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Chess Center

In Memory of Norman Constantine, our Former Teacher

We are sad to announce the passing of Norman Constantine, who taught chess with us for many years. Mr. Constantine, or Mr. C as so many children knew him, was a gregarious man, a wonderful teacher who was as generous and kind as any educator could be.

Mr. C was known for giving books to students, especially classic literature and history books. In the chess world, he gave his time. He was responsible for keeping the Maryland Chess Association afloat during the 1980s and ‘90s, serving as Membership Secretary but doing much more.

He found sites for tournaments, directing some and assisting with others. He was instrumental in creating the Capital International Invitational tournaments in 1989 and 1990, the strongest chess tournaments ever held in Maryland. Both Vladimir Epishin and Maryland’s Alex Sherzer earned their first International Master norms at the 1989 event, helping to propel them both to the Grandmaster titles.

Mr. C taught not only history and computer science at the high school level, employed by the Newport Schools, St. Albans, Wakefield School and Annapolis’ St. Mary’s school, he sponsored chess clubs at each of them. Following his retirement as a classroom teacher, he accepted employment with the U.S. Chess Center, where he taught the youngest children in our Chess Kids classes on Saturday mornings, hosted Open Play on Saturday afternoons, and taught chess classes and clubs at schools including Burroughs Elementary in the District and Spring Hill Elementary in McLean.

Until recently, he would come to Bishops & Beers gatherings to engage in two of his favorite pastimes. He will be missed by all who knew him.

Chess In the Park Returns To Eastern Market Metro for 2024

In the wake of the great success of last year’s events, we are happy to announce that the U.S. Chess Center, in cooperation with Barracks Row Main Street, will be returning to Eastern Market Metro to stage two additional Chess in the Park tournaments on June 1 and June 22.  Like last year’s events, these tournaments are free of charge and open to all students in grades 2-8 who understand the rules of tournament chess.

Students may register for one or both Saturday tournaments, and we strongly recommend signing up in advance to reserve a spot.  More information and online registration is available here: https://chessctr.org/play/easternmarketmetro/

Chantilly Sweeps to Victory in 2023-2024 Metro Area Chess League Playoffs

Chantilly High School dominated the Metro Area Chess League playoffs yesterday. Run as a three-round Swiss System tournament in the beautiful offices of the Institute for Educational Leadership in Washington, DC, the playoffs featured the top eight schools from the regular season.

The final standings in tiebreak order were:
1. Chantilly
2. Langley
3. Jackson-Reed
4. Oakton
5. Montgomery Blair
6. Richard Montgomery
7. Magruder
8. McLean
 
In an event like this, using tiebreaks makes even less sense than in a regular tournament, so it is better to think that Langley, Jackson-Reed, and Oakton tied for second place, with Blair, Richard Montgomery, and Magruder tying for fifth.

Chantilly won all three of its matches without relying on the tiebreak system designed to eliminate drawn matches. Demonstrating how evenly matched the teams were, five of the twelve matches ended with 2-2 scores, with tiebreak employed to determine the winners.
Twenty-seven schools entered the league this year. Plaques acknowledging regular season performance go to Langley as the top Virginia school, Richard Montgomery as the top Maryland school, and Jackson-Reed as the top District of Columbia school. In addition, BASIS DC won the competition for the top DC Public Charter School, with E.L. Haynes finishing as the runner-up in that category.
 
The regular season competition was a hybrid of online with in-person matches. The large majority of matches were played online, but a few were played in person. Scheduling the matches was a challenge for the coaches and captains, and during the playoffs the coaches had a meeting to discuss methods to improve that process. Those suggestions, which are designed to improve the communication process among the competing schools, will be implemented for the 2024-2025 season.
 
Registration for next year’s season will begin in September, with the first matches taking place in November. The 2024-25 regular season is scheduled to end in March 2025.  Learn more at: https://chessctr.org/macl/

DC Girls Open Tournament Is Another Great Success

The DC K-12 Girls’ Open Chess Tournament, held this past Saturday at the Lamond-Riggs/Lillian J. Huff Neighborhood Library in Northeast, drew a big crowd of chess enthusiasts.  Over 30 girls showed up to the competition, some of them experienced chess veterans and some who were brand new to tournament play.   Everybody had a great time.

We take our hats off once again to Chess Girls DC for putting on another fantastic event, and more broadly for all their hard work to promote chess for women and girls these past several years.  We are already looking forward to the next big all-girls’ tournament, the 7th annual DC Girls’ Regional, this coming October.  

Metro Area Chess League Season Enters Final Round

The Metro Area Chess League continued its trend of closely decided matches at the top in Round 7.  Leaders Langley edged their contest against Montgomery Blair by 2.5-1.5, clinching a playoff spot with their seventh win in seven matches.  Behind them, however, there is a very close race, with Chantilly, Jackson-Reed and Oakton currently holding the three remaining playoff spots.  Of those on the outside looking in, Blair and Richard Montgomery both have a serious chance of making the playoffs with a win in their final round matches.  

Check back next week to see who made it in!

