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Old March 13th 05, 02:01 PM
 
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Default Scholastic Chess Thrives in Pittsburgh

Scholastic Chess Thrives in Pittsburgh

Here we are in March 2005 and a number of exciting tournaments are
drawing close; it's also not too soon to be thinking about summer
chess camps. Do you have a favorite chess camp you'd like to see
mentioned in this column? Perhaps you run a chess camp yourself. Drop
me a line at and tell me about it. I hope
to profile a number of summer chess camps in an upcoming column.

Everyman Quiz of the Month
We are excited to announce a new development in the Scholastic Chess
column at ChessCafe. Each month we will present a brief quiz with
questions taken from the information provided in one or more earlier
Scholastic Chess columns. The first three people to respond each month
with correct answers will win a free copy of an exciting chess book,
courtesy of Everyman Chess Books. This month, our lucky winners will
receive a copy of the Kasparov book Checkmate! My First Chess Book.
Here is our first Everyman Quiz:

1. Who has been WFM Alisa Melekhina's primary chess coach?
a) FM Aviv Friedman
b) NM Dan Heisman
c) Dr. Alexsandr Melekhin

2. Which player from the National K-12/Collegiate tournament was not
quoted regarding the relationship between food and chess?
a) third-grader Paul Taylor
b) fifth-grader Eric Rosen
c) eleventh-grader Rob Flax

3. In 2004 Canadian 16-year-old Mark Bluvshtein achieved his final GM
norm by defeating which player?
a) GM Gulko
b) GM Novikov
c) GM Nakamura

If you don't remember the answers then review past Scholastic Chess
columns in the ChessCafe Archives. Send your answers to
, but don't wait too long! Only the
first three with correct answers get the book!

SuperNationals III
From April 8-10, 2005, Nashville, Tennessee will be the epicenter of

scholastic chess in the United States as thousands of excited players
descend upon the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. Instead
of the Elementary, Junior High and High School national championships
being scattered across the country, all three championships will occur
over the same weekend in the same location.

Diane Reese tells me that there will be a special, fun opening ceremony
at noon on Friday, April 8, at which they will announce all 58 members
of the Trophies Plus All-America Team. She promises that there will be
quite a few grandmasters and other chess celebrities in attendance. The
USCF press release mentions: GM Anatoly Karpov, GM Susan Polgar, GM
Yasser Seirawan, GM Maurice Ashley, GM Hikaru Nakamura, and WIM
Jennifer Shahade. There will be multiple lectures and simultaneous
exhibitions taking place. I counted a total of eleven lectures and
simuls in the posted schedule. The time control is game/120 for second
grade and above, game/90 for players in the K-1 section. Of course,
there will also be blitz and bughouse tournaments offered.

A tremendous feature returns to these championships with the generous
awarding of full four-year scholarships by the University of Texas -
Dallas to the winners of each of the three sections (Elementary, Junior
High, and High School). In addition, the top female in each section
will receive an automatic qualifying berth into the Polgar National
Invitational for Girls championship in August. The official
photographers at the event, MyChessPhotos.com, will also be awarding a
$500 scholarship to the player with the greatest upset win. This
organization produces memorable photographs and will be taking pictures
of every participant.

The USCF expects 5000+ players at this mega-event, with thousands more
family and friends in attendance. For at least one weekend, Nashville
will transform into Chessville.

2nd Annual All-Girls Open National Championships
The second edition of this open tournament takes place May 13-15, 2005
in Chicago. It is a joint project of the Kasparov Chess Foundation and
Chess Wizards. The six-round, game/60 event is open to all girls
through age 18, with both blitz and bughouse tournaments as side
events. Richard Krueger of the Kasparov Chess Foundation was kind
enough to discuss this upcoming tournament.


At the 2004 All-Girls National Championship

Krueger noted that nearly 200 players attended last year's inaugural
event and as many as 300 are expected this year. I asked him how the
All-Girls National Championship compares with the Polgar Invitational
for Girls Championship. They differ, he mentioned, in that the Polgar
event is by invitation with its own criteria for qualification whereas
the All-Girls event is open to any interested female player age 18 or
younger. "But the goal of both of these tournaments," Krueger
added, "is to encourage more girls to participate in chess
tournaments and to be active in chess. Therefore both tournaments
complement each other."

