“Rebuild Knights” Youth Chess Club

Hey everyone! BIG Announcement: We’re excited to be working with the Rebuild Foundation and the Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative to create the “Rebuild Knights” Youth Chess Club! Club meetings begin on April 22 and will meet weekly from 4:30 – 5:30 PM.

Additionally, the club will be hosting a screening of “Brooklyn Castle” on April 15 from 7 – 9 PM; all are welcome to attend!

Please view the flyers below for additional details on the screening and the chess club—more information to come soon!

In Conversation with Grandmaster Yury Shulman!

Yury Shulman
Yury Shulman (Photo Credit: St.Louis Chess Club)

Grandmaster Yury Shulman is one of the strongest players in the USA and in the world. He’s the top player in Illinois and is currently ranked 26th out of all players in America. Hailing from Belarus, he began playing chess when he was six years old. He achieved the Grandmaster title 20 years ago and has since experienced much success, having won a litany of prestigious tournaments, including the World Open and the US Chess Championship. He is also the founder of an organization called Chess Without Borders; please click here to learn more! We asked Mr. Shulman about his thoughts on the benefits of chess, why chess is meaningful to him, and much more:

What do you have to say about the benefits of chess in education and in life?

I have been playing for a long time and teaching chess for quite a while. Chess gives children different ways to improve, such as in critical thinking, the ability to focus, and concentration. The difference between a Grandmaster and a regular player is that the Grandmaster can easily discard wrong ideas and search for another one—along these lines, chess can teach one how not to get stuck. Additionally, kids develop language abilities when they play chess. Playing in tournaments is also helpful for developing emotional intelligence. If you learn to react to a loss you can communicate on friendly terms with your opponent.

What are your thoughts on chess being incorporated in the curriculum in schools?

I am sure chess is a very helpful activity for development of kids. It can be a type of class or it could be just a simple after school activity. Though it would be great if chess were a part of the curriculum, the most important thing is that the kids who want to play chess are able to play chess—and that, similarly, the kids who don’t want to play chess are not being forced to do so. The more choices we give to the kids, the better.

Do you think it is important to be physically fit when playing chess?

Of course. Your body has to be fit to listen to you. When you wake up, you should be happy and happy with your body. There’s a famous expression—a happy body has a happy spirit.  Some people have to do 6 hours in gym, and others only 20 minutes, but there has to be focus and devotion.

What is one piece of advice you would give to a developing chess player?

Enjoy the process of learning. If you don’t enjoy the process, let it go and just enjoying playing the game; don’t take stress. Find your niche and enjoy it on that level. If you set a goal to improve, then invest your time. In order to improve, you have to invest time, money, focus, and you have to prioritize.

What is the proudest moment in your chess career?

It’s hard to underestimate the US Championship title. The final game was a short draw but the whole tournament was much tougher. To become US Champion was huge. Also, winning the bronze medal in the International Chess Olympiad in 2008 was amazing. I was playing last game and, to clinch the medal, I had to play and beat GM Efimenko; I was able to succeed! The team was happy and all of us were celebrating together. There are a lot of moments that make you happy in chess.

Why is chess meaningful to you?

A lot of times things happen to us without conscious understanding. Chess was subconscious at first; I liked it right away. Chess became a profession, passion— 90% of my life. Chess can transform in your life; it can be 10%, 50%, 100%, then again 10% of your time and involvement. I understand how hard it is to study and how much time people have to invest to become good.

What is your favorite opening?

The French defense, though I have tried lots interesting openings such as the King’s Gambit and the King’s Indian.

Which chess players inspire you?

The World Champions. I was reading a series called “Outstanding GM’s of the World;” some of the books from the series were of World Champions. Those books inspired me at first. That said, I don’t think one player had a profound influence on me.

Who is the strongest opponent you’ve ever played against?

I’ve played Grandmasters Karpov and Korchnoi, though you could say that Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura is higher rated. Hikaru is by far the strongest player I’ve beaten.

In your free time, what do you like doing besides playing chess?

I like to travel a lot and I like to watch movies about geography and history. I like to go outside for long walks and do more strenuous exercise as well. I also like to watch sports like soccer, hockey, and cricket.

