WCI’s Chess Club Moved Online and It’s Working

Photo by Emrehan Kilic.

WCI’s Chess Club leaders are working hard to encourage students to play chess and their goal is to show that everyone can actually play it. 

The Chess Club started on September 29th with its first online meeting. The club has four leaders, and since its first meeting the club has grown to have over 30 members as of November 1st. Leaders of the club use different online platforms to create better communication between members and also provide them with a full chess environment experience.

Jerome J., who is one of the club leaders of Chess Club, said, “Our mission is to create awareness of chess and show others that chess can be an alternative source of entertainment with the added benefit of improving one’s self. We also want to state that you do not have to be good at chess to play chess because once you start playing, you will gradually improve your chess skills and get better at the game.”

This year, all the clubs are running virtually including Chess Club. This might look like a disadvantage. However, the supervisor teacher of the club, Ms. McCarl-Palmer believes that the club is way more educational this year and that they are taking the advantage of wider communication opportunities in online learning. “This year what’s been cool is that we have added teaching components so now there is a lesson and then a tournament for people to play. So, that’s been really fun to see people to have that learning and that teaching happening in a more beneficial way instead of just a little one on one conversation,” said McCarl Palmer.

“Another cool thing about the tournaments this year is that you can watch other people’s games and strategies. With online format, there is a way to get more games and more playing happening which is a lot of fun for people.”

The Chess Club is using different online platforms to connect with its members easily and efficiently. The club leaders use Discord and Google Meet to communicate with members, set meetings and also teach lessons. For lessons, they analyze games that the members want to see, whether their own games or previous games played by chess grandmasters, and they teach basic strategies of chess. 

In order to play chess and set tournaments, club leaders use a platform named “LiChess.” In this platform, the members are able to join tournaments and play against each other. Also, members can choose to watch other people’s games and see their strategies, which is one of the ways that the club is taking advantage of being online.

A screenshot of an online chess game played in the platform “LiChess.”

There is a common misconception that chess is only for “smart” people. This causes people to feel nervous about playing chess and joining chess clubs. Yusuf Y. and Farzad R., who are members of the chess club believe that chess is a very beneficial game that everyone can play. Yusuf said that “Chess is for people who love to think. It also depends on the definition of being “smart.” It is like if you make your brain do something for a long time, and your brain gets used to it, and its functionality becomes rapid at that particular activity.”

In his TEDx Talk, “How Chess Can Revolutionize Learning,” Cody Pomeranz, a speechwriter, shares how he disagrees with the “chess is for smart people” idea and brings a different perspective to the discussion: “Chess makes you smart. It imbues you with values and skills that you will use for the rest of your life both in and outside the classroom. We have proved this in study after study that chess increases kids’ test scores in math, problem solving, critical reading, and special reasoning.”

According to Pomeranz, chess is a game that helps people to apply their skills that they have gained from the game to daily life. He also adds, “Chess teaches you to think before you move and in life that translates into thinking before you act.” Farzad agreed with Pomeranz’s observation and said that he is able to translate the skills he gained in chess to daily life: “Overall, chess has allowed me to have a fun experience with an active brain. I feel that this may have started to affect the rest of my life as recently I have started to plan ahead more in my schedules and take opportunities I think will benefit me.” 

Photo by Emrehan Kilic

Both McCarl-Palmer and Pomeranz define chess as a bridge that connects different people. McCarl-Palmer believes that the Chess Club includes a really unique group of people who may be interested in a variety of areas such as math, leadership, computer, or coding. So, it is a place for people with different interests and skills to meet.

In his TEDx Talk, Pomeranz explains how chess is an international game that creates a way of communication between people and equalizes them no matter who they are. “Chess is an equalizer. Age doesn’t matter. Religion doesn’t matter. Race doesn’t matter. Socioeconomic background doesn’t matter,” he says. “It gives people confidence and it raises their self-esteem and shows them even if they don’t have the resources, they still have the potential to succeed”.

Chess Club continues to run with its meetings every Tuesday from 3:30pm to 4:30pm. The club is welcoming new members who want to learn chess or who already know chess and want to improve themselves. It is a great opportunity for students to learn new chess skills while having fun and meeting with new people. The Google Classroom code for the club is: “v5etuaw.”