Standings After Round 7 of 8

School TeamMatch PointsBoard Points (tiebreaker)
Langley723
Chantilly622
Jackson-Reed5.519.5
Oakton519.5
Richard Montgomery519
Montgomery Blair4.518
McLean416.5
Magruder415.5
Gonzaga415
Poolesville3.514.5
Arlington Career Center313.5
Don Bosco Cristo Rey313
Rochambeau312.5
West Springfield312
St. Anselm’s312
Bishop McNamara312
DeMatha312
McKinley Tech311
Georgetown Prep2.59.5
Hayfield211
Rockville29.5
E.L. Haynes1.58
BASIS DC1.57
St. Albans1.56
Girls Global Academy14
St. John’s11
Marshall00

Potomac Youth Chess League Concludes Its 2024 Season

The revived Potomac Youth Chess League has wrapped up its first season back in action.  A previous iteration of the league ran from 1997 to 2010.  The format and structure were similar to the PCSAA Chess League that we ran for charter schools the past three years; this year, that competition was merged and enlarged to be open to all middle schools in the greater Washington area.

Matches consisted of four-player teams from each participating school, and were played online during Saturday afternoons on lichess.org.  Eight schools took part this year, and matches began on January 6 and concluded on March 23.  Congratulations to league first-timers Capital Village PCS, whose team came out on top of a close race to take the title ahead of DCI.  

Final standings below:

SchoolMatch PointsBoard Points (tiebreaker)
Capital Village533.5
DCI4.532.5
Washington Latin331
BASIS DC324.5
Two Rivers2.517
Ingenuity Prep219.5
Meridian110
Capital City PCS00

We hope to continue to grow the league next year.  If you are interested in having your middle school participate, please send an email to admin@chessctr.org.

Chess champion, David Sherman, will play a simultaneous exhibition at the Day of the Book Festival on Sunday, April 21 in Kensington, MD

The 17th Kensington Day of the Book Festival will be on Sunday, April 21. We will be there to play chess with anyone who wants to join us. https://www.dayofthebook.com/

In addition to the chess tent, there will be live music, authors reading from their books and engaging in discussions, children’s programs, cookbook demos (and quite a variety of food vendors), poetry readings, and booksellers.

For many years, Allan Savage performed a simultaneous chess exhibition at the festival. Allan, a friend of the Center, passed away unexpectedly during the pandemic, and the Center has picked up the torch.

David Sherman, a former Maryland and DC Champion who used to teach chess with us, volunteered last year and again this year to continue Mr. Savage’s tradition.

Looking for Chess Books? The U.S. Chess Center also has over a thousand used chess books for sale, starting at $1.00 and up and your purchase helps support the charitable mission of the Chess Center.  Peruse our inventory of used chess books at https://chessctr.org/usedbooks/

Judit and Sofia Polgar Played a Simul in the German Bundestag to Honor Israeli Hostages

We try to inculcate our motto of Friendship, Courage, Integrity to all our students. We see examples of these traits in many strong chess players, although, regrettably, not all.

The best female player ever, Judit Polgar, with the active participation of her sister, International Master Sofia Polgar, recently performed a simultaneous exhibition in the German Parliament in Berlin to honor the hostages taken from Israel into Gaza. The exhibition strengthened the ties of friendship between Germany and Israel, while allowing 40 chess players the opportunity to face the Polgar sisters, who are retired from active competitive play.

 

The simul in the German Bundestag on March 14

With anti-Israel sentiment running high in many places, it took considerable courage to speak out for the hostages. Judit is a chess player of unquestioned integrity. Despite facing discrimination as a young player, which deprived her as a teenager of opportunities to compete for the World Chess Championship and to represent her country of Hungary in the Olympiad (she was offered, but declined, the chance to play in the Women’s Division of each), she steadfastly worked to become the strongest female player ever.

In rising to the top of the chess world, Polgar defeated 11 current or past World Champions including Magnus Carlsen and Garry Kasparov when they were each ranked #1. She broke Bobby Fischer’s record of becoming the youngest grandmaster ever and did so before the changes in the system that allowed the rank of grandmaster to become more common. She is the only woman ever to be ranked among the top ten players in the world.

When she speaks on an issue, the world listens. Now, she speaks on the topic of hostages. As she recently said, “Speaking up for hostages is not political. It is humanitarian. The world of sports is asking all athletes to heed the call to protect the safety and security of all hostages.”

The exhibition was staged by Chess4Solidarity, a collaboration between Germany and Israel.

Judit and Sofia Polgar, pictured in 1988

Elementary Team League 2023-24 Matchday 7 Results

Yesterday at St. Luke’s we brought the curtain down on the Metro Area Chess League for the season, with students from eleven of our clubs turning out to represent their school teams.  In what was a close race all year to the finish, Spring Hill held on to first place in the final standings by ten points over Churchill Road, with White Oaks, Poplar Tree and Kent Gardens all close behind them.

However, while everyone competes hard to win, the results are of secondary importance when compared with the experience and confidence the students gain when representing their schools in a competitive setting.  We’re happy to see several of our students from the League go on to take part in competitions like the state championships — held this past weekend — and the Nationals, coming up next month.

 

Round 13:
Kent Gardens 3-1 Colvin Run
Willow Springs 3-1 Ravensworth
Spring Hill 4-0 Oakton
Greenbriar West 2-2 Lorton Station
Orange Hunt 0-4 Poplar Tree
White Oaks 2-2 Churchill Road
 
Round 14:
Poplar Tree 3-1 Greenbriar West
Colvin Run 2.5-1.5 Willow Springs
Churchill Road 2-2 Spring Hill
Lorton Station 1-3 Kent Gardens
Oakton 1-0 Orange Hunt
Ravensworth 0-4 White Oaks
 
Final Standings after Matchday 7 of 7:
 
Spring Hill 178
Churchill Road 168
White Oaks 164
Poplar Tree 157
Kent Gardens 154
Willow Springs 130
Colvin Run 122
Greenbriar West 115
Orange Hunt 79 
Oakton 52
Ravensworth 50
Lorton Station 36

Tight Playoff Race Developing in the Metro Area Chess League

This year has been the most competitive Metro Area Chess League since we brought the competition back in 2021.  Two dozen public, private and charter schools from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Northern Virginia are matching wits to try to earn one of the available four playoff berths at the end of the spring.

