Teaching

Chess Center Founder David Mehler Receives USCF’s Outstanding Career Achievement Award

Earlier this summer David Mehler, U.S. Chess Center Founder and President, was presented with the Outstanding Career Achievement Award from the national U.S. Chess Federation, in honor of his many decades spent teaching and promoting the game of chess in the greater Washington area and throughout the country.

Mr. David Mehler
Founder, U.S. Chess Center

• Arranged for the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame and Museum to move from upstate New York to a facility five blocks from The White House
• Organized student trip to meet chess players in Cuba
• Organized Internet chess matches with students from countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe
• Staged chess exhibitions in many places, including the National Mall, the Smithsonian, and the Charles Sumner Museum
• Taught tens of thousands of students and trained dozens of instructors

Chess Teacher, including teaching students who won:

• U.S. Junior Invitational
• Denker Tournament of National Champions
• U.S. Cadet Championship
• U.S. High School Championship
• U.S. Junior High School Championship
• U.S. Elementary School Blitz Championship

Organized and directed:

• U.S. Armed Forces Championships
• U.S. Cadet Championships
• U.S. Junior Invitational Championship
• International invitationals at which IM norms were earned

Maryland Chess Association: Vice President and President

D.C. Chess League: Executive Director, Scholastic Coordinator, and Newsletter Editor

Region III Vice President

Member, US Chess Bylaws Committee

Member, US Chess Scholastic Committee

Chair, US Chess Development Committee

Chess club president: University of Massachusetts/Amherst

Chess club president: University of Wisconsin at Madison

Sacramento Chess Club Director

Arlington (VA) Chess Club Director

Summer Camps Wrap Up in Oakton

The chess camp season ended with a terrific camp in conjunction with AlphaSTEM in Oakton. Many of the students were new to us and the geographic diversity was great, with kids coming from Washington, DC, two communities in Maryland, various parts of Fairfax County, and Loudoun County.

Everyone who came was engaged and enthusiastic about learning the strategy of chess and all left with the skills to be able to compete effectively in the national scholastic championships that will be in the National Capital region this year.

 
We appreciate the help we got this summer from various volunteers, especially Zach (who helped for two full weeks).
 
We’ll see most of our campers in after-school clubs this fall, and others in the Theophilus Thompson Club on Sundays.

Chess Camp Comes to Northwest DC

Our staff was excited to return to the headquarters of the DC Housing Finance Agency in the Cardozo-Shaw neighborhood of Washington for our latest week of camp.  We had a range of ability levels represented among the dozen students who showed up, and everyone, regardless of playing strength, worked hard and learned something new this week.

We now move to Oakton, Virginia for the final week of our summer camp season, at Alpha STEM for the Gifted, and there is still time to register to join us.

Scenes From the Second Week of Colvin Run Camp

August 1 to 5 was the second week we spent at Colvin Run, traditionally one of our strongest camps.  The students were subjected to some rigorous tactical and endgame exercises over the course of the five days and they rose to the challenge.  As usual, we were impressed with the level of skill on display, especially in the Friday tournament that concluded the week. 

Summer Camp Season Continues at Colvin Run

Approximately 20 students joined us this past week at Colvin Run Elementary to improve their chess skills, play outside, and make new friends.
 
The first week of camp at Colvin Run is typically designed for children at the beginner to intermediate level.  Throughout the five days we rehearsed the opening principles, practiced finding tactics, and studied up on fundamental endgames.  The students learned a lot throughout the week and, come the Friday tournament, they put that knowledge to good use.
 
We’ll stay at Colvin Run next week with the camp for intermediate to advanced students.

Chess Camp Returns at Churchill Road

The Chess Center is excited to be able to resume our in-person summer camps.   Our camp season began this past Monday at Churchill Road Elementary School in McLean.  Nearly 30 students are joining us this week to hone their chess skills and make new friends.

Our day camps combine high quality chess instruction and practice with outdoor recreational activities.  The chess lessons are structured so that all the students are challenged and no one is bored.

Our camps typically run from from 9 A.M. to 3 P.M. on Monday through Friday with aftercare available until 5.  Registration is still open for several weeks later in the summer, including camps in Vienna, Oakton and northwest Washington, DC.  

