By Laura Doman
August … time for kids to find their way back into the classroom as a new school year gets underway. It’s also the time for the new scholastic chess year to begin, with fall kick-off and quick start tournaments to help both beginning and seasoned players (who may have taken a little too much time off during their summer vacations) prepare for an exciting tournament schedule. August is especially the perfect time to introduce a child to chess at home, in school, or in an outside afternoon program.
Do you have a beginner who would like to learn the game or become proficient enough to play in his or her first tournament? The first step is to check with your child’s school and inquire about an afternoon chess class. Many elementary schools, in particular, offer instruction through their teachers or outside organizations. Another source is your local community, where independent chess academies welcome students for instruction after school lets out for the day. If you are interested in organizing an afternoon chess class or club at your child’s school, but need some help getting started, please email email@example.com. The Georgia Chess Association (GCA) would be happy to provide you with a list of qualified and experienced chess instructors.
Perhaps your player knows how to play a basic game, but has never competed in a tournament. Kick-off and quick start tournaments are the places to begin, with many kids playing in a tournament for the very first time. Please check the GCA calendar for a monthly view of events. The calendar can be accessed from two places on-line: 1) GeorgiaChessNews.com (this online magazine that you’re reading now) has an option called Calendar under the Scholastics tab above, and 2) the GCA website at www.georgiachess.org, which has a Calendar tab at the top of the page. Upcoming tournaments are also listed on the right side of the home page.
So what should you and your child expect to know about playing in a scholastic chess tournament? The first event can be intimidating if you don’t understand its schedule, terminology, and logistics. Please refer to the GCA website as the source for information on tournaments and registration. It also offers resources for scholastic players and their families on the home page, under the scholastics tab, and under the (aptly named) resources tab, where you will find an article called A Parent’s Guide to Scholastic Chess Tournaments. Just about everything you will want to know about scholastic tournaments can be found there.
The scholastic tournaments offered during the year feature both individual and school team competition. The information sheet posted online for each tournament specifies if it offers individual and/or team play, and if the competition is by grade level or playing strength (USCF rating). While individual tournaments are always fun, team events can be wonderfully exciting for the kids, with championships awarded to school teams at local, county, and state levels. The secret to creating and maintaining a successful school team, however, is parent involvement. Moms, dads, and other involved family members are critical to the success of a school team, since they foster and manage most of the school spirit, cooperation between team members, team practices, and celebrations – most of which are beyond the scope of the duties of most team chess coaches. Looking for tips on building a strong, successful, and happy team? Check out another article under the GCA website’s resources tab called Creating and Developing a Strong School Chess Team and see if any of the suggestions can work for you.
The following is a sneak peak of the GCA scholastic chess tournaments scheduled for the 2014-15 school year. Other reputable organizations list their events on the GCA calendar, too, so please refer to it for a more complete reference. The GCA scholastic events are scheduled from October 2014 through March 2015; details and registration will be posted on the GCA website as they become available. Every scholastic tournament has trophies for its top scorers and those with plus scores (winning the majority of games played), with ribbons for all participants:
Quick Start: Sunday, October 5: Test and sharpen your chess skills in preparation for the new scholastic chess year! Unrated.
Grade Level: Saturday, November 8: Compete only against kids in your own grade for the Georgia state championship title. Rated.
Jr Invitational: Saturday-Sunday, January 10-11 : Top rated scholastic players compete against one another in this invitation-only, prestigious tournament. Rated.
MLK, Jr.: Monday, January 19: Kids compete as individuals and as part of their school teams in this tournament, which also hosts a service project to benefit a local charity in honor of the MLK holiday. Rated.
State Team Qualifier: Saturday, February 21: The big school team tournament, in which teams from around Georgia compete to qualify to play in the State Team Championship. Unrated.
State Team Championship: Tentatively scheduled for Saturday, March 28: Top school teams from around Georgia compete for championship titles in the primary (K-1), elementary (K-5), middle school (K-8), and high school (K-12) divisions. Rated.
Tell your kids (if they don’t already know) that chess is the one activity that can stock their bookshelves and closets full with trophies, ribbons, and other recognitions. While sports and other activities may offer a single championship or participant award at the end of their playing season, every chess tournament sends its players home with a ribbon or a piece of hardware that they can be proud to display. The more they play, the better they become, and the bigger the bragging rights for both the kids and Grandparents!
So, keep up to date with the tournament schedule by checking with the GCA website (www.georgiachess.org) on a regular basis. Stay in touch with all the chess news with GeorgiaChessNews.com, featuring tournament results, games analyses, and photos from both scholastic and open (adult) events. Questions? Please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to seeing you at a chess tournament this fall!