Let me start with this actual PET scan. PET scans allow scientists to identify specific brain areas that are activated bydifferent tasks. Here researchers have used PET scans to identify the brain areas stimulated in the complex mental activities during a chess game (Nichelli and others, 1994). In scan (a), areas at the back of the brain, where visual information is processed, are most active when a player distinguishes between black and white chess pieces. In (b), the lower middle region of the brain is more active when a player is determining if a particular chess piece can capture another piece.*

And, so our theme: "Fun while using your brain!"

*Don Hockenbury and Sandra Hockenbury, Psychology, New York: Worth Publishers, 1997, p.68.

Download SCS course outlines in pdf:
Beginner's Course Outline
Intermediate Beginner's Course Outline
Advanced Beginner's Course Outline
Advanced Player's Course Outline
Experienced-Tournament Player's Course Outline

Download skills test on what student should know:
From Beginner's Program

Download 30 Rules (Guidelines) of Playing Good Chess:
Thirty Rules of Chess

How to play chess for beginners and parents - Magic Theater:

How To Play Chess
Review some instructive games taught in our advanced program:
43 Blue Knight Games
A study guide for tactical players:
A Purdy Method of Chess

Extra-credit homework--Student ID needed!

See a list of SCS Instructor Recommended Books and CD-Roms
From Richard Shorman
From Henry Vinerts, USCF Expert--Annotated

Left: SCS coaches with the trophies their
teams won at the CalChess State Scholastic Championships on April 6 & 7, 2002. The tournament drew 1100 players to the Monterey Conference Center. SCS players and schools dominated almost every division and proved the success of their chess program.

Our History and Our Program
(from SCS founder, Dr. Alan Kirshner):

I would never have suspected in a million years that when I volunteered to create an after-school chess club at my son's elementary school eleven years ago that I would still be running the club when he was a senior in high school. In the summer of 1988, my son, Micah Fisher-Kirshner, ready for first grade at Weibel Elementary School in Fremont, California, entered a local library chess tournament. Ray Orwig, a chess coach and Senior Tournament Director, ran a number of these non-US Chess Federation tournaments in the San Francisco Bay area. During the year, he also held a number of US Chess Federation, matches including the Northern California State Scholastic Championships.

My son enjoyed the library tournament so much that I decided it would be nice if he could have a few other children to play chess with after school. I started out with about eight children from Weibel Elementary School and three from a nearby school, Mission San Jose Elementary. Today that small Weibel club has grown to 135 children, a 40-person waiting list and five paid instructors. Mission San Jose, a smaller school than Weibel, has about 50 members in its chess club and continues with parent volunteers. Inquires from other parents has enabled chess in Fremont to expand to five other schools averaging about 70 children in each program. Some have hired Weibel chess teachers through family or Parent Teacher Association contributions.

While only a few of our Fremont children have been on the USCF Top 50 list for their age group and our schools have won few National Championships (Mission San Jose won the National Grade Level and Hopkins Junior High School won the K-8 Championship Division in 1996), the excitement of chess continues to explode in this area. Perhaps this explosion is because our emphasis has been on the art, the proven educational value and the fun of the game.

Last year, one of my Weibel players asked me why I continued to run the club when my son was now in high school. I answered him, "that without the support of the parents and their willingness to volunteer their time in a myriad of different ways there would be no chess in Fremont."

Time to get to the when, what, where and how of this program: In March of 1989, Micah in first grade won our stateās K-3 championship division. I learned of the National Elementary Championships being held in Tempe, Arizona in April. I thought it would be fun to try, and was not sure I could afford to attend. However, a colleague of mine raised the funds and paid the way for my two sons and myself. What an experience!

At Tempe, in 1989, numerous booksellers and chess entrepreneurs exhibited their products. Sadly, this was not to be the case at future Nationals. I bought everything I could find on organizing a scholastic chess club. DeWain Barberās pamphlet, A Guide to Scholastic Chess, that the US Chess Federation provides free, proved a great start. And, so did the five free tournament chess sets I obtained from the Chess Federation's Trust. But, equally valuable were the insights I obtained from talking with fellow parents who also ran chess programs at their schools. So, I returned to Fremont loaded down with new ideas from chess instructors and educators. And over the years I have continued to keep my ears open to any suggestions on how to build a scholastic chess program.