We’d like to thank Yury Shulman for talking to us, and we appreciate his support and recognition of what we’re doing to promote chess. We admire the ways through which Mr. Shulman is promoting chess, and we would like to wish him the best of luck in his future pursuits!


2nd Annual Chess Program at the Solon Public Library: Recap

During the summer of 2015, in partnership with the Cuyahoga County Public Library, we ran our second annual chess program at the Solon Public Library. The more advanced players had the opportunity to play against one another, and the beginning players were able to learn the fundamentals of the game and expand their introductory knowledge. The first two weeks were dedicated to teaching the children not only basic openings (Ruy Lopez, Four Knights, Italian Game, Sicilian Defense, French Defense, King’s Gambit, etc.) and middle game strategies, but also chess principles and tactics. The third and fourth week, we gave all the players a chance to apply what they had learned and play games against one another; near the end of each session, I analyzed these games so the children could discover the mistakes they made and how they could improve in the future. The fifth week, I analyzed a game I had won (from a tournament I had just played in called the Cleveland Open) in front of all the members. I made sure to note all the relevant variations, tactics, and thought processes from the game itself.

Check out an assortment of pictures from the program below (for more pictures, visit our Facebook page!):


Week 1 - 2

Week 4 - 1

Week 5 - 1



ACES: Weeks 12, 13, and 14

Week 12: We went over notation once again to make sure the children knew what to write down when various chess moves were made. It was apparent that, even after only having been taught how to take chess notation last week, the children were much more proficient in their abilities to accurately document the moves in a chess game. During the latter half of our session, we let the children play chess games with one another while they simultaneously took notation. This was a great way to help them put into practice what we taught them.

Week 13: For the entirety of the time, we let the children play a chess game against one another while having them take chess notation. We circulated around the area and made sure to address any questions the children had!

Week 14: This was our last week at Carnegie for the school year. To cap off a great year, we let the children play chess games with one other while facilitating their games in the event of questions or if we had suggestions for better moves they could make.

All of us really enjoyed teaching these great children at Carnegie—stay tuned for a reflection post on our experience!

We were recently featured in the Chicago Maroon! Check out the article they wrote about how we’re making a difference at Andrew Carnegie Elementary School here.

In Conversation with National Chess Expert Macauley Peterson!

Macauley Peterson interviewing Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura (Photo Credit: www.uschesschamps.com)

If you’ve ever watched chess on the internet, the odds are Macauley Peterson was behind it. Peterson, a serial entrepreneur and Princeton alumnus, has been at the forefront of a new, digital era of chess—an era where technology plays a crucial role in the playing, broadcasting, and promoting of chess. And he’s on a mission to change the face of chess as we know it. We had the chance to speak with Mr. Peterson; check out our interview with him to learn about his take on the benefits of chess, why chess is important to him, and more:

Could you tell me about how and when you began playing chess?

I started playing chess in Hunter College Elementary School; the school began incorporating chess in its curriculum in the late 70s. Chess was my main sport in school. I started playing tournaments in first grade, and I went to Nationals in second grade. I played every year up to senior year, and then I coached for the next 10 years after college. I also launched several after school programs while I was at university and taught privately as well—it was my alternative to a campus job. I was teaching probably six or seven hours a week. The school that I started teaching at while at Princeton was Little Brook Elementary. Initially it was just one after school class that I supervised—soon after, it expanded to three classes, two days a week. We won the New Jersey State Championship after I had been there for a few years. After graduating, I had started working and was teaching a bit less—my first article for Chess Life was in 2005. Prior to studying film at the University of Amsterdam from 2006 to 2007, I went to the Corus Chess Tournament (now called the Tata Steel Chess Tournament) and did a feature on Gata Kamsky who was making his return to chess in 2006. After that, I was sent to Mexico where I did a freelance assignment for the ICC— I started full time for them in January 2008. I was mainly traveling and reporting from tournaments for the next 3 years until I started my own company which specialized in live webcasting of tournaments. After that, I joined chess24 during April of 2013— it officially launched during February of 2014.

Why is chess meaningful to you?

