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Queens Gambit Chess Institute

By Ashley Lynn Priore

Why I Started Queen’s Gambit Chess Institute

The Queens Gambit Chess Institute was founded in 2014 during my freshman year in high school. After 10+ years of playing competitive chess and teaching chess to the Pittsburgh community, I thought it was time to start an organization dedicated to empowering young people through chess. I didn’t want it just to be a place where people come together and play. I wanted to spark conversations. Growing up, I didn’t have a chess instructor that looked like me. I didn’t see a world where young women could play chess and be respected. Queen’s Gambit needed to combat the gender issues in the game, inspiring young women to continue in the sport. And in the process I wanted to inspire curiosity and critical thinking in the minds of students.

Chess in the Classroom

I also didn’t see a world where chess was thought of as a classroom tool. I always found myself explaining to instructors, after school coordinators, principles, and more the importance of strategic planning and critical thinking skills that chess provides. Thanks to organizations like the Chess in Education Coalition, school administrators are beginning to understand the groundbreaking elements that chess teaches. However, there is still so much work to be done. That is why Queens Gambit teaches school administrators and board members how chess can inspire curiosity and critical thinking in the classroom.

Chess is Not Checkers

Let’s visualize a chess board and the pieces. Each piece moves a specific way and has limitations. Take the bishop for example. It moves diagonally, but it can’t jump over other pieces in its path. It can’t take multiple pieces in one turn. In other words, chess is not like checkers where the pieces move the same and there is an easy instruction book. In chess, students must first understand how each piece moves and then gain an understanding on how and when to use that piece in a game. For some, learning all the pieces (how they move, their point value, etc.) can be overwhelming.

Applying the LessonsQueens Gambit Chess Institute

However, just like in life, we must learn how to navigate various situations with a vast array of options and possibilities. Chess allows students to test different options and possibilities in a stress-free environment. While visualizing the pieces as parts of their lives (maybe the knight represents their friends and the pawns their responsibilities at home), they can consider how each piece challenges, uplifts, and empowers the other. Chess teachers dive into topics like opportunity cost using chess as the fun and engaging model. That is powerful. We must inspire curiosity in the classroom, giving every child the opportunity to test, investigate, and experience trial and error.

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