By CEO National Master Evan Rabin
When Premier Chess incorporated in September 2017, we had some quick success as within the first two of the business ( I started prospecting and getting school programs in July 2017), we had 10 instructors and 14 school programs. The problem we faced though was that they were in many different geographic areas and we could not easily run tournaments and camps when school was not in session. For instance, we had Lucca Castrucci teaching at Our Lady of Pompeii in Manhattan, Jehron Bryant teaching at Seton Catholic Central in Binghamton, New York and Curt Brock teaching at Saint Dominic Academy in Lewiston, Maine. This start to our company was of course very different from today’s virtual age during Corona when geography is irrelevant. COVID-19 has allowed us to get 500+ students all around the nation and beyond to join our camps and virtual classes. One student in our Youth Advanced class joins each week from Melbourne, Australia!
When we did our first virtual camp this past summer, we definitely had some challenges. Nothing could replace an in-person camp with over-the-board chess and lots of banter. That is why our Director of Virtual Programs Brian Wilmeth, other instructors and I have made every effort we could do to make our camps as much as possible like in-person ones. We strongly encourage students to keep their cameras on so we can see them at all times.
In the beginning, we faced some simple logistical questions. We wanted to pair students on Lichess.org but it took a while. Then Brian Wilmeth thought of the simple solution of playing tournaments on Lichess.org as the platform automatically pair students.
We also have lots of students playing in online tournaments as I do myself. These were the results of a Chess in the Schools tournament I won last Saturday. I will be streaming their Bronx Chess Day tournament this Saturday at 10:00 AM EST. Over the last few months, Twitch has been a great way to build community and get kids into our camp, including a young streamer Neil himself.
When there were multiple instructors, we would at first assign each one into a separate breakout room and a students would would either join late or get disconnected and try to re-enter would not be able to as there was no staff in main room. We then made sure one instructor would teach out of main room.
Since quarantine, I have often found myself having headaches in the evenings. In the beginning, I would not know why that was but it soon after became obvious to me. I was no longer wandering around the city, walking a lot between meetings and getting lots of fresh air. Instead many days from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM, I would find myself on the computer almost day in between Zoom meetings, classes, social media, etc. That is why during camps, we have stretch and exercise breaks to ensure all the kids keep their energy flowing. We have had the privilege of having our podcast guests Michael Deutsch, CEO of Hands on Hoops, Lara Hocheiser, CEO of Flow and Grow Kids Yoga and Joshua Margolis, CEO of Mind over Matter Fitness lead some of these breaks.
While there is no doubt that we look forward to running in-person camps and tournaments again one day soon, we will likely continue to run virtual group classes indefinitely. We have developed a strong international community of players of all ages and skill levels that enjoy our group classes that would definitely like to stay together. Consider registering today for our Mid-Winter Break Camp, February 15-19 and/or our Spring Break Camp, March 21-April 1. One could also still register for our winter semester of virtual classes with a pro-rated rate.