Three-quarters of the way through the regular season, Langley High School (McLean, VA) have separated themselves from the chasing pack, having won all 6 of their matches and scoring 20.5 out of a possible 24 board points.  League newcomers Chantilly High School (Chantilly, VA) have been their closest competition with 5 match points out of 6 — their only loss coming against Langley in a close 1.5-2.5 decision in Round 4.

Behind them, MACL debutants Jackson-Reed High School from northwest D.C. and two-time defending champions Montgomery Blair High School from Silver Spring, MD are tied on 4.5 match points and would get the final two playoff spots if the season ended right now.  But with Oakton, Richard Montgomery and Magruder all in close contention just outside the top four, we expect a close race to the finish.

Standings After Round 6 of 8

School TeamMatch PointsBoard Points (tiebreaker)
Langley620.5
Chantilly519
Jackson-Reed4.516.5
Montgomery Blair4.516.5
Oakton416.5
Richard Montgomery415.5
Magruder414.5
Poolesville413.5
Don Bosco Cristo Rey313
Arlington Career Center312.5
McLean312.5
Gonzaga312
St. Anselm’s312
West Springfield312
Rochambeau311.5
McKinley Tech311
Bishop McNamara2.510
Georgetown Prep2.59.5
Hayfield210
Rockville29.5
DeMatha29
E.L. Haynes1.58
BASIS DC1.57
St. Albans1.56
Girls Global Academy14
St. John’s11
Marshall00

Elementary Team League 2023-24 Matchday 6 Results

We began the holiday weekend at St. Luke’s for the penultimate round of this season’s Elementary Team League.  In spite of the inclement weather that as forecast for the morning, we still had a good turnout on Saturday afternoon.

The top of the leaderboard remains mostly unchanged.  Spring Hill and Churchill Road remain in the top two positions and look set to fight it out for the season title on the final match day on March 16.  White Oaks, Poplar Tree, and Kent Gardens are all still in with a mathematical chance of first place but they would need the leaders to slip up in four weeks.




Round 11:
Kent Gardens 4-0 Ravensworth
Spring Hill 2-2 Churchill Road
Greenbriar West 1-2 Poplar Tree
Oakton 0.5-1.5 Lorton Station
Orange Hunt 1-3 White Oaks
Colvin Run 2-1 Willow Springs
 
Round 12:
Churchill Road 3-1 Kent Gardens
Willow Springs 2.5-0.5 Oakton
White Oaks 3-0 Greenbriar West
Lorton Station 0-3 Spring Hill
Poplar Tree 0-3 Colvin Run
Ravensworth 2-1 Orange Hunt
 
Standings after Matchday 6 of 7:
 
Spring Hill 152
Churchill Road 148
White Oaks 138
Poplar Tree 127
Kent Gardens 126
Willow Springs 111
Colvin Run 103
Greenbriar West 99
Orange Hunt 79 
Oakton 48
Ravensworth 40
Lorton Station 22

Elementary Team League 2023-24 Matchday 5 Results

Just two rounds remain after the latest Saturday of matches in the Elementary Team League.  Churchill Road and Spring Hill are still at the top of the leaderboard.  Poplar Tree, with a perfect eight wins from eight games, remained in fourth but made some big gains on the schools in front.

The next League match is on February 17, and then the season finishes up on March 3.  Any student from one of our after-school clubs who knows the rules of chess is welcome to sign up to play in the League, and we especially encourage those kids who have never played competitively outside of their school.  

Round 9:
Willow Springs 0-4 Poplar Tree
Churchill Road 3-1 Greenbriar West
Spring Hill 3-1 Poplar Tree
Oakton 1-2 White Oaks
Lorton Station 0-4 Kent Gardens
Ravensworth 0-2 Orange Hunt
 
Round 10:
Kent Gardens 3-1 Willow Springs
Spring Hill 4-0 Ravensworth
Orange Hunt 1-3 Churchill Road
White Oaks 3-0 Lorton Station
Poplar Tree 4-0 Colvin Run
Greenbriar West 1-1 Oakton
 
Standings after Matchday 5 of 7:
 
Spring Hill 130
Churchill Road 124
White Oaks 115
Poplar Tree 111
Kent Gardens 104
Greenbriar West 85
Colvin Run 81
Willow Springs 77
Orange Hunt 65 
Oakton 42
Ravensworth 32
Lorton Station 15

Fall Semester of Clubs Winding Down, Spring Session Starting Soon

The fall semester of our after-school clubs has drawn to a close.  At Greenbriar West Elementary this past Monday, we commemorated the last day of the session with a chess and pizza party.  Mr. Mehler, as he always does, took on six students at a time in a simultaneous exhibition, as did Mr. Carr.  Below are some photos from the simul and party.

The spring semester starts this week, and registration for the spring semester is still open.

