a Meeting
Ask for a small suggested donation, say $2, to help cover costs, as players enter.
Start meetings promptly at the time publicized, as this builds respect for the club's mode of operation.
Especially in the first few meetings, instruct the players on the goal and basic moves of the pieces. Newcomers to chess need to know these things completely before going on.
At the first and all meetings, be very friendly and encouraging to the players and their parents. Everyone should feel welcome all the time.
For any newcomers to a given meeting, the first thing to find out is whether they know the basic moves of the pieces, and the goal of the game from each player's point of view.
Encourage the club members to look at the library's books on chess.
Puzzles, Drills and Exercises
A good way to start out is with some simple puzzles such as those found in the famous Lazlo Polgar book "Chess", or Pandolfini's book "Beginning Chess: 300 Elementary Problems".
Any players or parents who know at least the goal of the game and the basic moves must be prepared to play with beginners, which is a very practical way to spread the ability to play, and to create relationships among the players and their parents.
Like any organization, a chess club needs money to pay for various items, such as equipment, reference material, refreshments and communications. Experience teaches that having multiple sources of money works best, because if any one source dries up, the others are still there. Thus, dues and/or meeting fees come from players, and miscellaneous sources such as local merchants or civic organizations may provide ongoing support. It is better to have dues and/or fees in place at the launch of the club, rather than to have to impose them later, since players and parents are accustomed to them instead of getting a shock later on.
Your club can hold fundraisers to acquire funds, too. Fundraisers not only raise money, they raise awareness of the club's existence in the community. A fundraiser can be a car wash, the sale of pizza, a picnic, or other event. The venue holding the fundraiser, such as a church or community center, also gains visibility with the community.
A Wealth of Information
Visit the American Library Association's librarygamingtoolkit.org for a boatload of information about gaming in libraries. Chess is but one of the gaming activities that many libraries support.
Statistics and Ratings, and Costs
CXR Chess provides colorful, informative, cost-effective statistics and ratings that are designed to give scholastic players, coaches, teachers and parents enormous feedback on players' chess strengths and weaknesses. The most cost-effective way of purchasing the service from CXR Chess is the Premium Membership, at $7 per year for scholastic players.
CXR Chess is a great aid for scholastic chess clubs. Here are some reasons why:
The Long Run
- Measures many dimensions of each student's individual playing style
- Colorful charts and graphs
- Builds enthusiasm among parents for the chess program
- Helps coaches spot any weak points in a student's play
- Tracks history of games played -- opponent's strength, result, etc.
- Progress and special achievements are highlighted to encourage study
- No affiliation fees for the club
- No tournament submission fees
- No per-game fees
- Visiting students can be rated for just $1.50 per tournament
- Statistics and ratings are updated nightly
- Friendly, courteous customer service via toll-free hotline
- The CXR Chess System recognizes rapid gains in skill which characterize scholastic chess
- Students can compare their ratings and stats to those of thousands of others
- Allows scholastic affiliates to protect the privacy of their students
- The service is attentive to the needs of its customers
You may find it interesting to bring in a speaker about chess once in a while. Once the club is established, you might want to organize tournaments with other clubs. Local schools and other nearby libraries may have chess clubs with which your club can have matches.
Please contact CXR Chess with comments, suggestions, etc. using "Contact CXR" on the home page.