Writing helps me do things. As a chess player I could sit around all day, watch a few opening videos, play a couple of online games and go through a dozen of pages related to a specific material I’ve meant to look at. Now that I have a platform to share my passion on through an actual audience, I tend to not feel like evading responsibilities as much and I have probably been somewhat more responsive to my environment and my community.
Last week I had the chance to have a short conversation with Mike Klein about his upbringing as a chess teacher and an ambassador of Chesskid. You can find most of what we went over right here (click on it). We tried to have a structured timeline in which every posts could be associated with 3 different topics. Monday was meant to be “Chess Growth”, Wednesday was going to be “Chess Culture” and Fridays ones were to connect to “Chess Tour”.
Next would be Monday, a day during which we aspire to deliver technical articles on the strategies that revolve around the actual game of Chess (openings, endgames and more). This can always vary, as adaptability isn’t a trait that’s only required to become an understanding player, but also a wise individual and an intelligent employee.
Finally comes Chess Culture. The chess community is going through changes quite frequently. Sometimes with its rules, and occasionally with its federation(s). So we want to educate ourselves as well as others with everything surrounding these matters! Premier Chess is unbiased so keep that in mind when reading our Blog posts, but if you can’t agree that the any QGD like games aren’t boring I won’t be of any help.
It’s no easy task to stay relevant in the Chess Business nor World, for more than a decade if not just years. Kids grow up, mentalities evolve, for the better or for the worse, but Chess remains one of the most marvelous and perplexing sport. And nobody understands this better than Fide Master Mike Klein, who has been playing chess since he was four years old, and “can’t remember not being able to play chess”. In fact Mike was North-Carolina’s best Junior player, and went on to become a successful and prolific chess teacher as well as chess ambassador of chess.com’s growing interface : Chesskid. What are the shifting behaviors from the components of the Chess Culture and Sport that he’s noticed, and why his association with Chesskid is decisive in bridging the social-economic gaps around the access to Chess educative and learning resources?
Like many others, M. Klein ended up in New York City, trying to follow his passion, and started out working with Chess In The Schools by 2001. Back then he was just a competitive chess player and had no idea what teaching was really like. That’s why he was a perfect recruit for this organization, since Chess In The Schools’s trademark is to basically fabricate professional instructors out of non-teaching chess enthusiasts who just want to understand how teaching work. As as a matter of fact, Mike thinks that if it was not for all that training, he wouldn’t have been as successful as he is today.
In retrospective “there wasn’t many different powerhouses around the U.S” while “nowadays we have really strong programs in Texas, Florida, California, Arizona, Seattle. But back then, even though it was the National Championship each Spring, it was really just a question of which New-York-City school will win.” However he kept on practicing, playing, improving and eventually becoming a FIDE Master, which for those who don’t know, is just one step away from International Master. Even though “Fun Master Mike” didn’t have a lot of “big tournament wins”, he kept up with chess throughout his youth, successfully taking over North Carolina’s high-school chess division, remaining its champion for five consecutive years (1993-1997).
Fast forwarding Master Mike moved back where he grew up to start his “own chess teaching organization, called Young Master Chess and over the years that grew to about 15 schools.” Eventually he started using the Chesskid’s website which wasn’t as completed as it now is, and part of that reason was Mike Klein’s original experimenting with the platform, and spontaneous communicating to its developers. He “was giving the website so many ideas, for features and how to improve, that they eventually they basically hired” him to work on the back end of their product, and develop it into the subtle and ingenious program that it’s become.
Introspectively “nowadays if you’re not a master by ten, then you’re no one” and “there’s probably a chess club in the majority of the elementary schools in New-York-City”. That being said practice makes perfect but daily practice makes better. So “even if you’re in an active club, in order to improve at anything you need to do it more than once per week[..]”. That’s why Chesskid’s role is even more primordial now that Scholastic Chess has become a thing. However kids tend to quit the game when they get to Junior-High or High-School just simply because they’re not as absorbed, challenged and satisfied with the Sport as they were when they first picked up Chess. In some cases they go to their weekly Chess Club, but after a couple of years, their leaning curve slow down and they move on to a different sport.
