Running a school chess club can be very rewarding and schools are usually supportive of such a venture. I started a school chess club back in 2017 when my boys were aged 7 and 5. I contacted the head teacher and offered to run a lunchtime chess club. The school was extremely supportive and I ran the club for 3 years for children aged 5 - 11 until my boys moved to a different school. I learned many things from this experience and wanted to share tips for teachers, parents or coaches who might be interested to set up a club at their school.
This is a 5 part series that will cover the following topics:
- Room and Equipment
- Instruction vs play
- Getting everyone involved
- Keeping it fun
- Running tournaments and ladders
1. Room and Equipment
Running a chess club requires very little in terms of resources and equipment. Firstly you need a room to play in which will often be a classroom. Depending on the layout you may need to move some tables and chairs to allow chess games to be played. Encourage the regular members to help set up and put everything back at the end of the club. Arriving 10 mins before the club starts to get everything set up will help ensure no time is lost especially if it is a 30min lunch time club. Plan on stopping play with 5 mins before the end of the session to allow time for chess sets to be packed away and the room to be returned to normal. Invariably some pieces end up on the floor so make sure to check carefully.
Secondly you need a set of chess boards and pieces. Chess sets are not expensive and it's worth buying a set of standard plastic tournament pieces and boards rather than using old sets with pieces missing, damaged or of different sizes. Would also recommend getting some plastic storage boxes for the pieces to help minimise the chance of pieces getting lost.
- A set of folding / rollup boards and plastic pieces. Getting boards with the files and ranks clearly marked with letters and numbers will be helpful as children progress.
- Think about getting bags to store pieces or even better plastic boxes. This will help prevent pieces getting lost or mixed up with other sets.
- A demo board is highly recommended but not essential. It can help to discuss some key positions and provide some instruction with a group of children. Those with magnetic pieces are easiest to use however be warned the magnets are likely to detach and get lost after frequent use. Therefore the demo boards which have the pieces slot in might be the most durable for regular use.
- Chess clocks are a nice to have but are more expensive and likely only to be used as children progress to a stronger level. Recommend getting a digital one as this has become the standard now in most tournaments.
Part 2 of this series will cover an important topic of getting the balance right between instruction and play.