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chess programs in schools

Whether you are a chess coach or a classroom teacher, your chess program has seen a dramatic change this year. Due to the pandemic, chess programs, along with many other extra-curricular activities, have either disappeared or been severely curtailed. Many countries report that current chess in schools activities have decreased 50% or more from previous years. The fact that everyone else is going through the same thing doesn’t lessen your own stress. But all is not lost.

As you think about what comes next and what might be the new normal, take this opportunity to plan how you will connect with your school and your chess community. The pathway forward can be a new opportunity to emphasize why chess in education is valuable and maybe even to broaden the focus of your outreach.

Plan now on how you will approach your key stakeholders. In the weeks ahead, we will offer tips on how to build support from families, the business community, and even from within your own school. Much of this advice is common sense: Understand your audiences and communicate clearly to them.

Learn the language.

If you are a chess coach trying to advocate your program to educators, avoid a focus on tournaments and trophies. These may be important to your program, but they are not the goals that educators have been assigned. Learn the language of educators and share with them how you are their partner in education.

If you are an educator, do not assume that other teachers, parents, or the community at large know why you value chess. Remember what they value for their students and communicate the positive changes in students that chess offers in those terms. Help them understand chess as an educational tool.

Expand the benefits.

Perceived benefits of chess by educators and the community at large may differ widely. Factors to consider include the local culture and their previous experience with chess. Social-emotional and self-directed learning may be just as high on the list of needs as literacy, math, and critical thinking skills.

Make deliberate connections.

Do not assume that just because students are playing chess that they are automatically gaining academic and 21st century skills. Create lessons that deliberately make those connections. Reinforce those connections throughout the year. Demonstrate them to your stakeholders. Make your program truly one that focuses on educational goals that remain long after the tournaments are over and the trophies are gathering dust.

At Chess in Schools, we specialize in training teachers. We help them learn how to play chess and use the game in the classroom or in after-school settings to introduce the skills needed to succeed in and beyond the classroom. We also offer training for chess coaches to help them better understand the education community and expand their outreach. Interested in a training event? Contact me at

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