“Chesskid is just trying to be an auxiliary resource for kids that are already getting coaching once a week, but also to be the main resource if you’re in an area of the world that has no chess culture. We’re trying to level the accessed information just like Magnus Carlsen did, playing online growing up, but for kids.” Perhaps not every chess scholar thrives to become a profusely accomplished chess player, and turn into the next youngest American Chess Master, but “whenever you’re good at something you’re much more likely to stay with it”. Try it out yourself and create your kid his/her own Chesskid account. You can also unlock special features, and support Premier Chess by getting a discounted Gold Membership, just follow this link! We are currently in the process of handing over free Gold memberships to all of our students. Thank you Chesskid, and (FM) Mike Klein for your time and consideration.
Those are seven words I would use to describe our beloved instructor National Master Lev Khariton, who tragically passed away on Monday, November 18 from a stroke. In addition to teaching for us in Jersey City and Manhattan at Jersey City Global Charter School, Waterfront Montessori, Embankment School and Grace Church School, Lev was a jack of all trades, as a father of 3, beloved husband, translator, poet and much more.
My friend Steve Eisenberg, founder of JICNY, emphasizes how one should not judge another person as he has no idea what the other is going through. On Thursday, November 15, Mr. Lemuer Perez, the principal at Jersey City Global Charter School called me, asking if Lev was coming in. It is against our company policy for an instructor to “no-show” to a class so my first reaction was “Oh-no; how can this be?”. Lev did not pick up his phone; I tried calling him several times and by Sunday night I haven’t heard from him. I then checked his daughter’s Facebook page and was shocked to see “Please pray for my father, Lev Khariton” and knew some thing was wrong. When I messaged her, she said “My father had a stroke. He had brain surgery. He is in critical care…” The next day, he passed away.
In February 2018, I needed a replacement Jersey City Instructor so our mutual friend Expert Fedor Khrapatin referred Lev to me. While he obviously has a great knowledge of chess and teaching experience, I was frankly hesitant to hire him at first since he was older and I didn’t think he’d relate to some of the younger children. I knew he would be great for adult classes or private lessons but not necessarily beginner students under the age of 10. However, since he came as a referral from someone I trust more than most people in the chess world and we had a nice interview, I decided to give it a shot. The students at each of the schools he taught, including some Kindergarten and 1st graders, truly loved working with him. When I told the Middle Schoolers at the Grace Church School Elective the other day that he passed, several kids became emotional and said they would be serious in chess in his honor.
I have had the privilege of watching Lev teach a few times in the classroom at Jersey City Global Charter School, Grace Church School and Embankment School. In each class, Lev would instantly grasp the attention of every student, abiding by David Macenulty’s declaration that every single student in a class should be learning. Two years ago I had the privilege of co-teaching a a kindergarten class with David at Dalton. One day he called on a boy to answer a question and the child said “but I didn’t raise my hand.” I laughed when David replied” Is there a rule that a teacher is not allowed to call on a student when he doesn’t raise his hand?”. No child left behind!
In addition to being a loyal, empathetic teacher, Lev was a fascinating guy. I will never the forget the time I agreed to have lunch with him at the local Mexican joint near Jersey City Global Charter School, a few hours I was to present at the Open House. I thought we’d grab lunch and I would have a few hours afterwards to to do some work before going to the school; I was wrong! I was too intrigued learning about his poetry, travels in Russia, Israel, France and the United States ( he’s lived in all four countries), books and experiences teaching former World Champion Mikhail Botvinik English. I had new clue that the guy I hired was so famous.