Chess Class at the Seafarers Foundation’s Summer Youth Program in Annapolis

The US Chess Center was pleased to resume our summer chess classes in partnership with Seafarers Foundation’s Summer Youth Program in Annapolis, MD.  Led by Greg Acholonu, the chess class has approximately 90 minutes of instruction and play each day over the two week camp, culminating in a camp tournament on the final Friday. 
 
Thank you to our board member, Dr. Derrick L. Cogburn, and the Seafarers Foundation for allowing us to share chess with their campers.
 

U.S. Chess Center Celebrates A Successful First Year at Sousa Middle School

The U.S. Chess Center was pleased to run a during-school chess class this past year for students in grades 6th through 8th at John Philip Sousa Middle School in Washington D.C.’s Ward 7.  More than a dozen students participated in chess class each week as part of the school’s Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) elective program and became enthusiastic players.  So much so that when a school closure was announced for the same day as our weekly chess class, Ms. Edmonds (who hosted chess in her classroom for us each week) reported that the students were disappointed to miss chess class, adding, “That is the first time I have EVER seen students unhappy about school being closed. Your chess class has surely made a positive impact on them!” 

A special thank you to Ms. Chiba Edmonds for allowing us to host chess in her classroom each week, and thank you again to the DC Housing Finance Agency, Share Fund, and all our donors for their financial support which enabled us to supply the equipment and offer chess class at Sousa at no cost to the students or school.

Sunday Chess Concludes For The 2021-22 School Year

Yesterday was our last meeting of Sunday Chess before the summer. Our classes for students in grades 7-12 brought together nearly 50 students during the school year. We will start up again in the fall under a new name, the Theophilus Thompson Club, when our focus will be having our students prepared for the national scholastic chess championships.

With school pressures and competing spring activities, our last day had a smaller turnout than usual, but there were quality games of chess nonetheless.

Photos from the final class of Chess Kids 2021-22

This past Saturday, March 26, 2022 was the final class of our Chess Kids program for 2021-2022.  Stay tuned this fall when we open registration again for the 2022-2023 sessions.  In the meantime, here are some photos from Chess Kids this spring.

Photos From This Week’s Pawn Game Tournament at Burroughs Elementary

At John Burroughs Elementary School this past Thursday, we held a Pawn Game tournament for the second and third grade students.  Behavior was excellent and the skills both classes had learned were evident. The teachers were impressed by their students’ abilities to visualize, execute plans, and win and lose with grace and dignity.

Chess at John Burroughs Elementary

With schools open once again, the Chess Center is thrilled to return to in-person teaching in Washington, DC.  This past Thursday afternoon we resumed our classes at John Burroughs Elementary School.

Before the chess pieces are passed out to start play, here is Mr. Constantine reviewing every teacher’s favorite rule: players must always remain silent during the games.

As always, we hope our students will be able to apply the critical thinking and problem solving skills they learn from chess to help them in the classroom.  Of our previous programs at John Burroughs, teacher Vicki Bullock has said, Chess has made a positive impact on these students’ ability to be THOUGHTFUL and THOROUGH in their work!”  

Interested in bringing the U.S. Chess Center to your school?  Contact us!

Photos from Saturday Chess Kids on October 23, 2021

Our Saturday Chess Kids program resumed again this past Saturday, October 23, 2021 at the DC Housing Finance Agency auditorium in the Shaw / U Street neighborhood of Washington, DC. 

Chess Kids, which has been operating since the U.S. Chess Center’s founding, is an individualized, highly structured program for students in Grades K – 6 that meets on Saturdays from 10:00 am – 11:30 am.  Chess Kids students are placed in groups based on their ability and everyone plays games each week and receives lessons. Through Chess Kids, we make learning chess fun!

To register your student for Chess Kids, click here.  Chess Kids operates in four-week sessions, and students are welcome to register for multiple sessions.  Session 2 begins November 20th.

Thank you to DC HFA for providing a great venue and support for this program.

The U.S. Chess Center is Proud to Teach Students at Washington Highlands

Our fall program at Washington Highlands is off to a bright start. This past Monday, taking advantage of the nice weather, Coach Alex and his students played the Pawn Game on the lawn in front of the Southern Hills community room.