Photos and Games from Our Match With the Icelandic Student Team

Iceland was instrumental in making chess popular in America. Without the small island nation stepping up to host the Fischer-Spassky match in 1972, the United States would not have had a native world chess champion and chess would not have grown in popularity in America as it did.

Chess in Iceland also boomed as a result of that match. Iceland became the strongest country in the world for chess with the most grandmasters per capita in the world, a distinction it still holds. Iceland is also one of only a small handful of nations with more grandmasters, the highest title in chess, than international masters, the second-highest title.

Following the match, the United States and Iceland established an annual match among juniors of the two nations, with Americans traveling to Iceland for matches in even-numbered years, and the reverse in the odd-numbered years.

Those matches ended after the 1989 match in New York City, but after 35 years, we decided it was time to bring them back. On January 27, young Americans and Icelanders played a match via the internet, using the lichess.org platform.

We decided on a rapid time control (G/7;+3) so that each player would have the opportunity to play many players from the other side over the course of 90 minutes. Several of Iceland’s top young players were unexpectedly unavailable, giving the team from the District of Columbia and its environs a distinct advantage.

The first five games were won by the Americans, and while the Icelandic team gamely made it close at the halfway point (29-27) the US team pulled away for a 75-47 final score.

We hope to have a rematch sometime soon and are investigating playing in person again, perhaps as early as late spring this year.

 

Here are a few of the games.

 

1)

[Event “DC – Reykjavik Match Team Battle”]

[Site “https://lichess.org/g0xu6rAW”]

[Date “2024.01.27”]

[Result “1-0”]

[UTCDate “2024.01.27”]

[UTCTime “18:34:38”]

[WhiteElo “1852”]

[BlackElo “1965”]

[WhiteRatingDiff “+187”]

[BlackRatingDiff “-45”]

[WhiteTeam “us-chess-center-pine”]

[BlackTeam “iceland-kids-skakskoli-islands”]

[Variant “Standard”]

[TimeControl “420+3”]

[ECO “A45”]

[Termination “Normal”]

 

1. d4 Nf6 2. Bf4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d5 5. f3 dxe4 6. fxe4 O-O 7. Qd2 Nc6 8. O-O-O Bg4 9. Nf3 Nh5 10. Be3 e5 11. d5 Nd4 12. Be2 Nxe2+ 13. Nxe2 Nf6 14. Ng3 a5 15. h3 Bh5 16. Nxh5 gxh5 17. Qd3 Qd6 18. Rdg1 b5 19. g4 h4 20. Nxh4 Qd8 21. Nf5 Nd7 22. Bh6 Bxh6+ 23. Nxh6+ Kh8 24. Rf1 Qg5+ 25. Qd2 Qxd2+ 26. Kxd2 Kg7 27. g5 Nc5 28. Ke3 Ra6 29. Nf5+ Kg8 30. Ne7+ Kh8 31. Nc6 Raa8 32. Nxe5 Rae8 33. Rf5 f6 34. gxf6 Nxe4 35. Kxe4 1-0

 

 

2)

[Event “DC – Reykjavik Match Team Battle”]

[Site “https://lichess.org/SdnednKS”]

[Date “2024.01.27”]

[Result “1-0”]

[UTCDate “2024.01.27”]

[UTCTime “19:14:56”]

[WhiteElo “2072”]

[BlackElo “1579”]

[WhiteRatingDiff “+4”]

[BlackRatingDiff “-7”]

[WhiteTeam “us-chess-center-pine”]

[BlackTeam “iceland-kids-skakskoli-islands”]

[Variant “Standard”]

[TimeControl “420+3”]

[ECO “B32”]

[Termination “Normal”]

 

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. c3 d3 5. Bxd3 d6 6. O-O e5 7. Bc4 Be7 8. Ng5 Bxg5 9. Qh5 Qf6 10. Bxg5 Qg6 11. Qh4 h6 12. Be3 Nf6 13. f3 O-O 14. Na3 a6 15. Rad1 b5 16. Rxd6 bxc4 17. Rxc6 Be6 18. Nxc4 Bxc4 19. Rxc4 Rfd8 20. Rc6 Rab8 21. b3 Rd3 22. Bxh6 Qxh6 23. Qxh6 gxh6 24. Rxf6 Kg7 25. Rxa6 Rxc3 26. Rd1 Rbc8 27. Rd2 Rc1+ 28. Kf2 Ra1 29. Ra7 Rcc1 30. Rdd7 Rf1+ 31. Kg3 Kg6 32. Rxf7 Kh5 33. Ra6 Rxf3+ 34. gxf3 Rg1+ 35. Kf2 Rg5 36. Rf5 1-0

 

3)

[Event “DC – Reykjavik Match Team Battle”]

[Site “https://lichess.org/jMIFYgIA”]

[Date “2024.01.27”]

[Result “1-0”]

[UTCDate “2024.01.27”]

[UTCTime “19:10:14”]

[WhiteElo “1705”]

[BlackElo “1904”]

[WhiteRatingDiff “+103”]

[BlackRatingDiff “-81”]

[WhiteTeam “us-chess-center-pine”]

[BlackTeam “iceland-kids-skakskoli-islands”]

[Variant “Standard”]

[TimeControl “420+3”]

[ECO “B46”]

[Termination “Normal”]

 