14 months later, I unfortunately found myself in Staten Island at his funeral, showing you can not take life for granted. To show my gratitude for living each day, I recite the “Modeh Ani” prayer, which thanks Hashem for being alive. His son, brother, college roommate, other friends and I spoke about different aspects of his life; however, we all expressed how he loved teaching and was always compassionate. The rabbi spoke about how it says in the Talmud that a good person is one who controls his anger. Rabbi Mark Wildes, Founder of Manhattan Jewish Experience, shares how the Ramban suggested that we can all become as good and righteous as Moses. While Lev easily could have went into depression after many hardships, including having to work in a dirty hospital for little money, he always realized the glass full. While he may have not passed away with millions of dollars to distribute in his will, (talk to David Weiss of Matt Nolfo and Associates if you need one of those), he was a happy man, who made a difference in the lives of his family, friends, colleagues and countless students.
As we continue to grow company, we will always miss Lev, who was an integral part of our team; I am forever grateful to Fedor Kharaptin for introducing the two of us, as Lev became a great colleague, friend and mentor. I will always remember our lighthearted conversations when he’d laugh when I’d throw in random words in Hebrew and Russian. These are three ways to commemorate Lev:
Email me (email@example.com) and I can give you details regarding Shiva, which is going on until Wednesday, November 27.
They are going to take me to the movies and all you have to do is act naturally! On Friday, November 1, I was doing a hike to the Griffith Observatory before the Los Angeles Open began. As I approached the Hollywood sign I couldn’t help but start singing the Ringo Starr song “Act Naturally”. This made me start thinking about the importance of going with one’s instincts and not overthinking it. The portion Lech Lecha says “Go from your land, from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you.” There, G‑d says, he will be made “ While it is important to calculate for every move you make on and off the board, one should strongly consider his instincts.
One exercise I have done with students several times is showing them certain positions. Once I would show a position, I would ask the student what move he would play on the spot. While he would hesitate to give an immediate answer, I would ask him to pretend he had only 1 second left on the clock. Often the answer he would give would not be any different than the move he suggested after thinking for a few minutes.
The day after the Los Angeles Open, I went outside my comfort zone, paddle boarding in the Pacific Ocean by the Santa Monica Pier. While I have paddled several times before in Boston, Seattle and elsewhere, it was the first time doing it on the Ocean in the waves. I had difficult standing up on the board, not because I could not do it, but only because I kept overthinking the process and kept telling myself I had to remain kneeling on the board. Sometimes you need to abide by Nike’s suggestion and just do it.
In that vain, we should get inspired by the famous words of Hands on Hoops Skills CEO Michael Deutsch: “Say yes and figure it out later.” While one most certainly need to do some preparation before agreeing to do something, one needs to be confident and move forward without too much thought. I constantly remind students that I rather them be confident about incorrect answers and then I confident about an incorrect answer. One expert student constantly finds himself in time pressure. While he often does get good positions out of the opening and middle game, he almost always has to blitz out his remaining moves, not giving him much of a chance. When I’ll ask him why he spends so much time in relatively common basic opening positions, he will say that there were all these complications. However, he generally just wastes time just second guessing himself.
To the contrary of Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote “Failing to Plan and planning to fail”, one should not go overboard with precautionary measures. I know too many entrepreneurs that spend way too much time preparing their corporate collateral, fancy logos, documentation, team, etc. Many businesses will take 1-2+ years to get off the ground before they generate revenue. To the contrary, I did not incorporate Premier Chess until we had a check we could not deposit because it was written out the company name. Then through a ton of emails, calls and networking, after 2 months in business in September 2017, we were in 14 schools and had 10 instructors on our team. Now we have 43 instructors on our team and run programs in 69 schools and several companies, including the law firm Kramer Levin. While its most certainly important to maintain a high level of product/service, for a business to grow, it’s also important to remain confident and not waste too much time doing non-revenue generating activities.
While it is important to conduct blunder checks to make sure your instincts are sane, you shouldn’t necessarily over think every thing you do, whether that be in life, business or on the chess board. While an attorney knows the law in and out, at the end of the day when he is on trial, he needs to make quick decision! In the words of Guitar Guide Guru CEO Mike Papapavlou, “Pame” (let’s go)!