Chess has always been an interest and a passion of mine. It’s something that I’ve done. The thing that’s kept me in the chess world is the people and the personalities. There are many interesting characters, and it’s a good vehicle for stories about human nature. Personally, I haven’t competed much—I’m actually going to play my first tournament in four years in August of 2015. Also, I feel that chess has gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to mass media. It’s such a key feature of pop culture and history—it’s been played by millions of people over centuries; despite that, it’s never quite made it as a sport. I’m on a mission to change that. I’m hoping to make it more feasible as an outlet for sportsmen. It really pales in comparison to other sports with regards to one’s ability to make a living at it. I started teaching chess when I was 12 charging 50 cents an hour—instead of babysitting, I was teaching chess. Additionally, one thing that is missing from chess is a big fan base. So many kids who play give it up when they get into their high school years. We need to have these players retain interest in those who compete.

What do you have to say about the benefits of chess in education and in life?

I think it has a lot of benefits—it helps teach patience, critical thinking, and self-criticism for instance. There are a lot virtues that can be developed through studying and playing chess. A big difference for me with regards to the conception of chess is that chess is not an isolating game, but rather a team sport, a social activity. One reason I got into it initially was because it was something I did with my classmates. We competed together. That said, all the benefits we associate with team sports can be true with chess, and while it’s not a magic bullet, it can be a very effective tool and a very cost effective game to learn.

How optimistic are you that chess will become much more popular in the near future? What do you think of the work that Grandmaster Maurice Ashley is doing with Millionaire Chess?

I’m pretty optimistic. The traction in the mainstream that Magnus Carlsen has gotten is good grounds for optimism. Expansion is very good for chess. Now, Millionaire Chess is its own animal—there’s nothing like it. chess24 actually provided the broadcast of the live games for the event. I’ve followed a lot of Maurice’s work, and I know him from scholastic coaching. I am in favor of trying to make entertainment content to play up the drama of the competition to focus on characters and personalities. That said, I don’t think it’s mutually exclusive to do that while still reflecting the complexity, beauty, and artistry of the game. Some people embrace the SportsCenter, high-octane style that Maurice has, and it’s important that we in the chess world continue to show how exciting and cool chess is. The old stereo types are hard to kill, but are quite outdated.

Tell me a bit more about chess24.

I am full time here. We have a comprehensive chess platform that we are actively developing; here, one can follow professional chess and play chess as well. I think the two aspects of the site that are the most notable are our broadcasts of live tournaments, which has become the de facto market leader for chess broadcasts, and our video learning platform. chess24 offers a lot more interactive content—for instance, when watching a live tournament, you can play moves on the board. If you want to understand something, just go ahead and move; you can have what you do evaluated by the engine right away. We have constructed a platform that is quite advanced. Additionally, Anand did our first course in the school. We have a studio here in Hamburg so we can produce the series and we are regularly adding to our library. We have hundreds and hundreds of videos and are continuing to iterate.

What is your favorite opening?

I have a soft spot for the King’s Gambit because I played it for much of my scholastic life. I played it through much of high school and in college. I enjoyed reading David Bronstein’s books that featured King’s Gambit games.

What chess books helped you develop as a player?

I don’t think I’d single out any one book. Over the years, though, you read a lot. You learn by playing, competing, and analyzing games, more so than books. There’s also quite a lot more video content today.

Which chess players inspire you?

There are a lot of players that I respect. I always liked the aspect of chess teaching sportsmanship as well. I appreciate players who are generous towards their opponents—people who are humble, nice people. Chess has all the same things other sports have, it just doesn’t get its due as a sport.

In your free time, what do you like doing besides promoting chess?

I read a lot and follow politics; nowadays, I spend most of my free time with my family. I used to watch a lot films; as a matter of fact, when I was doing my Master’s, I was seeing 6 films a week—now it’s 4 a year. I would like to be able to keep up more on film!

We’d like to thank Macauley Peterson for chatting with us; we immensely appreciate his support and recognition of how we’re making a difference through chess. The way he’s taught chess to children in New York and New Jersey is a huge inspiration to us, and we’re grateful for the advice he gave us on how we can more efficiently teach chess and help our students imbibe the benefits of chess.