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Nxc6 bxc6 7. Be3 Qc7 8. Be2 Nf6 9. O-O d5 10. exd5 cxd5 11. Qd2 Bd6 12. h3 O-O 13. Bg5 Be5 14. Bf3 Rb8 15. Rab1 Rxb2 16. Rxb2 Bxc3 17. Qc1 Bxb2 18. Qxb2 Nd7 19. Be2 h6 20. Be3 Bb7 21. Qa3 Qxc2 22. Bd3 Qc7 23. Rc1 Qe5 24. Qa4 Nf6 25. Bd4 Qg5 26. Be3 Qe5 27. Bf4 Qh5 28. Rc7 Bc8 29. Bd6 Ne8 30. Rxc8 Nxd6 31. Rxf8+ Kxf8 32. Qxa6 Qe5 33. Be2 g6 34. a4 Nf5 35. Qd3 Nd4 36. Bf1 Nc6 37. Qb5 Qc3 38. Qe2 d4 39. Qd1 Qb4 40. Qc1 Na5 41. Qxh6+ Ke7 42. Qg5+ Ke8 43. Bb5+ Kf8 44. Qh6+ Kg8 45. Qc1 Nb3 46. Qd1 e5 47. Bd3 f5 48. Qc2 e4 49. Bc4+ Kg7 50. Bxb3 d3 51. Qc7+ Kh6 52. Qf4+ Kg7 53. Qe5+ Kh6 54. Qh8+ Kg5 55. h4+ Kg4 56. Bd1+ Kf4 57. Qh6+ Ke5 58. Qg7+ Kf4 59. g3# 1-0

Elementary Team League 2023-24 Matchday 4 Results

The snowy weather impacted this weekend’s Elementary Team League somewhat, as several of the participating teams were missing players.  Those who did come join us yesterday at St. Luke’s enjoyed some exciting games of chess.

With the absences this week, schools who fielded full teams had an opportunity to move up in the overall standings.  Spring Hill was one of the schools who did exactly that, winning both their matches to assume the top spot in the overall standings.  Churchill Road was another to take advantage, picking up two match victories to advance to second place.  With the season now more than half finished, lots of schools are still in contention.

Round 7:
Orange Hunt 1.5-0.5 Willow Springs 
Kent Gardens 0-4 Greenbriar West
Spring Hill 3-1 Poplar Tree
White Oaks 2-1 Colvin Run
Lorton Station 0-4 Churchill Road 
Ravensworth 1-0 Oakton
 
Round 8:
Greenbriar West 3.5-0.5 Orange Hunt
Churchill Road 4-0 Ravensworth
Oakton 0-3 Kent Gardens
Colvin Run 2-0 Lorton Station
Poplar Tree 2.5 – 1.5 White Oaks
Willow Springs 0-4 Spring Hill
 
Standings after Matchday 4 of 7:
 
Spring Hill 104
Churchill Road 96
White Oaks 93
Poplar Tree 79
Greenbriar West 77
Willow Springs 74
Kent Gardens 74
Colvin Run 67
Orange Hunt 53 
Oakton 34
Ravensworth 30
Lorton Station 15

Potomac Youth Chess League Spring 2024 Season Has Begun

The Potomac Youth Chess League, the middle school chess league the Center ran from 1997 to 2010, has been brought back for a new season in Spring 2024.  Any middle school in the D.C. area may field a team.

The first round of matches took place last Saturday, January 13.  BASIS DC and DCI are the early leaders after recording 8-0 victories.

Matchday 1 Results

Capital City PCS 0-8 BASIS DC

DCI 8-0 Meridian

Capital Village 4-4 Two Rivers PCS

Washington Latin 7.5 – 0.5 Ingenuity Prep

Chess Kids Enters New Session at Eastern Middle School

Chess Kids (then known as Little Players) started in 1992. Bringing together children from DC, Maryland, and Virginia, we believe it to be the most valuable class we run. Children from different backgrounds become friends and learn that what they have in common greatly outweighs their differences.

Terrific friendships are created over the chess board.

This year, Chess Kids has moved to Eastern Middle School in Silver Spring, just a block from the Beltway. Players ranging from kindergarten through sixth grade gather to learn the rules, strategy, and etiquette of the game. Some of the students are learning the rules for the first time, others are nationally rated tournament players, and most are somewhere in between.

The class meets for 90 minutes starting at 10:00 am. Students register for four-week sessions at https://chessctr.org/chesskids/ We are in the middle of the fourth of six monthly sessions for the school year, and there are openings for the final two sessions.

Elementary Team League 2023-24 Round 3 Results

Back from the holiday break, we were pleased to resume the Elementary Team League yesterday at St. Luke’s.  The rain and cold that we experienced in the morning eventually gave way to clear skies and some good chess games.  The first board game in the White Oaks-Willow Springs match, in particular, was one of the more exciting games we’ve seen in the league this year.

Partially as a result of winning the aforementioned match against Willow Springs, White Oaks moved past them into the lead of the overall standings, with Spring Hill now close behind in second position.  With more than half the season to go, there’s still plenty of time for anyone to make a run.  The next match is next Saturday, January 20.

