What goes on around your community?

How do we know what communities are for, or just how to define one? I see this a lot in and around school classes : “What is a community?”. In fact as a teacher, I’ve gotten used to hear out plenty of different figurative speeches from various program directors, or just school principals, indicating that “Chess should be included” in as many school programs as possible, or that working around kids is some sort of blessing. And how can someone not agree on that!? Chess should benefit anyone’s upbringing into a fully fledged person, or chess player into a fully grown player. But as far as being able to determine whose school districts, and which charter schools should have access to an informative, educational and lively chess program, that’s not so clear. Well in my case, growing up in a suburban area of France,  school funding didn’t have much to do with my access to the culture or the game. Not that my school didn’t have proper internet equipment, or just school furniture, but school principals back then didn’t know, nor understood much about chess. But that was back then.

Figuratively speaking, there is nothing holding back schools to have a chess program or not. It’s simply a matter of social-economics, or perhaps just economy. I’ve taught in different parts of the city and, and I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a child, student or teacher, not appreciate anything related to the class that I’d went to teach.

Obviously chess doesn’t have to be everywhere for any schools to be considered somewhat adequate to its students. But in my case chess helped me a lot pass on time during weekends, and just regular school days too. I mean there are a lot of schools picking up chess as extra-curriculums as well as regular class hours, and that’s maybe why there has been a lot more young and talented chess players from the U.S lately.

 

 

Rating Points On And Off The Board

Let’s say that there is someone who’d be rated around 2000, and who’d want to improve at chess and so to feel a certain increase, in any way, shape or form, in his or her own chess rating. It’s probably normal to feel as somebody whose rating is probably not quite right, or high enough. Like we might have already witnessed a chess player saying that “ratings don’t matter” or that chess blitz is just “more fun”,and not that both statements aren’t just merely emotional and perhaps associated to the fact that usually, the “chess player in question” is just a mere expert, but perhaps that the reason why 2300+ rated players are more likely to consistently outplay 2000+ rated ones are primary associated to the amount of time one’s been putting into learning about his/her game. So let’s say that for someone who would feel like ratings are justifiably used and even more importantly, somewhat representative to his or her understanding of the game, then there might be a specific “chess routine” to develop around our daily habits to be able to better ourselves, through Chess.

  • Puzzles matter

I’m not a great fan at looking at a diagram for hours and going over lines that might never actually occur, but that’s not the main source of my reasoning that leads me into believing that doing puzzle isn’t really the thing that’s going to impact my rating, in any meaningful way at all. As a 2000 player, I try not to rely too much on them but they still come in handy to convert a dominating middle game position into an actual winning endgame.

  • What is winning and what is not?

Based on my rating I might think that I might outplay a, let’s say 2100+ player, right? I mean as far as being 100″ USCF ratings points over my USCF ELO” I could still end up with the more “convenient middle game”.

Well,I believe that whether or not you can memorize plenty of chess openings, chess endgames or just generally chess patterns, tactics show on and off, and it’s not too much about how many diagrams you can shove into your brain cells, but it also comes down to what kind of “chess routine” one follows.

  • But “What Is Chess Routine”?

Well (FM) Mike Klein pretty much said that it’s really not so much about what you know or what you enjoy doing, it’s also what goes on around you and what makes you into what you’ve become. The DOE might allow a certain amount of money, that might benefits one’s learning access into becoming a proficient chess player or not, but as far as being apart of a chess club, or  a school district’s project, you don’t have to just rely on the city’s initiative to naturally hand out money every now and then.

In our case we might once in a while, try out a certain Gambit and beat a 300- lower rated opponent in a certain opening we don’t know so much about, but that doesn’t mean that one truly master it.

That’s why we’re trying to level out the different kind of access one might get as far as being able to learn about chess, rather that just deliberating whether or not one could just get. So there is nothing wrong with practicing puzzles every now and then just to kind of hope to improve on how much we could get done during an actual “OTB” game.

 

 

 

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

COMPASSIONATE, FRIENDLY, WELL-ROUNDED, INTELLIGENT, LOVING, EASYGOING, INSPIRATIONAL.

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:

Lev Khariton
(NM) Lev Khariton playing Chess

Unity- On And Off The Board.

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:

  • Administration
  • Faculty Advisor
  • Chess Parent
  • Student Ambassador

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
  • Top Level Chess, who we co-host tournaments with

Check out a full list of closest partners, on and off the chess board, here. If you’d like to meet some of them in person, come join me at one of 3 New York networking groups I am part of:

  • Business Networking International Manhattan Chapter 54, Meets every Wednesday from 7-8:30 at Society of Illustrators.
  • Astoria, NY Entrepreneur Club, Meets on one Tuesday and one Thursday each month.
  • Jewish Business Networking, Meets in Midtown East third Thursday of each month.

Email evan@premierchess.com for more information or to visit any of the above networking groups.

Chess Class at The Grace Church Middle School
Discovering new strategies with students

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