I believe the three most productive concepts at Weibel for maintaining interest in chess and producing good chess players has been our hands-on approach to learning, peer instruction and an extensive system of rewards. All of our students have their own chess sets. At first we used full size tournament sets, but as our numbers increased we moved to pocket sets for each player. In recent years, we have gone back to tournament sets, as we break the club into two days, one for Team and one for Club. Since I now have the help of other instructors, we can break these groups down into smaller sections based upon ability, and the school has given us more classrooms. The PTA first purchased the boards and pieces, but presently parent contributions and funds from chess tournaments that we run supply all our equipment needs. In recent years, we have even been able to donate equipment to the teachers and extra funds to the PTA.

When the children are taught something with the traditional demonstration board, with a small group around a teacher, or using computers hooked up to projection TV's, they are asked to move the pieces on their own boards. They repeat each lesson on their own and then demonstrate the lesson, such as checkmating with a king and a rook vs. a king, to a classmate.

I would like to take an aside here and describe the Club and Team approach at Weibel. At the beginning of each year children are asked if they want to be in the Club for fun or the Team for competition (and fun, of course). Team members must commit to attending three USCF tournaments during the year (girls must play in the CalChess Girl's Tournament as one of their tournaments), playing in the CalChess State Scholastic Championships and doing a minimum of 2 1/2 hours of chess homework per week. In contrast, the Club members have no commitment other than to attend our lessons. Team members meet for an hour and a half with 30 minutes of instruction and an hour of tournament style play. The Club members receive 20 minutes of instruction and play chess for 40 minutes. We make no decision as to who will be on the Club or the Team; that is left to the children (well, in reality, the parents). This year we had 55 children from K through 6th grade on the Team and 80 children participating in the Club, most of whom were in the lower school grades. We have 40+ children on our waiting list each year, as space is limited. The number of chess players in our program constitutes about 22 percent of the students at Weibel, and one-third are girls. I am happy to report that the dropout rate for the girls is no different than for the boys, and for both the numbers are very low.

At the beginning of each year, we have about 40 new students who have limited if any knowledge of the game usually about ten of them are in kindergarten. Our more knowledgeable students become our chess aides. We provide the lecture, and the teaching assistants (other students) work one-on-one with the new club members. This usually lasts for about eight weeks, when we then divide the class into smaller groups based upon ability.

Our reward system is extensive, effective and really simple. The children respond beautifully to positive feedback and little goodies. Handshakes for good participation, chess stickers (made on the computer), certificates and an in-house rating system works wonders for our students self-esteem and our 97% retention rate. This year we had a special pizza and ice-cream party for the Team's tenth straight year winning a state championship title.

Let me describe our rating system, as it has proved the most effective motivation for the children. We award points for winning a game (3), drawing a game (2) and losing a game (1). If the children attend USCF tournaments, these points are doubled. They obtain points for doing homework (on the Team this would be any homework above the minimum required per week) and for helping other students with their learning. After obtaining eight points they receive the rank of Pawn. After obtaining 16 points they become a Knight, and so forth. A few students have obtained the title of Weibel's Gary Kasparov, obtaining 1,150 or more points accumulated over the years. Each week all the students receive an updated rating sheet and each month the parents receive progress reports. Children love collecting these sheets and announcing out loud how they are now, for example, a Queen.

The points are cumulative over the years. Five players in the Club and five players on the Team are given special recognition at our year-end potluck awards banquet for obtaining the most points in that year. All Weibel chess members receive trophies at this ceremony plus a colorful certificate recognizing the title they have earned. We also present numerous door prizes at the banquet, from chess key chains to chess computers. Winning a prize depends only on the luck of the draw, and very few players go home empty handed.

I am willing to answer any questions that would provide assistance. You can contact me at AKirshner(Alan Kirshner)@ohlone.cc.ca.us.

School Mates
, official youth magazine of the US Chess Federation published this article in their November/December 1999 issue.

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