ACES: Weeks 10 and 11

Week 10: Yet again, we took the opportunity to let the children play chess games against one another. We thought that it was important for them to be given another chance to put into practice what they had learned and that simply playing a game of chess was a great way for the children to solidify their understanding of the concepts.

Week 11: In order to prepare these children to attend their first chess tournament, we thought it was very important for them to learn how to take chess notation, so this is what we introduced. Chess notation is important because it will help the children accurately document the moves that were played in their game so they can then analyze the game afterwards to determine which moves they could have played better. Every child had their own piece of notation paper, and today we made good use of the large demonstration board as we went over possible moves in a chess game and similarly asked the children to write down the notation for the moves we described.

ACES: Weeks 8 and 9

Week 8: This week, although we taught the chess club as well, I was placed in a classroom of 2nd graders who were new to chess. I introduced the children to the game by going over the basics—the names of the pieces, how they move, their worth, etc. After covering these fundamentals, I went over how they should start their chess games by teaching them a few key opening/chess principles.

Week 9: We had been teaching the children many different concepts in chess—everything ranging from openings and chess principles to tactics and checkmating techniques—so we let the children play chess with one another. We made sure to walk around and facilitate the proceedings of their games when necessary.

In Conversation with International Master John Watson!

John Watson (Photo Credit: John Watson)
John Watson (Photo Credit: John Watson)

International Master John Watson is currently one of the top 400 players in the USA.  Watson has written over 30 books on the many dimensions of chess; one of his books, Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy, even won the USCF (United States Chess Federation) “Book of the Year” Award. Watson, also a renowned chess coach, has won a litany of prestigious chess tournaments, ranging from the very first National High School Chess Championship to the American Open. We asked Mr. Watson about his history with chess, his thoughts on why chess is beneficial, and much more:

Could you tell me about how and when you began playing chess?

I learned the rules from my father. The first time I played “seriously” was when we formed a high school team at my school. I was 14. I had no idea what I was doing, but after the school year ended, I got some chess books and studied them. Apparently you can learn from chess books, because I became an expert after my first rated tournament.

Can you tell me about what you do with chess other than playing in tournaments? 

I have taught chess on and off for 40 years, and I write books, articles, and book reviews. Over the years, I have given many lectures and taught chess classes. Since the Internet arose I have conducted classes online, and I also had an internet radio show dedicated to interviewing chess personalities (including several of the people interviewed on this blog!).

What do you have to say about the benefits of chess in education and in life?

Well, I’ve met a lot of interesting people through chess! Also, I’ve been told by quite a few students that chess has helped them with their thought processes in other subjects and in thinking rationally.

Where do you hope to see chess in the future, especially in terms of its popularity and its implementation in schools?

There seems to be a lot of very good elementary school programs around the country, and excellent participation. That’s been due to some dedicated local organizers. Up until recently, kids seem to have moved on to other activities in high school and college. Perhaps more leagues and tournaments on those levels would help; my guess is that teachers are more interested in developing beginners, perhaps because they aren’t advanced players themselves. It’s encouraging that after a dry spell we have some amazingly talented young players in this country. The programs in the San Francisco Bay Area have been exemplary.

What do you have to say about the benefits of chess in education and in life? 

Every activity claims educational benefits, but I think the ones from chess are too obvious to be questioned: concentration, problem-solving, discipline, patience, and sportsmanship, among others.

Why is chess meaningful to you?

I think it remains a very creative and aesthetic activity which never seems to grow stagnant, even on the top levels. The game is more wide open than ever in terms of original play and intellectual content. On a basic level, it gives me pleasure and I’m a great fan of the leading players.

What is your favorite opening?

The French Defense and King’s Indian. Arguably they are the most instructive openings as well.

Which chess players inspire you?

Currently, Aronian, Topalov, and Nakamura. Carlsen is of course brilliant, but I can’t get a handle on his style. In the past, nearly every World Champion and elite player has been inspiring. Probably Tal and Petrosian the most.

Who is the strongest opponent you’ve ever played against?

I played against Larsen, Polgar, and Kamsky, among many leading GMs. Probably Kamsky was the highest-rated, but I never checked.

In your free time, what do you like doing besides playing chess?

Reading, listening to music, and going for walks.

