Let's Play Chess!

Welcome to Dark Knight Chess, a place for all chess enthusiasts.

Tips for Starting A School Chess Club         Printable 

We want to encourage more schools and teachers to provide opportunities for children to learn and play chess. It is a game with no barriers. People of any age, sex, physical ability, and social class can all play on equal terms. Chess is truly a ‘Sport for All’.

Chess is an activity that helps bring children together and break down barriers, while encouraging a healthy sense of competitiveness.

Here are some of our recommendations:

1. Get as many adults involved as possible in your chess club.   Look for a good Chess Club Sponsor(s), this can be a teacher or other  school staff member who is willing to coordinate chess club activities.   If you can get more than one staff member on board your off to a great  start already!  Ask for help from parent volunteers, they can be a great  resource, get them involved whenever possible.  Parents can help  monitor small groups, help maintain control of chess equipment, make /  copy fliers and handouts, organize parent meetings, some may even know  how to play chess and can help teach.  Make sure to get the proper  approvals from your school principal or administrator when starting a  new chess program.  Having a supportive administration is key to the  success of your chess club.  Provide your administrator information on  the Benefits of Chess for students, this will help encourage a good response from your administration.

 2. Equipment.   Your students will need to  have access to chess boards and pieces.  While you will be able to find  relatively inexpensive plastic chess pieces at your local super store,  we highly recommend that you try to purchase regulation tournament size  boards and pieces.  Contact us for help finding inexpensive and  reputable chess vendors.  (The United States Chess Federation's rules  call for a king height between 3.375 and 4.5 inches tall with board  squares between 2 to 2.5 inches. The specific criteria can be found in  the United States Chess Federation's Official Rules of Chess)
3. How Many and How Often?   Enthusiasm for chess is infectious.  The number of students in a chess club depends on the enthusiasm of the sponsor and on the size of room and number of sets & boards available.  Put up posters announcing your club, send home flyers, and make school announcements.  You can encourage students to play during lunch break  or before school as well as at weekly after school-clubs. In a well-run club, students appetites for chess can expand to consume whatever time is available for it. It is up to you to decide how often chess is made available.  Again...Don’t try and do everything yourself, get other staff, parents, volunteers, or even hire outside coaches. You may be pleasantly surprised how many people have enough knowledge to help.

4. Establish Rules.  Be sure to establish club rules and review them with students at your first club meeting, Print them out and send a copy home to parents.  Establish set times for parent pick-up or drop-off depending on your schedule.  Outline consequences if rules are broken.

5. First Lessons.   Students with no previous experience of chess will need to be taught the basic laws of the game. This is best done in small groups of no more than four, perhaps with the aid of diagrams. Experienced players can been encouraged to help teach beginners the basics, but be sure not to take up all of their time on this task as it can become boring for them.  Once you have taught the moves, chess will take on a life of its own. Encourage students to explore their own ideas and learn from their own mistakes. Many teachers find that they can be of most use simply by circulating when play is in progress, commenting when necessary. Students normally just want to play the game.  You will need to find the right balance between teaching a few chess lessons and allowing play time.

Consider establishing a routine. For example:

  • Have students pair off as they enter the room and play a ‘friendly’ game. They can also help to put out equipment if not already done.
  • When everyone is present – STOP PLAY and bring focus of attention to yourself and use this time to give out information / news / awards / etc.
  • ‘The lesson’ – demonstrate a tactic, or present a prepared lesson or worksheet.  You can find many helpful beginner lessons, chess rules and worksheets online or books at your local bookstore.  Bring in a guest speaker or volunteer to teach a lesson.  Consider purchasing a curriculum that can meet your needs for the full year or hiring a chess instructor to come to your school once a week to give lessons.  If you have a large group of students, you can divide them into two groups and have one group play games quietly in one area while you give a lesson in another area of the room, then switch groups.  If your club meets more than once a week, use those days to play club games.
  • Now the games can begin! This is the most important part of the chess club. If students choose who they play, the same pairs will always tend to play together, and some students may feel left out. Also there may be good reasons why particular students should be kept apart. It is better to have a system where you display desired pairings. This way you can have stronger players helping beginners for a portion of the time, or have players of equal strength playing each other.  You decide what works best for you.  You are in charge!  You can also establish a point system where students earn points for winning games or completing lessons.
  • When games are in progress there should be a minimum of noise in the room. Students who persistently talk loudly, make other unnecessary noise,or misbehave in other ways, should be asked to leave the room.  If they can not conduct themselves properly for a chess club, they should be excluded. Time-wasters merely upset and distract other members.  Players should be encouraged to show good sportsmanship at all times and shake at the start and end of each game.
  • Ending the session. STOP PLAY and bring focus back to yourself to make general announcements and give out information about the next chess session.· Follow an established routine for packing and locking away the equipment and leaving the room as you find it.

6.   Competitive Chess.  Students will soon be ready to compete in local events against players from other school and have a chance to earn both individual and team awards.  These Scholastic tournaments give students the ability to test their new found knowledge and skills in a manner that helps to motivate and improve your students commitment to chess.  Click here for a list of upcoming tournaments.