Last month's column touched upon some of the issues unique to female
chessplayers. I asked Mr. Krueger what might be done to encourage more
girls to get involved and stay involved with chess. He replied, "It
is a fact that chess in later school years has been dominated by boys
in the past. Kasparov Chess Foundation is working with schools
throughout the country to encourage girls to continue playing chess
throughout their education. Tournaments and educational outreach
programs are addressing this issue and should help to even the score,
so to speak... Such initiatives as All-Girls nationals surely will be
attracting more and more girls to participate in chess competitions. Of
course, this tournament should become a flagship for many other
tournaments for girls that could be organized on regional or local
levels." In a similar vein, GM Susan Polgar notes that a number of
states are now organizing specific qualifying events for her
Invitational for Girls national tournament.


GM Susan Polgar at last year's All-Girls championship

Intergalactic Bughouse Championship
Various state, national, and even world championships are commonplace.
How often do you get an opportunity to participate in an intergalactic
tournament? On Thursday, June 9, 2005, the Intergalactic Bughouse
Championship will take place at the Las Vegas International Chess
Festival. Registration is on-site only, presumably as a courtesy to
those participants from other galaxies, whose e-mail and internet
registrations wouldn't have arrived for several more millennia. No
word in the press release about valet parking for your spaceships.

Did You Know?
The longest-reigning world chess champion retained his title for nearly
27 years. Can you name him?

Profile of the Month
Previous columns have profiled successful players and teams. This month
we speak with national master Jerry Meyers, chess organizer and teacher
extraordinaire who has played a major part in making Pittsburgh and
western Pennsylvania a major scholastic chess center.

In the first column from November 2004, I noted a tournament organizer
and teacher in one community who has galvanized chess to the point that
there are more elementary and high-school kids with USCF ratings there
than in much larger cities. This person is Mr. Meyers, who in addition
to being an over-the-board Master, was also awarded the correspondence
Senior IM title for his success in postal play.



Jerry Meyers

In 1993 he began the Chess-for-Pittsburgh-Youth program, which now
provides chess instruction in over 30 schools and a number of public
libraries in the Pittsburgh area. A full-time chess teacher, he also
works with the Pittsburgh Chess Club. The local newspapers frequently
call upon Jerry for information about chess activities and in 2003,
WQED (the Pittsburgh public TV station) conducted a brief interview
that aired repeatedly. This was followed by a lengthy "Cover Story"
headline appearance on their onQ newsmagazine which aired on February
17, 2005. In this fabulous feature produced by Tonia Caruso that runs
approximately ten minutes, Meyers is shown teaching in one of the
schools he visits, and a number of kids explain why chess is so
attractive to them. They have some surprising answers at times!

The segment opens in dramatic fashion, music playing, showing Meyers
carrying his distinctive chess bag and the narrator begins: "The bag
is unusual and at first glance, so is the mission. Nearly every day
this man visits a different elementary school in the city of
Pittsburgh. Meet Jerry Meyers. He's not there to teach reading or
math or even science. He's there to teach chess."

Asked to explain the allure of chess, Meyers responds "I just think
chess is a way of stimulating kids' minds, getting them thinking and
having fun at the same time... At the start, when they're just
beginning, the first thing that chess is doing for them is getting them
to look more carefully at what's going on around them. It's getting
kids to look more carefully, to focus, and to start to concentrate."

A smiling fifth-grade girl is asked if she looks forward to Meyers'
visits. "Yes - one reason is that we get to eat lunch a little
earlier... but another reason is that he's a good teacher and he
helps us learn better ways to play." An earlier lunch - yet another
benefit of chess.

The interviewer observes that, "there's no question these kids are
having fun, but there's a lot more to this game. In fact, some
studies suggest the educational benefits of chess may be endless."
While "endless" may be stretching the point, Meyers clarifies:
"There have been a number of tests which show improvement in
standardized test scores both in reading and in math. There's logical
thinking going on in chess, there are patterns that are very similar to
math... Chess is the ultimate concentration game because ... you start
to think about sequences. 'If I do this, how's the other person
going to respond?' You start to anticipate what's going to
happen."


