The second of my new chess sites is spectrumchess.uk. This site proposes a different sort of chess club for children, although the idea could be used for clubs for players of all ages.
My good friend Marie Gallagher (sister of GM Joe Gallagher) and I had both had the same idea, and had, totally independently, come up with the same name. We both have many years experience both at primary school chess clubs and at Richmond Junior Club, and share the same frustrations.
Primary school chess clubs serve in part as a cheap child-minding service, and in part as something which parents believe, rightly or wrongly, will bring their children a variety of extrinsic benefits leading to improved academic performance.
Professional junior chess clubs are partly used (by rich parents) for the same reasons, and partly by parents who want their children to become prodigies and champions, although, to be fair, there are other children whose parents are sending them there for the right reasons. Don’t get me wrong: it’s great that clubs like this exist, and there are parents, especially in affluent areas, who are prepared to pay good money for this service. Most of them, I’m sure, do an excellent job as well.
The first principle of children’s chess clubs, and one that is ignored by most schools, is that you must separate children who can’t play from children who can play. By ‘can play’ I mean that they know all the rules and understand, at least in theory, the basic principle that you’re trying to capture your opponent’s pieces while keeping your own pieces safe. So we’d propose two types of club: Spectrum Minichess for children who can’t play chess, which will teach children minichess games, and Spectrum Chess for children who know enough to understand what’s happening in a game.
Some bullet points:
* Run by unpaid volunteers, not professional chess coaches (although professional coaches who are happy to volunteer will be welcome)
* Free professionally written coaching materials are available for both organisers and parents
* Either free or nominal charge
* Parents are encouraged to remain with their children and play an active role: if they can’t play they can learn with their children, if they can play they can help with the instruction
* Most important of all – the clubs are designed to make children happy and help them make new friends, not to make them smarter or to make them grandmasters.
The types of children who might particularly benefit from clubs of this nature, and whom we would particularly target would include:
* Children with diagnoses of conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder and ADHD
* Children suffering from anxiety or depression
* Children who prefer quiet environments, who are not attracted to physical sports, or who find it hard to make friends
* Children from refugee families
If you’re interested in finding out more about this idea, do please get in touch via the website contact page.