Understanding pawns is key to understanding the greater strategy of chess

We have set a goal of preparing our students to play in nationally rated tournaments so that when the national championships arrive in the Washington area in less than 15 months our students will be ready to compete and win. 

Coach Alex and the kids break for a selfie

Since 1992, the U.S. Chess Center has taught many thousands of DC elementary schoolchildren the rules, strategy, etiquette, and discipline of tournament chess.  Through hard work and persistence, the students learn the importance of planning ahead, avoiding distractions, and delaying gratification in pursuit of long-term goals.  Please feel free to reach out to us if you are interested in having us create a program at your school.

Join Us For Sunday Chess!

Open to students in grades 7-12.  All ability levels are welcome.

Sunday Chess is revving up for this year. This year we have a hybrid, with many students joining us via Zoom, like last year, but even more coming in person to our McLean location (view on map).

We expect to have our normal range of activities on Sundays for the teens, including visits from distinguished strong players and Internet matches with young players from other countries.  Lessons are designed to help the students have fun and improve, and it’s not too late to sign up.  Learn more here.

Fall Chess Clubs & Classes – Registration Now Open!

After-School Chess Clubs
Start Next Week!

FOR STUDENTS IN GRADES 2-6.  Since 1993, the U.S. Chess Center has been running after-school chess clubs in elementary schools in partnership with PTOs/PTAs throughout the national capital region. We are pleased to resume in-person clubs at many of our locations this autumn.  Registration for the following school clubs is now open:


Colvin Run ES Chess Club (Vienna, VA)
Greenbriar West ES Chess Club (Fairfax, VA)

Poplar Tree ES Chess Club (Chantilly, VA)

Ravensworth ES Chess Club (Springfield, VA)

Spring Hill ES Chess Club (McLean, VA)

Stratford Landing ES Chess Club (Alexandria, VA)

Westbriar ES Chess Club (Vienna, VA)

White Oaks ES Chess Club (Burke, VA)

Willow Springs ES Chess Club (Fairfax, VA)


Our in-person clubs welcome students of all ability levels, from complete beginners to accomplished tournament players.  We teach the rules of chess to students who do not know them and the strategy of the game to everyone.   For both lessons and gameplay, students are grouped by playing strength to ensure that each child is appropriately challenged.  
The fall session of our clubs commences the final week of September, and runs all the way to the end of the first half of the school year, in late January or early February.  The spring sessions begin shortly after.

Some of our clubs have decided to be virtual-only this school year.  For these clubs, classes will be online with students also grouped by skill; however, our online clubs are designed for students that already know the rules, basic vocabulary, and basic strategy of chess.  If your student is completely new to chess then they are not eligible to participate in an online club but we are creating classes for them

Churchill Road ES Chess Club (McLean, VA) – ONLINE ONLY
McNair ES Chess Club (Herndon, VA) – ONLINE ONLY  

In addition to one after-school meeting each week at the school with instruction and supervised play, membership in our clubs (in-person or online) includes the opportunity to participate in the Elementary Team League, a fun competition that takes place from 1:30-3:00 PM on various Saturdays throughout the school year. This local team event has been a tradition for over 20 years, bringing together students from all over the greater Washington area to represent their chess clubs in friendly matches against other elementary schools.  Students of all levels of tournament experience are welcome.

After-school fun
Online Chess Classes

FOR STUDENTS IN GRADES 2-6 who know the rules of chess but are unable to participate in one of our in-person after-school programs, the U.S. Chess Center offers classes online.

Our online classes are live and interactive with a nationally certified chess coach; we do not use videos.  We stratify the lesson groups by ability so that everyone is challenged but nobody is overwhelmed.   Lessons are designed to help students develop confidence without boring them, and students are encouraged to share their ideas and questions with the class.  Our teachers listen to each student to ensure that nobody is left behind, and we observe the games the students play with one another to determine points to emphasize in future lessons.

Online classes are 60 minutes, once each week from 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm ET (UTC -5).  Each class has 20-30 minutes of instruction and 30-40 minutes of supervised play.  Space is limited.

The fall semester of online chess classes starts next week and runs through January 2022.  The spring semester of online classes runs from February 2022 through early June 2022.

If you wish to register your child but have questions about which class level to enroll in, you can read the descriptions of each level on the registration page.

