Our Program

Program Elements

PhilosophyTechnologyYouth LeadershipEngaged Community
Every K-12 student can learn to play chess!

As the early 20th Century Russian-American National Master Irvin Chernev once remarked:

“Every great master was once a beginner”

It is with these words and various tools that our chess coaches / mentors will bring Playing ACES CHESS {Active Chess Education for all Student via Communities Helping to Educate Successful Scholars} to life.

Because successful scholars are critical and creative thinkers that apply these skills to solving real world issues. Those who learn chess engage their multiple intelligence’s and apply the lessons Benjamin Franklin puts forth that chess teaches as put forth in his work – The Morales of Chess (circa 1789):

  • Foresight
  • Circumscription
  • Caution

Download this white paper (coming soon) by Playing ACES CHESS Founder to learn more.

Unlike the stacks of chess books Playing ACES CHESS founder and others have amassed the power of the web is allowing allowing young players to engage in chess with others from Russia to the Space Station via powerful web-based platforms like the Internet Chess Club. The Resources Section on this website will serve a clearing house for Playing ACES CHESS participants. Meaning, Playing ACES CHESS has gotten and continues to evolve in know the Charlottesville City/Albemarle County and surrounding communities.

This strategic intelligence allow Playing ACES CHESS to recommend those platforms and aides that suit the diverse needs of all K-12 (public-private-home school) students in our area. Soon Playing ACES will be sharing how we will be hosting daily online chess tournaments so students can take advantage of the web and improve their chess play via live competition regardless of where they live. This capacity will allow Playing ACES to bring together, via the web hundred’s of students in a safe online environment that is well respected for its online youth protection and expert online learning system that is also seamless with it tournament and match play platform.

One more thing about technology and chess limits are being pushed everyday regarding computing power and chess databases. Here are a few important easily accessible examples:

Combined together with a daily development plan with a solid chess coach / mentor the beginner can become a master achieving both serious skills development while having – FUN!

Learning to lead can never start too young with the right guidance and support. After talking to a host of Middle and High School over the years their is one simple conclusion that was reaffirmed not too long ago by a HS student at Murray HS. He said:

“We want to do things for ourselves, but we need to know what is expected.” When he was asked to review the concept for the proposed Student Chess Leadership Council (SCLC) he was glad to see a that “a clear plan was defined for success…” of the SCLC concept of operations in terms of how students in Middle and High School that love chess can provide valuable service to this community in spreading the life long joy that can be experienced from chess. {Ashby Kindler’s Office, Principle, Murray High School 29 Aug., 2016}

Was the SCLC get off the ground it will allow advanced (aka Rated) middle and high school players to become peer coaches under adult guidance. Playing ACES hope to work with community partners like the Charlottesville Parks and Recreation Department to establish a regular weekly K-12 chess club at the Carver Recreation Center, or as the new Brooks Family YMCA comes online establish a home for K-12 where any public-private-home school student can play chess and get guidance on how to improve their game.

Early in the 2008/2009 SY at Stone-Robinson ES, the Gifted Resources Teacher, Judy Larrick, put out a school wide request for someone anyone to step forward and help rekindle the school’s defunct chess club. Nate Szejniuk along with Mr. David Price stepped forward. Between the two of them the concept and name of Playing ACES CHESS was born. Since those humble beginnings Playing ACES has helped to kindle chess programs both ACPS and CCPS as well as several private schools and in community-based venues like Boys & Girls Club (Cherry Ave), Computers for Kids, City of Promise (Westhaven Community Center) and some emerging faith-based groups.