We’d like to thank John Watson for talking to us; we admire the ways through which Mr. Watson is promoting chess, and we would like to wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors!

ACES: Weeks 6 and 7

Week 6: First, we gave a small lesson on the intuitive “stepladder checkmate,” wherein a lone king is checkmated by pieces such as queen and rooks that progressively cut the king off from ranks or files until the king is checkmated. We spent the rest of the time by splitting ourselves amongst the children as we let them play games against one another. We game the children ample time to think about the moves they were playing and made sure to provide instruction where necessary.

Week 7: We spent the entire time going over many key tactical patterns such as forks, pins, and skewers. To teach the concept, we first set up a position on the large demonstration in the front of the room and asked the children to set up the same position on their board. We then gave them time to find the fork or skewer, and we demonstrated these concepts with multiple pieces (seeing as that knights, bishops, and pawns, for example, can fork). Throughout the session, all of us were split up between the children so we could individually focus on them and address any questions they had.


In Conversation with Woman International Master Alexey Root!

Alexey W. Root
Alexey Root (Photo Credit: Alexey Root)

A phenomenal chess player, renowned lecturer, and prolific writer, Woman International Master Alexey Root does it all. Indeed— not only has Dr. Root won a myriad of prominent chess tournaments such as the U.S. Women’s Chess Championship, she has also taught numerous courses at the University of Texas at Dallas (and continues to do so as a Senior Lecturer) and has written numerous books about chess and education. Please click here to view the books she has written.

Tell me about the chess courses you teach.

Please link your readers to this University of Texas at Dallas web page for information about the courses (ED 4358 and ED 4359). Students from as far away as Qatar have taken these courses, which are completely online. I encourage your readers to look at the aforementioned link and to then email me at aroot@utdallas.edu for more information.

What chess books helped you develop as a player?

As a child, I loved the “movies” in the I. A. Horowitz book How to Win in the Chess Openings. Among recent books, I liked Judit Polgar Teaches Chess (Book 1), which I reviewed for Chess Life magazine (December 2012 issue). I need to get the other two books in her series!

What is one piece of advice you would give to a chess player?

My advice is to think of your opponent as essential to your improvement. “He who wrestles with us,” wrote Edmund Burke, “strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.” Be glad when your opponent plays good moves and forces you to play your best. Be gracious after the game for the time and effort your opponent put into playing you.

What inspired you to start writing about chess and its benefits?

I started teaching the online courses in 2001. My first version of ED 4358 became my first book, Children and Chess: A Guide for Educators. Then I had to rewrite ED 4358! More generally, I am inspired to write about chess and its benefits from my background. I am a former U.S. Women’s Chess Champion (1989) and I have a Ph.D. in education from UCLA (1999). Writing lets me share my expertise in chess and in education.

Who is the strongest opponent you’ve ever played against?

I’m not sure who was the highest-rated GM or IM that I played once or twice. But I played the most games against Grandmaster Igor Ivanov. I lost to him six times in Southern California tournaments.

In your free time, what do you like doing besides playing chess?

I swim an hour each day and compete in an annual swim meet for The University of Texas at Dallas in Corporate Challenge. Also, I wrote an article about chess and hoarding for Chess Life magazine (January 2015 issue), which has accelerated my second career as someone who helps others organize (and usually downsize) their possessions.

Why do you think children should learn chess, and, in your opinion, what are chess’ most notable benefits, whether they be educational or practical?

My first book, Children and Chess: A Guide for Educators (Libraries Unlimited, 2006), devotes one chapter to each of the following concepts that chess helps us experience: flow, competition, sacrifice, problem solving, multiple intelligences, and planning. For example, chess can help us experience flow, a term defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Flow is like being “in the zone,” concentrating, fully engaged, etc.

Why is chess meaningful to you?

Competing at chess used to be how I achieved flow, the Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi concept I mentioned previously. During games, I also liked figuring out what move to play next. Although flow and problem solving initially attracted me, later I met many friends through chess tournaments. Much of what I do for a living now is chess-related.

We’d like to thank Alexey Root for answering our questions and for what she has done to spread and promote chess in the USA and abroad. We wish her the best of luck in her future pursuits!