The Pittsburgh Youth Chess Dragons winning team

After speaking with a schoolteacher at the school, the interviewer
comments, "Her students can't get enough of the game!" Asked if
she thought the students could grasp chess, the teacher states, "I
didn't think they'd pick it up as quickly as they did, but Mr.
Meyers presents it in such a fabulous way that they want to learn...It
has helped with their critical thinking, their strategies; they love
chess. We were learning the pieces in Spanish also, and they love to be
able to help each other."

Prior to an interscholastic tournament, Meyers reminds the kids that,
"Our goal is not only to produce winners, to take home ribbons,
it's to challenge yourselves." Nevertheless, the kids eagerly
anticipate the challenge of playing other students. "They're all
excited," he continues. "All of them want to say 'My school is
the best.' There's school spirit, there's sportsmanship
involved...I tell the kids, 'Be gracious in winning, be gracious in
losing.'"

The interviewer is amazed at the perseverance of the kids. One
fifth-grade boy who has been playing only a few weeks is asked how many
games he has won. He smiles sheepishly as he holds up one solitary
finger, but says that he enjoys chess and intends to continue learning
the game. Meyers isn't surprised. "When a kid acquires a new skill,
they can develop a certain self-confidence that carries over into other
activities. Kids get excited and their excitement is contagious. When
they're having fun and they're enjoying themselves, you see a smile
on a child's face. There's nothing like that."

The interviewer, who doesn't play chess herself, observes that,
"What the program is about is learning more while having a good
time... What's really amazing in all of this is just how much fun
these kids are having...I can't say enough how much the kids love
it."


Chess-for-Pittsburgh-Youth players

I don't know what the viewership of this station is, but certainly
this program provided excellent, positive publicity for the world of
chess. I was curious how the TV feature came about. "To be honest,"
Jerry said, "I suspect the TV bit was primarily due to a suggestion
by one of my supporters who is the head of a large local foundation
that also provides major support to WQED. She suggested it to them.
However, the station first ran a short interview with me to see what I
was about and if it made sense to put me on 'onQ.' The interviewer
in the program liked the story, thought I presented well, and she took
it to the next level."

Regarding foundation grants, Meyers noted that "I [have to] renew
annually, and I am never guaranteed anything. Still, the program has
been going since January 1996. As to how I accomplished it, I leveraged
off classes I was already teaching in private and suburban schools.
Through word of mouth, I met some parents at a few city schools that
were interested in chess. I attended a meeting called something like
'Meet the Funders' which included a session where groups seeking
funding got to sit down at lunch with various Foundation people.
Perhaps I was lucky to find a sympathetic ear, but I also think I
presented my project in way that made sense. I told my story of
teaching chess in just a few private and suburban schools and how it
grew as parents talked to each other about it. I talked about
stimulating children's minds and what I thought were the benefits of
chess. I suggested offering the same program to city school children
with Foundation money and starting small with just a few schools as a
pilot. That is how it got started. First I received funding from the
Buhl Foundation's Frick Educational Fund. Then they helped connect me
with the Grable Foundation and The Heinz Endowments."

Meyers, who has a B.S. degree in business as well as a master's
degree in psychology, insists the key to his success is treating chess
teaching as a business, not merely as a hobby. "People cannot teach
chess full time unless they can make a reasonable living doing it.
Chess needs to be run professionally and it needs to create a viable
career path for promising young people who want to justify devoting the
enormous quantities of time it takes to become good at chess." Meyers
clearly believes that chess is a natural discipline to teach in the
schools. "When I think about the goals of education, it is not hard
to see many ways that chess promotes them. I think parents also
naturally see the benefits of chess, especially when they watch the
faces of children at play. Unfortunately, many school administrators
are too busy with the day to day business of running schools to really
think about how chess fits in. But you can work with your natural
allies, such as parents and various teachers who operate closer to kids
and see everyday what the learning process is actually about."