Members of several UVA student service learning organizations have also joined to help advance K-12 chess education. Some of these valuable partners are:

Also, members of these groups have been able to provide more advanced chess education to many of the more serious K-12 students in our area:

  • Charlottesville City Chess Club (CCCC)
    • Meets Monday evening 6:30 – 10:00 + pm at St Mark’s Lutheran Church
    • Welcomes all player levels and in addition to playing some intense chess between it members, the members are always looking to share their nearly 1,000 years of combined chess skills with those willing to learn.  Several of these regular members have USCF ratings of 1800+(Class A players or higher)
    • Regular members like Mr. David Brooks, Mr. John Teixeira, and Mr. Remus Whitt have helped Playing ACES provide school & community-based chess programs and supported a number of local K-12 chess events with game analysis and postgame mentoring.
  • UVA Chess Community
    • Collegiate Chess Team (UVA students with USCF ratings > 2000 (Expert level and higher) – Collegiate Competition focused
    • Student Chess Club (UVA student centered socializing around their mutual appreciation for chess with a mix rated and unrated players)
      • Meets Wednesdays Spring & Fall Semesters (8:00 – 10:00 + pm)
      • Meets in Newcomb Hall
  • Monticello HS (Mr Barry Keith a French & Spanish Language Teacher) and the Playing ACES CHESS official USCF Certified Tournament Director. MHS has played host to the last several Virginia Scholastic Chess Association (VSCA) Virginia Scholastic (K-12) and Collegiate State Chess Championship events. MHS is scheduled to again host this event in March 2020.

Bottom line, Playing ACES CHESS has been and continues to actively engage the community in promoting and supporting chess education programs and the creation of competitive events for all interested K-12 students in all public-private-home school environments.

General K-12 Instructional Groups

OverviewBrand NewNovicesIntermediateExperiencedRated
Chess students will fall into one of 5 basic instructional groups here in our area:

  • Brand New 
  • Novices 
  • Intermediate 
  • Experienced
  • Rated Players

Each tab will guide parents through this process.

This is the most common group as they are new to chess (aka never played and want to learn) or they have been playing < 90 days after learning chess via some other process and still require coaching better grasp the rules of the game. Kids between 1st and 3rd grade are eager to learn the game and require regular support to learn fundamentals until they become 2nd nature such as:

Essentially, these a students have many of the basic skills and basic rules developed, and are now beginning to focus on more developed critical thinking skills that require a more the basic chess coach to observe / review their play on the board in order to transition there baseline thinking to more advanced and critical thinking to achieve better outcomes. Here the assigned chess coach/mentor will:

  • Reinforce vital Pandolfini concepts first established by the National Chess Master Bruce Pandolfini portrayed in the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer by Actor Ben Kingsley
  • Introduce students to the concept of a chess clock (why they are used and the rules for use when playing)
  • Introduce students to Playing ACES CHESS recommended online chess skills development tools.
Essentially, these a students are more advanced novices with perhaps up to a year of chess experience via a minimum of regular weekly play with other students or family members that play chess for 6 – 12 months. They have begun to gather more advanced critical thinking skills and learned how to really begin to problem solve. They get tactical concepts like en passant and thinking in move combinations to achieve advantage and obtain victory. Here the assigned chess coach/mentor tends to have some advanced skills and will:

  • Continue to reinforce vital Pandolfini concepts first established by the National Chess Master Bruce Pandolfini portrayed in the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer by Actor Ben Kingsley
  • Continue to have students use a chess clock to develop time management skills
  • Continue to introduce students to online tools designed to improve skills develop when they at the Boys & Girls Club chess program
  • Continue to watch them play and offer helpful ideas on ways they might consider improving their game.
These players have been playing regularly with other experienced students or family members with more advanced skills and are now honing their skills.  They may have already participated in unrated individual or team chess events

Some students may even decide to encourage their parents to let them become members of the USCF (United States Chess Federation) so they work toward their chess rating.  In this case, the chess coach is a typically a seasoned chess player with some degree of tournament experience.  Also, the chess coach works to provide an understanding of chess opening theory by introducing the player to understanding the differences in say between a King side (e.g. Ruy Lopez) and a Queen side (e.g. Queen Gambit) named opening and their named variations like opened, closed, etc.