 

Congratulations to Sunday Chess student, James, for his “Outstanding Performance”

Every year we recognize one or two kids who were particularly good students in our Sunday Chess program.  Our second award, for Outstanding Performance, was presented to James.

He earned the trophy both for being the most improved player during the year and for his leadership in the group. Despite his relative youth (being in middle school) other students respected his opinions and enjoyed their games with him.

When asked what he likes about chess, James said, “Whether you are a master or a beginner, chess is an incredible way to unleash your creativity and experience the joy of learning and competing.”

He and others are returning to Sunday Chess this coming week.  Sunday Chess will be a hybrid this year with many students coming to McLean in-person while others will be joining us online.

Students in grades 7 – 12 are welcome to register for Sunday Chess classes (either in-person or online) at https://chessctr.org/classes/sunday-chess/

Congratulations to Sunday Chess student, Ryan, for his “Outstanding Performance”

Every year we recognize one or two kids who were particularly good students in our Sunday Chess program.  Our first award, for Outstanding Performance, was presented today to Ryan.

“Chess is cool,” Ryan said accepting the trophy recognizing his hard work and dedication during Sunday Chess this past year.  Ryan got excited about chess this year as he developed an appreciation for learning the strategy of the game and he looks forward to competing in person this year, including the tournament coming up next month for high school students at Eastern High School.

Meet the Chess Center Team: Georgina Chin, Teacher

Bam! Bam bam!

As a teenager, the sound of palms slapping analog clocks would reverberate throughout our house for hours at a time. In the living room, a row of chess trophies sat on a shelf, witnessing my two younger brothers battling over a well-worn chessboard for hours at a time. Yet, despite the number of hours devoted to chess in my household, I was relatively removed from this activity — chess was something that girls didn’t really do.

Many years later, my interaction with chess was reignited by a challenge I faced as a teacher at McNair Elementary school in Herndon, Virginia: coming up with creative challenging ways to engage my students. At the time, McNair was a Title I school with many students receiving free and reduced lunches, so I was especially interested in a low-cost mentally engaging activity that might not otherwise have been available to them. Although I had not played for many years, I knew chess was definitely the avenue to pursue.

Luckily, thanks to my brothers’ ongoing interest in chess (both were holding outside jobs as chess coaches), I was able to consult them on how I might get started. With the support of my principal and the PTA I purchased some chess sets, a few books, and a teaching board. McNair’s first chess club was on its way! Much to my surprise and delight, initial interest greatly exceeded my expectations.

Fast forward ten years and the chess club remained hugely popular. With the club being consistently offered throughout the years, many McNair students had become skilled players, and several of them could now play beyond my abilities. Meanwhile, McNair had also changed and was now an Advanced Academics school.

Perhaps inspired by memories of the chess trophies sitting on the living room shelf, I thought it might be time to push the chess club in a more competitive direction. The parents supported this idea, and in 2011 we ventured off to the Virginia Scholastic Chess Championships where we placed ninth and fourteenth in the K-3 and K-5 divisions. The kids, their parents, and the rest of the school were thrilled!

At the urging of some of the parents as well as the PTA, I began organizing monthly USCF (US Chess Federation) rated tournaments at McNair. The only catch for me was that, to become a local Tournament Director, I had to start competing myself — a true eye-opener! My first tournament convinced me that I still had much to learn about the game.

Last year I retired from Fairfax County. During my 20 years at McNair I had the pleasure of working with hundreds of students and organizing more than 80 tournaments. I am happy and proud of all my students accomplished as well as how many of them were introduced to an experience they might never have encountered. My hope is that all of my students will continue to play and enjoy all that chess has to offer. As for myself, I am still learning and competing!

Meet the Chess Center Team: Robert Teachey, Teacher

After observing me tutor students in mathematics at a library, a librarian asked me to start a chess club.  Initially, I believed that it would be easy for me to meet this obligation.  My first step was to read the official rules of chess.  I was surprised to learn that even though I had played chess irregularly since elementary school, I had not been playing by the rules.

