How Does Chesskid Empower Scholastic Chess? With (FM) Mike Klein!

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.

Fide Master Mike is a great teacher
(FM) Mike Klein teaching a ChessKid lesson

A Profile Of A Chess Player.

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.

(WIM) Shernaz Kennedy
(WIM) Shernaz Kennedy still is an active and strong chess player

Frank’s late pal, Pal Benko

Frank is a chess player. He participated in the Bankers Athletic Leagues quite a while ago. Now he harbors New-York, spreading his own memories and vision of the world through lengthy and insightful conversations. We had the chance to encounter him at the Chess Forum, a vibrant shop where chess amateurs come and go and usually play blitz games. So what about Pal Benko ?

Benko was famous as the man who, in 1970, stepped aside for Bobby Fischer to enter the World Championship Cycle. But he was also praised and recognized as an innovative opening theoretician, endgame genius and a brillant problem solver. Born in Amiens, France in 1928 to a vacationing Hungarian family, Benko grew up in Budapest, Hungary. The memorable chess player received an invitation to the 1957 World Student Team Championship in Iceland, where he played on the first board. That’s when a new chapter of his life begin as he decided to walk into the American Embassy in Reykjavik, Iceland and asked for asylum.

At first working as a mutual fund salesman, it didn’t take him long to get back to his first calling. Indeed Pal Benko started making a living with chess, and back in the 60’s it was much easier said than done. The prizes were definitely not as important as they are today, at least for major international events. Anyway the reborn chess master was thriving and even set a record winning 4 U.S. Chess Open in a row (1964-1967). His most famous game was a loss, against Fischer in a game during the 1963 U.S. Chess Championship during which the audience was stunned by Bobby’s 19th move.

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In his career, he also devoted a lot of his time to writing chess articles. For instance he was a long-time columnist for Chess life from 1971 to 1981. Moreover he and the Polgar family have had an everlasting friendship, as they all live in Hungary at some point and would go on vacation together. He was also a long-time trainer and mentor of the Polgar sisters, so no wonder they’ve been so successful. Susan Polgar visited him in Hungary shortly before he passed away. Chess grandmaster Pal Benko lives on through his books, columns and games.