When a principal asks me “Why set up a chess program in my school?”, I answer “Within 2-3 months you will see students making a name for their school in tournaments.” Whether we do curriculum classes, after-school club or professional development in a school, we always love to instill a chess culture. We want chess to be what all the ‘cool kids’ in the school are doing. Psychologist Nava Silton shares how unity is one of the main three pillars of happiness. Whether it be at a the pre-school Thistlewaith Early Learning Center, the law firm Kramer Levin, the nursing home Village Care or Uri Secondary School on our Annual Make a Difference Teaching in Africa trip, we love building communities for students ages 3-100.
Often students of all ages are overwhelmed and do not want to play in chess tournaments because they feel they need years of practice and are not ready. I frequently tell them how they should not overthink it as they will never be ‘ready’ if they keep waiting. A few day after my brother and father I taught me how to move the pieces in second grade, I joined Women International Master’s Shernaz Kennedy’s chess club at the Churchill School. A month after that I won first place in my quad at my first tournament at the Manhattan Chess Club. Two months later I was off to the Nationals with the Churchill team. While I wasn’t the most popular kid at school, I enjoyed becoming good friends with all the folks on the chess team. One of those, Fabio Botarelli, owns Chessability, which specializes in programs for special education schools. On that note we also have the privilege of running curriculum classes for 4th-8th graders at one special education school, Summit.
In order for a school to develop a strong chess community, you need four fundamental players:
While you can get a program started with one one or two of those players bought it in, it is imperative to have all four to get it to grow and have a strong number of students playing in tournaments.
To instill chess cultures, we often get creative. One of our instructors Brian Wolff, who also owns a wellness business, decided to create a chess dollars system at Summit. He hand designed dollars with images of famous chess players- Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, Magnus Carlsen, etc. Kids now have extra incentive as they try to earn the most and win fun prizes.
While chess has given many benefits, including critical thinking skills, judgement training, and healthy drive for competition, likely the most substantial one has been the community aspect. I have played chess tournaments in 10 countries and have chess friends all over the planet. Next week I am leaving to Rome to play a tournament in my 11th country. Learn more about my chess travels around the globe here.
Off the chess board, community plays a key role in Premier Chess’ Business Development. Many chess companies stick to their own; however we fine the need to have close partnerships with other chess companies, including:
Our Official Equipment Vendor, American Chess Equipment
Our Preferred Vendor for Online Playing and Practice: chesskid.com
Shernaz Kennedy fell in love with chess when she was four years old. Her family introduced her to chess, perhaps as a lark, never really expecting a small child to understand the complexities of the board, but that proved to be their blunder! Like every child she loved to play, she loved the lure of competition, and chess had it all. What the four year old could never imagine was how chess would take her to grand places and eventually even introduce her to her idol Bobby Fischer, and then bring her right back to her beginnings of chess, but this time as a teacher.
Shernaz’s family continued to encourage her love of chess no matter where her father’s career took them. She made friends through her chess teams and while competing in tournaments and, despite the general discouragement of female players, she competed in some of the most prestigious tournaments internationally. Shernaz competed in the 1986 Chess Olympiad and earned the title of Woman’s International Master in 1987.
As we think of her many accomplishments, we remember how it all started when she was just a four year old at home, playing around with family. Shernaz has always felt that chess is best when shared and learned early. She looks upon chess with the fresh perspective every chess player must embrace when approaching the board: every opponent is new yet familiar, every match is there for the win, and which strategy will be my lucky charm today! So she took her smile, confidence, and winning strategy to schools in New York City hopeful she could teach other children the joy of chess, the joy of tenacity, the joy of sportsmanship, and the community. She recruited her good friend, NM Bruce Pandolfini. At that time Bruce was the manager of the world renowned Manhattan Chess Club at Carnegie Hall. They worked side by side as Shernaz focused on the children and Bruce managed the business intricacies of creating National Champions. They remain a wonderful team. Schools welcomed their focus, commitment, and creative approach and soon recognized the value they brought as their students became more involved and advanced in tournament play.