Round 5:
White Oaks 2.5 – 1.5 Willow Springs 
Poplar Tree 2-2 Kent Gardens
Spring Hill 3-1 Orange Hunt
Lorton Station 1.5-1.5 Ravensworth
Churchill Road 3-0 Oakton
Colvin Run 3.5 – 0.5 Greenbriar West
 
Round 6:
Greenbriar West 1.5-1.5 Lorton Station
Willow Springs 0.5 – 2.5 Churchill Road
Oakton 0-4 Poplar Tree
Orange Hunt 3-1 Colvin Run
Kent Gardens 0.5 – 3.5 White Oaks
Ravensworth 1-3 Spring Hill
 
Standings after Matchday 3 of 8:
 
White Oaks 78
Spring Hill 74
Willow Springs 71
Churchill Road 64
Poplar Tree 60
Kent Gardens 58
Colvin Run 55
Greenbriar West 46
Orange Hunt 45 
Oakton 34
Ravensworth 26
Lorton Station 15

Elementary Team League 2023-24 Round 2 Results

Twelve school teams came out to St. Luke’s Methodist Church yesterday for matchday 2 of this season’s Elementary Team League.  Among the players who turned up, we were especially happy to see so many students representing their schools for the first time.  Our biggest goal is always practicing and building confidence for future tournaments.

Willow Springs continued their winning streak with two more match victories to extend their lead at the top of the standings.  As is the custom each season, the League now enters its holiday break with the matches resuming on January 13 of the new year.

Round 3:
Spring Hill 1.5-2.5 White Oaks
Poplar Tree 1-3 Churchill Road
Orange Hunt 1-3 Kent Gardens
Greenbriar West 4-0 Ravensworth
Colvin Run 1-3 Oakton
Willow Springs 4-0 Lorton Station
 
Round 4:
Kent Gardens 0.5 – 3.5 Willow Springs
White Oaks 2-2 Greenbriar West
Churchill Road 3-1 Colvin Run
Oakton 1-3 Spring Hill
Lorton Station 0-4 Orange Hunt
Ravensworth 0-3 Poplar Tree
 
Standings after Matchday 2 of 8:
 
Willow Springs 61
White Oaks 50
Spring Hill 47
Kent Gardens 43
Churchill Road 39
Greenbriar West 36
Colvin Run 34
Poplar Tree 34
Oakton 32
Orange Hunt 25
Ravensworth 15
Lorton Station 4
 

Elementary Team League 2023-24 Round 1 Results

The U.S. Chess Center’s Elementary Team League is back for a brand-new season of action.  The first day of matches took place this past weekend at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Tyson’s Corner.

Teams consist of four players from each school, and every team plays two matches on each of the eight match days.  Willow Springs is off to an early lead after recording 4-0 and 3-1 scores in their first two matches on Saturday, with White Oaks in second place as the only other team to have won both matches.

Round 1:
Ravensworth 1-3 White Oaks
Kent Gardens 3-1 Colvin Run
Greenbriar West 0-4 Spring Hill 
Churchill Road 0-4 Willow Springs
Poplar Tree 2-0 Orange Hunt
Oakton 1-0 Lorton Station
 
Round 2:
Spring Hill 2-2 Kent Gardens
White Oaks 2.5 – 1.5 Churchill Road
Willow Springs 3-1 Greenbriar West
Lorton Station 0-2 Poplar Tree
Colvin Run 4-0 Ravensworth
Orange Hunt 0-2 Oakton
 
Standings after Matchday 1 of 8:

Willow Springs 30
White Oaks 27
Spring Hill 26
Kent Gardens 24
Colvin Run 22
Poplar Tree 16
Oakton 12
Churchill Road 11
Greenbriar West 10
Ravensworth 10
Lorton Station 2
Orange Hunt 2

Any student in our after school chess clubs can sign up to play in the ETL, and we especially like to encourage participaton among those students who have never played in competitions outside of their schools.   With a total of eight match days in the season, there are plenty of opportunities for everyone, so if your child is interested in playing, reach out to their chess club instructor.

Book Review – “The Match of All Time” – An Important Contribution to Chess History

No American made a greater impact on chess than Bobby Fischer, and his phenomenal ability would be reduced to an interesting series of chess tales had he not captured the World Chess Championship in the most-watched chess match ever. The Cold War implications of the 1972 match brought attention to chess from the whole world, including millions of people who had never played the game.  

Gudmundur Thorarinsson’s book, The Match of All Time, featured as New in Chess’s eBook of the Week for this week, describes in brilliant detail the intrigue, luck, and phenomenal effort that allowed this match to be played. No one was in a better position to record the drama: Mr. Thorarinsson was the President of the Iceland Chess Federation at the time the small island nation produced the winning bid for the match, and it was Mr. Thorarinsson who negotiated with all the parties involved with the match that changed the chess world forever.

The Match of All Time sets forth the context of the match, provides excellent short biographies of Fischer’s predecessors as World Chess Champion, and describes coherently and concisely the personalities of the parties who made the match a reality. Thorarinsson’s perspectives are fascinating, as he was the organizer of the event and ultimately responsible for all its details. While he was never privy to the discussions taking place in America or the Soviet Union, he was the force that brought the two sides together despite the many obstacles thrown up by the American player and the leadership and bureaucracy of the Soviet Union. 

The Soviet World Champion, Boris Spassky, described by everyone who knows him as a perfect gentleman and sportsman, wanted to play the match. His score against Fischer up to the point of the match (three wins, two draws, no losses) gave him confidence. Soviet leaders, however, were more concerned with keeping the championship title a Soviet possession, which it had been since 1948. Those who ran the Soviet Union needed to be convinced, both by its own citizens and by the match organizers, to allow Mr. Spassky to play against Fischer, who flouted the norms and rules of the sanctioning body of chess, FIDE.

