By Laura Doman
Aahh…summer. Time to enjoy the longer days outside and have fun swimming, camping, or playing a favorite sport. But when the temperature dances above the 90 degree mark with matching humidity levels or a late afternoon downpour suddenly melts your fun, it may be time to retreat inside for a little chess practice.
Kids, take a tip from Zack Littke-Smith, pictured above, sitting on his upstairs steps surrounded by some pretty significant chess trophies. In elementary school, Zack was an avid chess player who led his team to win several chess titles. Now 19 years old, Zack is heading to Georgia Tech after graduating summa cum laude from high school as a top-notch, accomplished student-athlete. His mom Connie believes (and perhaps Zack would agree) that “chess contributed a great deal to Zack’s intellectual development!”
Players like Zack know that chess skills need to be kept sharp throughout the year, just like any other serious sport or academic endeavor. And no one knows better how to do so than your friendly neighborhood chess coaches. We asked some top Georgia coaches for their advice on how kids can best use the summer break to keep up with chess, while balancing it with camps and family vacations. So, when summer heat and humidity begin to take their toll, unroll your portable chess board and consider these expert tips:
Coach John Austin of Kid Chess: Play as much chess as you can over the summer, but most importantly, have fun with it! Work ten chess puzzles a day for practice.
Coach Paul Benoit: Check out Chess.com and play at least ten minutes online. If you have a personal coach, have him or her review these games, but don’t feel badly if you lose. No one knows who you are online! How much should you practice? Play until you beat someone rated higher than you. Have a goal and push yourself to meet it.
Coach Ben Johnson of Smyrna Chess: Seize the opportunity to play chess with others outside of your normal group of schoolmates: grandparents, cousins, uncles, aunts, people in the neighboring house at the beach or on the adjacent bit of sand! Write down your games to strengthen your notation skills – you don’t want to miss that interesting combination or brilliant move that you would like to share with your coach and teammates in the fall. Study tactics every day for a few minutes. Tactics have been shown to be the best way to raise your rating if you are under 1200.
Coach Frank Johnson of Chess-Coach.net: I think it is important that students train like they play. You should train “touch move” because in the real game you can’t change your mind. You should study under the same time conditions of the tournament you plan on playing.
Coach CM Jim Mundy of Passport Chess: Summer often involves travel. Having a good app for electronic devices can be handy. Chessimo can give you puzzles, games, and a challenge on your favorite mobile device. The free version gives you quite a bit, the paid version even more.
Coach IM Carlos Perdomo of Chess Atlanta: Summer is a great time to work on your chess skills. There is no school, so you have more flexibility to play online or against the computer, read books, and solve puzzles. Chess camps are also fun and a great opportunity to quickly increase your level and make new chess friends.
Coach Steve Schneider of Championship Chess: If you want to gain a whole year of chess development, study and play chess throughout the summer. If you want to maintain your level of achievement, make sure to do some study and some play. If you do nothing with chess all summer, be advised that you will probably lose a whole year of chess development!
Coach Parnell Watkins: Scholastic players under a USCF rating of 1400 should practice tactics. Focus on reviewing your games to see and understand your mistakes, especially those made early in the games.
Coach Mumtaz Yusuf: Practice, practice, practice! My experience has shown that, no matter how talented you may be, talent alone won’t take you too far unless you make a habit of consistent practice. It’s essential if you want to become a good chess player or proficient in anything else you do.
The GCA calendar is populated with chess camps and tournaments throughout the summer. Go to the GCA website (www.georgiachess.org) and click on the Calendar tab or go directly to www.georgiachess.org/events for a monthly view. Click on the event of choice to see detailed information. Good luck and have fun!