Today Shernaz is the backbone of Top Level Chess. Top Level Chess emphasizes the many components of the sport of chess from the life skills of critical thinking, sportsmanship, and logical thinking, to the strategic skills of openings, middle, and end game conundrums. Recognizing that each child enjoys and appreciates different aspects of chess, Shernaz has developed a team of coaches who can coach the next champion or the avid player at any level. This team includes Grandmasters and National Masters and teachers. Top Level Chess provides programs to after school programs in its own space, online, and privately. Shernaz coaches her students at the top tournaments: The Cities, The States, The Nationals, and The World Championships, but you can also find her competing with her own team. Shernaz remains in love with chess!
On that note, we are glad to be partnered with Top Level Chess and encourage you to be apart of this association, by signing up your children to their upcoming tournament at the Churchill School, on November 16th (click here for page event). Our CEO, (NM) Evan Rabin, actually learned chess through Shernaz as a second grader at the Churchill’s Elementary School.
Two and half years ago Dr. Nava Silton posted in the UWS Mommas Facebook group that she was looking for a chess camp for her son. Several people recommended ours and after a demo lesson and some back and forth, she signed up her two kids Judah and Jonah. Since then, Nava has become a good friend and inspiration. Last week she did an insightful talk about happiness during The Camp Girls’ Shmini Atzeret lunch. According to her, the three main ingredients are unity, giving and fun, which are three fundamentals we abide by.
With few barriers to entry, chess provides unity among age, religion, socioeconomic class, etc. We teach students ages 3-100 of all backgrounds. Whether it be a preschooler at Chabad of Stamford, a lawyer at Kramer Levin or a resident at Village Care, we teach the same business and life values through the game.
Furthermore at our monthly tournaments at Asiam Thai Cuisine, we will often get a mix of students, young professionals and adults. While during the day, we all live very different lives, we come together in the evening due to our mutual passion of chess. I have had the privilege of now playing tournaments in 10 countries; soon that number will be 11 as I play a tournament outside of Naples during Thanksgiving week.
Stephen Spahn, the headmaster of my Alma Mater Dwight, shares how each student should find their “Spark of Genius” and utilize to make a difference in the world; for me it was pretty obvious chess was it. While chess has proved to be a great source of income, it has also been a great way to give back.
There are currently four ways we are doing that:
If you have a fundraiser, please email us as we’d love to donate a chess lesson to silent auction/raffle. If event is in New York City, we will donate a 1-hour group class with CEO National Master Evan Rabin for up to 10 children or adults, valued at $400. If event is anywhere else in the world, we’d love to donate a 1 hour online private lesson, valued at $90.
Next Thursday, November 7th, Evan Rabin will be one of the co-hosts at the Christodora Gala. In addition to getting a chance to help raise money, you can meet Evan and bid on many great silent auction items, including a group lesson with Evan himself.
Giving back allows us to be grateful for all that we have. In New York, we do teach in some relatively poor Title 1 public schools; however, they have many more resources; than the private catholic school we teach at down in Tanzania, which lacks simple items like toilet paper. It is also not uncommon to see kids as young as 3 or 4 taking care of their younger siblings.
While we exceed in our professions and give back, it is also important to have some good clean fun. While hard work is crucial, it is important to have a work-life balance and enjoy everything you do. A chess player should not play a tournament purely because it is going to help his career; he should also enjoy it. Likewise, while chess is obviously our main focus at camps, we make it a point to do some other exciting activities, such as a basketball lesson with Hands on Hoops or field trips to The Brooklyn Museum and Janam Tea. While you may think that hour away from work or study is a distraction, the hour spent enjoying yourself having fun will make you be more productive later on.