Of course, dealing with Fischer was not easy. He refused to commit to play and made demands of the organizers, which became more strident as negotiations lurched forward. Even by the time of the opening ceremony, it was not clear that Fischer would board the airplane in New York to come to Iceland to play. With the intervention of National Security Advisor (and later, Secretary of State) Henry Kissinger, Fischer finally showed up. Thorarinsson describes his involvement in getting leaders of the greatest antagonists of the Cold War to agree to have a chess match played.

Bobby Fischer (left) in 1972 with then-FIDE President, Max Euwe. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Thorarinsson criticizes the United States for the way it treated Fischer late in his life, complaining that our country wanted to incarcerate the chess hero it had celebrated in 1972. It is true that Fischer was indicted by a District of Columbia grand jury for alleged crimes committed by playing chess in former Yugoslavia. It is also true that he was not indicted during the George H.W. Bush administration, when the match was played, and was not indicted during the eight years of the Clinton presidency. 

It was not until years later, after Fischer commended the 9/11 attacks on the United States, that the George W. Bush administration decided to prosecute Fischer. (Boris Spassky, who performed the same acts as Bobby Fischer, and as a French resident was subject to the same UN sanctions as pertained to Fischer, was never charged with a crime.) However, as a chapter of Julius Kaplan’s legal memoir,
Secrets and Suspense, suggested, the prosecutors had no great interest in putting him in jail but wanted to confiscate much of Fischer’s money.

Nobody but Thorarinsson could have written this book, and its value for the posterity of chess history cannot be matched. It is wonderful for the game that he wrote the book, and it will be a valuable resource for chess historians to come.

Chess Kids Is Back For The New School Year

The first few sessions of this year’s Chess Kids are being held at Eastern Middle School in Silver Spring. Two dozen students from kindergarten through sixth grade have joined us during the first two weeks of the new session.

The Chess Kids program has run on Saturday mornings for 30 years, and the goal has always been the same: helping children cultivate a basic understanding of the rules, etiquette, and strategy of chess through structured lessons and practice play. The class attracts students from throughout the metro area, including kids from Montgomery and Prince George’s County, Maryland, as well as the District of Columbia and northern Virginia.

In addition to playing with kids from other backgrounds, the students receive lessons that focus on the fundamental strategies of the game, such as the importance of playing aggressively rather than passively. Thousands of elementary school students have joined us in the program over the years, including many who have gone on to become strong tournament players.

Chess Kids operates in four-week sessions, and registration for the second session, which starts on October 28, is open now.  You can also register for sessions 3-6.

Chess Kids operates in four-week sessions, and registration for the second session, which starts on October 28, is open now.

Photos From Robert Katende’s Visit to Lanham

If there are any better tools than chess to teach life skills to young people, we don’t know what they are.

Robert Katende has spent the last two decades helping impoverished Ugandans escape some of the hardest slums in the world using sports, especially chess. Every year, he comes to the Washington, DC, area to host a free chess tournament, most recently this past Saturday in Lanham.

Several volunteers, including Scott Low and Andy Tichenor, helped make the event fun for children and adults. (Scott played in events at the U.S. Chess Center as a child and teenager. That was 15 years ago, and we are proud that we contributed to his development as a chess player and terrific human being.)

Katende’s best-known student is Women’s Candidate Master Phiona Mutesi, who was illiterate and hungry when she entered his chess classes in Katwe, Uganda, looking for food. Now a college graduate and an analyst for Deloitte, she credits learning chess for developing the skills she uses as an adult.

Hundreds of students come through Sports Outreach, Katende’s organization to help impoverished Ugandans and we appreciate that the Washington Education Zone in Lanham provided beautiful space in which to host a screening of Disney’s movie Queen of Katwe, the free tournament, and a simultaneous exhibition of chess. We will see them back here next year.

Spend National Chess Weekend (Oct 13-14) in Lanham, MD and meet Robert Katende

On Friday, October 13, you have a chance to meet Robert Katende and support Sports Outreach. On Saturday, October 14, the Washington Education Zone (Miles Hall at 8401 Good Luck Road in Lanham) will host its annual free chess tournament and a simultaneous exhibition by Mr. Katende.

Phiona Mutesi (seated left in the photo below) is one of the most inspiring stories to come from the chess world. As an under-nourished child in a slum of Uganda, Phiona discovered chess and became a champion of the African continent. Her story was written in The Queen of Katwe, then turned into a successful Disney movie.

We never would have heard of Phiona, however, had Robert Katende not created a chess program that welcomed her. Katende’s story, while not as well known, is equally inspiring. He also was brought up in difficult circumstances by his grandmother in Uganda. Through hard work and perseverance, he went to college, played soccer at a high level, and created a charity to help impoverished young people in his home country.

On National Chess Day this year, you have a chance to meet him and hear him speak.

New Year of Chess Classes Begins at Burroughs Elementary in DC

We are excited to be back at Burroughs Educational Campus in northeast DC. Every week, we teach all of the second, third, and fourth graders the rules, strategy, etiquette, and discipline of chess.

Teachers from the U.S. Chess Center have been coming to Burroughs since 2019, and are pleased that the school is growing. With forty more students in our chess classes this year compared to last, we are providing an additional twenty chess sets so that more than 100 students learn the game every week.

The students are excited about learning to play the game, and we hope to have them become tournament players and join millions of others around the world who form friendships over the board.

The second graders have started learning the Pawn Game, which has been our method of teaching the strategy of chess to students as they learn the rules, while the third and fourth graders began this week with the full game. Nearly all of the students in those grades had learned chess from us in school last year and the year before.

