Record attendance for chess club

by admin on February 3, 2008

I’ve mentioned before in this blog that I run a chess club for kids at the local library on Friday afternoons. (This is not to be confused with the chess club for grownups that I play in on Thursday nights.) Most weeks the turnout is 8 to 12 kids. I set up two tables, three boards to a table, and that is generally enough. In a very good week we might get 14 kids and have to set up another table.

Well, this week something unbelievable happened. We had about 10 kids already when the club began, around 3:30. As usual, I had set up two rows of chairs in a circle around a demonstration board. The chairs were full by 3:35, and had to start lining up another row. By 3:40, that row was full, and there were kids standing and sitting in every corner of the room. By 3:45, when I finished my mini-lecture and told the kids they could start playing, we had 24 kids! This was an all-time record for attendance.

What happened? Why did so many kids show up all of a sudden? I don’t know! Actually, I kind of wonder whether this was one last little Fischer boom… the kids heard about this great American chess champion who died, and somehow just for a moment, chess flickered on their radar screen as something slightly more interesting than video games.

Even though I was in no way prepared for such a crowd, I think that the club actually ran pretty smoothly. The kids set up the additional sets and chairs and tables mostly by themselves, and there was a great energy in the room that I have never seen before. It was noisy, but not ridiculously so, and I didn’t see any cases of misbehavior.

The most amazing thing happened when it was time to start picking up, at 4:30. Within five minutes, every piece was put away, and every chair was back in place! Most weeks, this is a job that takes me ten minutes or so. But this week, twice as many boards and twice as many chairs got put away in half the time. It felt as if I had an army of ants working for me!

So will all these kids come back next week? I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

P.S. The game that I showed them in my mini-lecture was the loss to Steve Sullivan that I wrote about in my last blog entry! I showed them the position where I sacrificed two pieces to set up a checkmate (which Sullivan had to give up his queen to stop). I talked about discovered attacks and mating nets and the importance of development in the opening. Then somebody asked, “Did you win the game?” To my chagrin, I had to admit that no, I didn’t! Then I showed them the position where I stupidly sacrificed my queen, although I didn’t try to explain all the psychology that I discussed in my blog entry.

Surprisingly enough, it seemed to me that the kids kind of liked my honesty, the way that I admitted that I lost the game. Maybe it made me seem a little more human. Who knows?

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Carina February 4, 2008 at 7:15 am

Hehe, I was actually wondering if Fischer’s death wouldn’t have a (temporary) positive effect on member signups. It seems like all you have to do to make progress for chess is to place it in people’s consciousness, then the addictive nature of the game does the rest. It’s probably like that for all things, which is why people advetise their products. Chess ought to be advertised more! I don’t advertise for the game, but I do talk about it to anyone willing to listen + draw about it. These simple things alone has made one guy who I chatted with take up the game again, and people who’ve never played (in the art community) saying, well, jesting probably, that they want to learn. Obviously, the pull of chess is still strong in our days, despite modern distractions. It might just be a matter of making it available to the mainstream, then it’s absorbed.

And about the kids asking for the result of the game, they probably just want to know how they should deal with winning/losing by seeing how you (the rolemodel) deal with it. They’ll probably try and copy the attitude you have to it when they win and lose on their own. And yea, a human teacher definitely makes the learning a bit easier. 🙂


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