Wrap-Up for the 2017 Prairie Chess Camp

Post date: Jul 22, 2017 4:21:54 PM

Dear Prairie Chess Camp Families,

First, let me thank you for a wonderful week. The kids and the parents were simply fabulous. We enjoyed working with the students and watching them learn. Parents, you were very kind in your feedback, prompt in responding to everything we asked of including lunch sign-up, drop off and pick up whether at Prairie or the bus at West High. Second, a special thank you to our chess instructors Alex Betaneli, Erik Santarius, Dan Brashaw, and James Neal and their assistants Joseph Wan and Gokul Thangavel. They were obviously well prepared and delivered some of the chess instruction that your students could receive. Our goal is to make learning chess fun and they excelled! Third, our staff did a fabulous job making everything run so smoothly including food, bus, recess and keeping the camp site clean and ready for the next day (which was no small task!).

We finished up Friday with our last set of lessons and the ever popular “bughouse” tournament. After four days, I hope I have explained well the chess camp lessons. So, the bigger questions may be, “Where to go from here?”

Continued improvement comes from a blend of studying, playing, and reviewing those games played. So, let’s tackle each one of these separately.

STUDYING: Of course, classroom instruction is not always available (at least in Iowa). But there are some local resources that you can take advantage of:

    • Chess in Iowa: During the school year, Chess in Iowa (sponsor of the Prairie Chess Camp) hosts Sunday afternoon chess clubs at our local libraries in Marion, Cedar Rapids, Coralville, and Iowa City. There is no cost. Last year was our first year and we will very likely make some changes in the coming school year. But check back at the website and look for announcement.
    • Private lessons: All of our camp instructors provide private lessons. Just like private lessons for a musical instrument or a private coach/trainer for athletics, nothing beats that one-on-one guidance and direction. Of course James and Dan are local in the Iowa City-Coralville area, Alex and Erik are available via Skype, which has become a very popular option.
    • Internet: I will break this into two parts: (1) Online Videos and (2) Tactics Puzzles.

Videos: While chess videos have been online for some time, it is my opinion that the quality of the online video lessons has made a huge leap the last couple years and are now a good source of content for learning chess. I cannot begin to list all of the site, so I will mention just a couple that I am very fond of:

          • Chess.Com and ChessKid.com. Both sites have free content, but you need to subscribe (as little as $5 a month) for advanced content. ChessKid is great for players ages 12 and under. I use this for our Prairie Chess Club and I believe Jess Fiedorowicz uses it at the Coralville Center Club as well. The older kids may find the videos too”cartoonish” though and so you may move up to the “adult” version on Chess.com
          • Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis (YouTube): There are many YouTube sites I like, but this has the broadest content with Grandmaster instruction. And it’s free!!!

Tactics Puzzles: Both Chess.com and ChessKid.com have tactics (puzzles). We strongly emphasize doing tactics puzzles frequently. Other sites that provide great puzzles content are with ChessTempo.com and lichess.org.

PLAYING: All of the chess websites listed above have great online chess playing applications and you cannot go wrong with any of them. However, there is always the need to play “over the board” (a.k.a. Face to Face). We have chess clubs that meet casually once a week and then we have chess tournaments scheduled on weekends (usually) throughout the year.

Chess Clubs: We have a great chess club at the Cedar Rapids Public Library, which meets every Wednesday from 5:30 pm to 8:00 pm (close). All-ages are welcome and the typical turnout is about 50/50 among kids and adults. The Hawkeye Chess Club meets on Thursday nights from 7pm to 9pm at Cafe Crema Coffee Coralville. Both chess clubs have Facebook Pages:

Of course, many of our schools have great chess clubs, too. And if you are fortunate enough to attend one of those schools, then you are in great shape. However, if you don’t have a school chess club and would like to start one, Chess in Iowa has resources to help you get one started. Contact anyone on our board (www.chessinowa.org) including Eric Vigil and me and we will be happy to help.

Chess Tournaments: The place to find all chess tournaments, scholastic and all-ages, is the Iowa State Chess Association Website www.iowa-chess.org. You may follow our Facebook page at iowachess, too. The scholastic season starts in late October / early November and runs all the way through May. There are a few free events, especially at the beginning of the year. But most have a registration fee of about $15 and require US Chess Federation membership of $11 per year. By virtue of being in this camp, you will likely receive a few emails throughout the year with additional information as well. Please let me know if you do not want to receive these emails and you will be removed from the distribution list.

There are a couple tournaments coming up soon deserving of special mentioning. Details are online at: http://www.iowa-chess.org/tournaments

    • Iowa Rated Beginners Open / Iowa Reserve / Iowa Open, August 19th in Coralville
    • Iowa Blank Park Zootacular Scholastic Tournament, September 16th in Des Moines

REVIEWING: There are not many additional resources to provide you here other than to say that chess players should always go over their games to look for mistakes and to identify areas to improve. That is why we stressed so much the need to record your games. Every student brought home a scorebook with games they recorded at chess camp. Keeping a record of the game may be required in a tournament, but having this record is a must for improvement. This is where a coach or going to a chess club may really help in reviewed games played in a tournament. But you can (and should ) do this yourself or with your opponent (time permitting). Finally, when you get serious enough about the game, you will want to have database and computer engine software to record your games, store your analysis, and compare to the millions of master level games played. That is perhaps beyond what many of you need now, but if you are interested, I would start with the gold standard for chess players, ChessBase, and do more research. If you want free open source software, then checkout http://scid.sourceforge.net/, which is one of a very few decent alternatives.

Okay, that’s it for the 2017 Prairie Chess Camp! I hope to see you again soon as chess starts up this fall!

Take care,