Daaim Shabazz, founder of The Chess Drum online magazine

During the first chess club meeting I noticed that the chess club members’ enthusiasm for the game was markedly different from the typical student’s enthusiasm for mathematics.  After the first few chess club meetings, I was surprised to discover that teaching chess is more challenging than teaching mathematics.  Fortuitously, renowned chess educator Fernando Moreno, author of the book Teaching Life Skills Through Chess: A Guide for Educators and Counselors, facilitated a chess club at a community center that was next door to the library.  When he heard about the new library chess club, he kindly introduced himself to me and donated sorely needed resources, including a demonstration board.  After visiting Mr. Moreno’s chess club and losing game after game to his students, I realized that I had much to learn.

GM Timur Gareyev after he defeated me in a blindfold simul

Step by step I became engrossed in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area chess scene by visiting different chess clubs including the U.S. Chess Center.  I played casually for approximately 9 years before entering my first chess tournament.  I should have followed the advice of others who told me “You love the game, go ahead and play in a rated tournament”, however I believed that I was not ready to deal with the chess clock and the process of recording the moves.  After playing in my first tournament, I understood that 10 additional years would not have made any difference because playing tournament chess is like swimming, one must simply dive in.

GM Alex Sherzer: Q&A and Simul with our Sunday Chess Class on June 20, 2021

On Sunday, June 20, 2021, friend of the U.S. Chess Center and Grandmaster, Dr. Alexander Sherzer, joined our Sunday Chess class to answer questions and play a simultaneous exhibition (simul) against the students.  Dr. Sherzer talked about his chess experiences, including his friendship with the Polgár sisters and meeting Bobby Fischer.

View the 10 games played in the simul on Lichess at: https://lichess.org/simul/zixkDp4j or below (click the board to view that game on Lichess).

Meet the Chess Center Team: Norman Constantine, Teacher

I started to play chess over 60 years ago. I will continue to play as long as I can set up the pieces. I am not a super player for sure, but I can play a solid game. Chess has made a significant difference in my life. I am a better teacher because I play chess.

I started to play when I was about 8 years old. The older kids on my block taught me how to play so that they had someone to beat. They defeated me for quite awhile but I got better each time I played a game. I still remember like it was yesterday the first time I won a game. I ran off Hankey Pauley’s front porch all the way down the street shouting and yelling to tell my mother!! I was so happy!

It made me want to read books about chess. There were a few books in the local library and all the kids on the street fought over them. We all got chess sets to play with, most of them cheap plastic designs with hollow pieces and masonite boards. I filled my pieces with plaster of paris so that they were heavy enough to stay on the boards outside in the wind. I used to read Treasury of Chess Lore under the covers with a flashlight after lights out.

Next my friends and I wanted to learn more so we all signed up at the Buffalo Museum of Science for chess lessons. We all gathered together every Saturday morning and rode the city bus across the city to the museum. In the winter we brought out snow saucers with us and rode them down the  large hill that was being built for the new City Expressway. It was wonderful. Everything was about chess and no one was telling us what to do. We learned to take care of ourselves.

I will always remember my chess teacher from the Museum. He only had three fingers on his move hand (no thumb) and used to throw the pieces – it seemed – across the board but they all landed where they were supposed to be. We played every Friday night at each other’s houses and every Saturday Morning at the museum. We took turns.

After the museum we all wanted to go to the Queen City Chess Club in downtown Buffalo, NY. I didn’t go. My parents didn’t want me to go down there on Friday night so they offered me a new catcher’s glove in lieu of the dues to the club. Baseball was my other love (girls were coming) and I sort of deserted chess for it. I ignored chess for a few years but I never forgot it.

I rediscovered chess in high school and made the school team in senior year. I watched Johnny Bench play his first game in Buffalo and knew I was never going to be a major leaguer. I joined the USCF at 19 and finally became a member of the Queen City Chess Club. I still watch baseball but I play chess!

Photos from Chess for Kids with the Friends of Oxon Run Park on June 2, 2021

On Wednesday, June 2, we partnered with the Friends of Oxon Run Park to offer the first of several free introductory chess lessons for children (and play opportunities for adults) to be held over the summer at the amphitheater in this Washington, D.C. park.  Everyone who participated (and endured the cacophony of cicadas) also received a US Chess Center chess set courtesy of the Friends of Oxon Run Park.  

Keep an eye out for more chess in Oxon Run Park later this summer.

Thank you to Brenda Richardson and the Friends of Oxon Run for hosting this event!