This becomes more about the analysis of games, either the student’s own games or those of the great masters of chess. There are nearly 800,000 such games of the great chess masters from the legendary Paul Morphy (USA) to Magnus Carlsen (Norway) to Susan Polgar (Hungry/USA) and Jennifer Yu (USA) on www.chessgames.com. The careful coach uses various techniques to improve a student’s understanding of the subtle ebb and flow between the various styles of play the masters exhibit.  Studying the various opening and defensive strategies of ones opponent is fundamental in the skilled chess player.

This is also a time when more focus is placed on the proper recording of games using algebraic chess notation so that a student’s game be successfully examined to demonstrate how they can improve.  There are other notations form such as standard (aka descriptive notation) that are found in older text, but algebraic is the current accepted game recording standard.

The Russian-American chess master and chess author Irvin Chernev once remarked:

“Every great master was once a beginner!”

This reminds the coach and the chess student that chess remains about the basics and the effort to continue to master them for success. Even the Grand Masters of the game make blunders.  Therefore, the coach to an experienced player helps the player examine their game so they can discover the flaws and next time not make the same mistake!   Once students get to a point where they really need to be challenged to go to the next level, Playing ACES CHESS can recommend local USCF rated players who can provide more intense instruction to further advance a student’s skills beyond the experienced basics is desired.

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Bottom line, Playing ACES CHESS takes a measured approach to teaching young players by identifying where they current skills are at and then working with the student to help them discover how to improve their game!

Funding (Program Sustainability)

Self-FundingDonationsIn-kind GiftsGrants

Unlike for profit programs Playing ACES CHESS recognizes their are different needs. While some in the community can afford private chess lessons others cannot. Some, primarily public schools was to offer programs like chess but not teachers in our school have the breath and depth of chess knowledge need to create and sustain a program that has the potential to develop those K-12 student that want to be competitive chess players. Playing ACES CHESS is supported via the grace of the community it serves via various funding steams. One is the replenishing of chess trophies and other awards through event fees.

Donations are financial gifts from both individuals and local businesses that know the value of K-12 chess education and want to see it grow. Since organized chess is still relatively new to this area in terms of developing a system of cohesive K-12 school and community venues for chess programs to flourish, annual funding goals to support the purchase of chess gear, prizes and trophies for local competitive chess events and to support program administration currently remain low. But, with more voices asking how they can help this will reach sustainable levels. (See Key Performance Indicators – coming soon.)

In kind gifts are support from groups like the Virginia Scholastic Chess Association (VSCA) who help any groups like Playing ACES CHESS with donations of tournament size chess sets and starter chess boards to support program expansion as is did in 2014 with 60 sets and boards do to immediate demand for programs. This in kind support was valued at >$800.

Other in kind donations have been from various restaurants providing gift certificates to be issued as prizes at Playing ACES competitive events.

Or, the donation of space in 2014, 2015 and 2016 by Keswick Hall that hosted the first three Keswick Opens. Had Playing ACES been required to pay for this space under served youth who came to play at this venue would not have learn of its rich history nor been exposed its beautiful landscape. Over the three years the value of this generous support was valued at over $30K.

Grants are used to develop more programs and coordinated services. A tournament quality chess set and chess clock combination runs about $75 each. To be able to accomplish a major milestone of being able have 2000 K-12 students actively engages in K-12 chess education or monthly competitive (rated and unrated) chess events Playing ACES must have these tangible resources.

Likewise Playing ACES plans to have an annual goal of taking a group of our best K-12 players to Winter Nationals, typically held near Orlando, Florida. A combination of grants and crowd sourced funding will be needed to make this a reality for deserseving young chess talent.

Grants, in part will also support other basic operational cost.

Bottom line, Playing ACES CHESS need your (the community’s) help to continue to sustain chess education programs and competitive chess events for all area K-12 students who otherwise lack the means to participate in such events on a long term basis.

Other Focus Areas

Boys ScoutsGirl Scouts

(under development)