Theophilus Thompson Club Resumes on Sundays

In some places, school has started. In others, it is about to begin. For any local student, however, the last Sunday of August means that the Theophilus Thompson Club brings students in grades 7-12 together for chess.

 

Kids who enjoy the game and want to improve arrived in McLean yesterday for practice, lessons, and socializing. They played some blitz, as well as a game with a normal tournament time control. We discussed the strategy of the game and found some cool tactics.

This year, we plan to have students compete in the National High School Championships in April in Baltimore. We also are working on organizing internet matches with students from other countries and, if things go well, travel abroad for in-person matches as we have in previous years.

 

The Club meets nearly every Sunday from now through the end of the school year.  Online registration is available for those who wish to join us.

U.S. Chess Center Founder David Mehler Profiled in Washington Jewish Week

Since forming the U.S. Chess Center over 30 years ago, David Mehler has been at the center of our efforts to teach the game to young people.  In a feature published earlier today by Washington Jewish Week, he touches on several topics related to the Center, including the philosophy that has helped us reach tens of thousands of students in the greater D.C. area with our instruction. 

From our beginning, we’ve always encouraged the idea of chess not as an exclusive vocation for some cadre of intellectual super-elites, but rather as a pastime that everyone can enjoy with their friends.  As Mr. Mehler explains, anyone can learn to play and anyone can profit from learning.  Children who may be used to thinking only about short-term consequences learn the value of strategizing and planning ahead toward a long term goal, and students in the habit of acting out in the classroom can find an outlet for their energies that is equal parts competitive and mentally demanding.  Our preference for in-school chess classes over after-school clubs exists for the simple reason that those students least likely to sign up to learn the game are the ones likely to benefit the most from doing so. 

Our perspective on teaching the game runs along those same egalitarian lines.  Aside from a required rudimentary understanding of the rules, strategy and etiquette of chess, there’s not necessarily a correlation between playing strength and the ability to effectively impart the fundamentals to children.  Beyond Mr. Mehler’s jest about how “I make terrible moves while I’m playing competitively, but I can teach kids not to follow my example,” there’s a great deal of truth to the idea that you don’t have to be a grandmaster to be a good teacher of the game; you just need patience and a basic knowledge of what makes chess so useful. 

 

You can read the entire article on Mr. Mehler and the beginnings of the U.S. Chess Center here.  And, if you agree that chess can be a valuable tool to sharpen the minds of children, please consider donating to support our charitable work.

Summer Camp Season is in Full Swing

Our summer season of chess has kicked off with day camps at Churchill Road Elementary School in McLean, Virginia.  During the last week of June we drew two dozen campers for the first week of camp designed for newer players, and twenty students have joined us at this week’s camp geared toward more advanced students.

 

The camp curriculum is designed to be challenging to every student who shows up.  Our beginner students are learning basic endgame skills like checkmating with king and queen versus king or king and rook versus king, while our more advanced students are figuring out more difficult endgames.  No matter their skill level, everybody leaves camp at the end of the week with more knowledge than they had at the beginning.

In between games of chess, we take the students outside for Capture the Flag and other competitions.  It’s important to be able to take a break from chess every so often, but it’s also important that we’re always strategizing, even when we’re running around outside!
 
Each camp finishes up on Friday with a tournament.  Many of the students already come to us as tournament veterans, but for some of our newer players this is their first ever experience in any kind of chess competition.  Win or lose, they have all acquired skills and confidence to put to use as they continue to branch out into chess.
 
After this week, our camps move to Fairfax, Virginia (Greenbriar West Elementary) for the week of July 17-21, before two weeks of camp in Vienna, Virginia (Colvin Run Elementary).  We then finish up the summer spending the week in Takoma Park, Maryland (Piney Branch Elementary).  Space is still open at all our remaining camps, so there is still time to sign up to join us later this summer!

 

More information and registration: Summer Chess Day Camps – U.S. Chess Center (chessctr.org)

Chess in the Park Closes Season With Another Big Crowd

The sun shone, the birds chirped, and 73 students came to Eastern Market Metro Park to play chess in the park. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (pictured below) greeted the players and their families at its conclusion, handing out a dozen trophies to winning individuals and teams and 16 medallions to those who won more games than they lost.

Today marked the final of three events sponsored by Barracks Row Main Street, which also hosts free chess play every Friday evening. It was an exciting day for the players. 41 different schools from across the District of Columbia, Maryland and northern Virginia were represented.  Washington Latin Public Charter School won the championship team trophy for the third consecutive tournament, and School Within School brought home the second place team award, edging out Brent Elementary and EW Stokes Public Charter.

We plan to continue these Chess in the Park events in the 2023-2024 school year.  Be sure to subscribe to our emails to learn about future tournaments and other events/programs.

Another great day of Chess in the Park on May 20th

Our second drop-in tournament this spring at Eastern Market Metro was held under blue skies this past Saturday, May 20.  Staged in cooperation with Barracks Row Main Street and the DC Department of Parks and Recreation, this event had over 40 students showing up to play over the two and a half hours.  The players ranged from grades 2 to 8, and from experienced USCF tournament players to first-timers.  

On June 24 we will hold a third and final Chess in the Park Tournament at Eastern Market Metro Plaza with the same format and again we will present awards to the top players, including top girl and top DC school (so encourage others from your school to register and play).  Pre-Register online for June 24 at: https://chessctr.org/play/easternmarketmetro/