He offers additional insight into his teaching methods: "The key
element to my program is interaction with the kids. I try not to teach
at them. I am always posing questions. I search for faces that are not
paying attention and call on them. The philosophy is the same as on the
chessboard. Find which of your pieces aren't active enough and put
them to work. You need to get the whole group alert and responsive.
Questions can be tailored to individual children. Each question has to
be at a level they can understand and not be too hard, while still
leading them forward a little."

The success of Meyers' programs is a good indication that his methods
work. He estimates that there are approximately 1800 kids in the
Pittsburgh area with USCF ratings, and many others who are not USCF
members, but are involved in classes at school. Dan Heisman, heavily
involved in scholastic chess himself in the Philadelphia area, notes
that Pittsburgh, with much less population, seems to be the scholastic
chess center of Pennsylvania. In my January 2005 column, I made the
following statement:

Many communities have very active scholastic leagues and on-going
tournaments. While these groups cover the entire spectrum from
well-to-do to inner-city, from downtown to rural, from raw beginners to
powerful grandmasters, all have one basic thread in common - one or
more individuals decided they wanted to make a difference, to provide a
healthy, safe and fun environment for children. If there's no-one who
is willing to step up to the plate and do the organizational work
required, then there won't be that high school chess team, that
community chess club, the city or state scholastic league.

Jerry Meyers is one person who decided to make a difference, and there
are many, many children and parents in western Pennsylvania who are
glad he did. His website can be seen at
www.youthchess.net.

Did You Know Answer
Dr. Emanuel Lasker defeated Wilhelm Steinitz to win the title of World
Chess Champion in 1894 and held it until his match with Capablanca in
1921, resigning because of poor health.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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  #2   Report Post  
Old March 13th 05, 02:39 PM
Spam Scone
 
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Default


wrote:
Scholastic Chess Thrives in Pittsburgh

Profile of the Month
Previous columns have profiled successful players and teams. This

month
we speak with national master Jerry Meyers, chess organizer and

teacher
extraordinaire...


And possibly the most hated man in PA scholastic chess.

who has played a major part in making Pittsburgh and
western Pennsylvania a major scholastic chess center.


LOL!

In the first column from November 2004, I noted a tournament

organizer
and teacher in one community who has galvanized chess to the point

that
there are more elementary and high-school kids with USCF ratings

there
than in much larger cities.


I suppose if you waive the touch-move rule you can make anyone a
'chessplayer'.

This person is Mr. Meyers, who in addition
to being an over-the-board Master, was also awarded the

correspondence
Senior IM title for his success in postal play.


And allegedly plays rated games with his students.

Jerry Meyers

In 1993 he began the Chess-for-Pittsburgh-Youth program, which now
provides chess instruction in over 30 schools and a number of public
libraries in the Pittsburgh area. A full-time chess teacher, he also
works with the Pittsburgh Chess Club.


Jerry Myers works with the PCC the same way the Soviet Union worked
with the Hungarians in 1956.

(Snip nauseating PR)

A smiling fifth-grade girl is asked if she looks forward to Meyers'
visits. "Yes - one reason is that we get to eat lunch a little
earlier... but another reason is that he's a good teacher and he
helps us learn better ways to play."


Yeah, learning the touch-move rule and learning what checkmate are
little things your teacher got rid of.
(Snip)

The Pittsburgh Youth Chess Dragons winning team

After speaking with a schoolteacher at the school, the interviewer
comments, "Her students can't get enough of the game!" Asked if
she thought the students could grasp chess, the teacher states, "I
didn't think they'd pick it up as quickly as they did, but Mr.
Meyers presents it in such a fabulous way that they want to

learn...It
has helped with their critical thinking, their strategies; they love
chess. We were learning the pieces in Spanish also, and they love to

be
able to help each other."

Prior to an interscholastic tournament,


Meyers' team is a club team, not a scholastic one.

Meyers reminds the kids that,
"Our goal is not only to produce winners, to take home ribbons,
it's to challenge yourselves." Nevertheless, the kids eagerly
anticipate the challenge of playing other students. "They're all
excited," he continues. "All of them want to say 'My school is
the best.' There's school spirit,


How can there be school spirit when Myers raids the best players from
the local schools for his club team?

Snip remaining drivel.

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