Everyone on this earth should be happy! While happiness is certainly not an exact science, we should strongly consider following Nava Silton’s three suggestions: unity, giving and fun. If you put a smile on your face, people will notice it and it will have a domino effect.
Chess requires practice, and blitz can be part of that. We’ve probably already all heard someone saying that playing quick games is the best way to get worst at chess, or at least not to improve and grasp fundamental concepts that are required to reach new heights. But that’s not entirely true, playing a couple of short games is just as valuable as studying or analyzing other’s games. Indeed we don’t always have so much opportunities to play slow-paced tournament because those usually take at least a couple of days to come about. Moreover serious USCF rated chess events only occur a couple of time a year all over America. On that note one of our beloved readers provided us with one of his latest blitz game, so we could do a quick review and share it with you all. You can do likewise by emailing us too !
So how is hypnosis related to chess and how can it help in learning the game?
Hypnosis works by bypassing your “critical factor” or analytical mind in order to access your subconscious mind which is the seat of all behavioral change. It can help facilitate learning on all levels by tuning into how you learn and process new things and how your way of learning is different than your teammates or opponents. Some of us may be more dominant visual, auditory, kinesthetic or even “auditory digital” in the ways we learn. Bringing awareness to your dominant way of learning or “representational system” will help you know how to us use your dominant method of learning to your advantage to achieve even higher levels of learning. You have heard the expression “super-learner”. Well you can become one when you explore some of the many menu items hypnosis has to offer.
Now I mentioned “bypassing the critical above” and you may be wondering what that is. How many times have you been emotionally moved by a movie? Maybe you even laughed or cried at the movie, or seen Spiderman climb up the side of a building. Now we know that the sequence of pictures passing in front of a projector screen is not real, yet in order to enjoy the experience and get involved, you allow yourself to suspend the conscious judgement and critical faculties of the mind and accept the imagery of the movie as real. This is a glimpse into how hypnosis works.
Some of the learning techniques in hypnosis will take your through the four phases of mastery:
1. Unconscious Incompetence – You do not know that you do not know (I don’t even know
the rules and strategies in Chess and I do not know that I don’t even know)
2. Conscious Incompetence – You know that you do not know ( I don’t know what rules or
strategies to implement but I am aware that I don’t even know)
3. Conscious Competence – You know and act consciously (more intermediate/advanced
levels as you are still learning to feel ease and focus with it)
4. Unconscious Competence – You know and act subconsciously (here your chess playing is
flowing naturally because you are not even thinking about it but the “technique” is there)
In addition to helping you tune into and access your dominant way of learning, hypnosis can help you with eye focusing techniques designed to expand your awareness and relax your nervous system. When you think of hypnosis you may think of slowing down which does happen but it is a process of active imagination as well so you will feel more energized, awake and alive after a session. Hypnosis has no side effects and can help with ADD, ADHD, cravings, anxiety, stress, peak performance and lots more.
Are you looking for a great opportunity for your child to learn chess but his school doesn’t offer it and private lessons too expensive? Does your child play in his school’s program but want more practice for tournaments? If you answered yes to either question, you can consider signing your child up for Premier Chess Group Class: http://premierchess.com/premier-chess-group-class-on-upper-west-side/.
Premier Chess CEO and I Love the Upper West Side Writer Evan Rabin will teach opening, middle game and endgame strategy, review tactical themes and get students ready to compete in tournaments.
Here are some of reasons you should consider taking class:
• Benjamin Franklin once said “Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail.” Chess will help you think strategically!
• Prepare for local chess tournaments, City Championships, State Championships and National Championships (tournaments are not required but are encouraged)
• Chess is also great way to meet new friends, both in school and out. Premier Chess CEO’s National Master Evan Rabin has played chess in 9 different countries and has connections literally around the world through the game!
Class will be held at ZPlay School, located at 150 West 72nd Street, Suite 2A, New York, NY, 10023
Register here. Use promo code “iluws” for $50 off if you sign up by end of week.