By Xiao Cheng
As chess gets popular in the United States, the opportunity to participate in chess camps has also increased. Camps can be grouped by age or, more commonly, chess levels. Here are three common chess levels:
1. True beginner: learning the rules for the first time
2. Play-at-home level: knows the rules; ready to learn basic tactics and strategies
3. Tournament-play level: competed in tournaments; has been working on chess study; wants to increase chess rating.
Regardless of your child’s chess level, the following five points should be the focus to get the most out of a chess camp:
• Asking Questions
• Playing Games
• Trying New Ideas
• Teaching Others
• Making Friends
Schools are moving toward more instruction and less interaction. Chess camps should not follow this pattern. Instead, questions during a lecture will bring ideas both for the students and the instructor.
Before your child attend a chess camp, talk with them to see what questions they have. Also encourage them to answer instructor’s questions without being afraid of being wrong.
Questions can be general ones, like questions about chess world champions, chess history, etc. Or they can be knowledge-based, such as how to checkmate with two bishops.
Like many other activities, chess is a numbers game. Grandmasters generally play many more games than a beginner. Chess Camp is an opportunity to play multiple games in a day.
A beginner should learn to not be afraid to play against stronger players. This is the chance to train and ask questions. At the same time, playing against less-experienced players is a chance for your child to teach what they know. Either way, they can use the camp to increase their chess experiences.
Trying new ideas
In my lessons, I ask students to try out ideas at home (online), then learn from these experiences and apply them in tournaments.
Camp is your child’s time to test ideas. If they want to learn a new opening, they can try it during the camp. Then they can ask questions about it. Not only is the camp a low-stake environment (results don’t matter as much as in tournaments), but they can also immediately ask for feedback.
If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.
Encourage the child to teach what they know. We live in an era where knowledge has become more of a commodity, and information can be easily found on the internet. Not only are they helping others to learn new ideas, they’ll also clarify their own thoughts in the idea. For example, once they have learned how to checkmate with two bishops, showing others the process will only help them to understand it better.
Making new friends
This may be the most important of all. Going to chess camps will give your child the opportunity to make new friends with other chess players. After all, chess is a game that shows off the competitive spirit on the board, and friendships off the board. When your child interacts with other kids and works with them to solve problems, it will help them work during the camp, and more importantly, form a friendship for their chess careers to come.
Whether your kids are just picking up the game or are ready for tournament play, I hope this post will help you and them to gain the most from any chess camp.
For anyone in Atlanta during the Christmas holiday, I’ll be working with GM Ben Finegold and LM Dave Vest on a camp at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Atlanta.
If your child is ready to jump to the next level of chess improvement, we’d love to have them join the camp! Please email email@example.com for any questions.
Xiao is a FIDE Master and writes regularly for chesssummit.com. You can also reach to him at chess1000.com