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A Magical Summer of Chess

By Dan Todd, Scholastic Chess Instructor


The Saint Louis Chess Club helps provide even more exposure to chess for students in the Saint Louis area by running numerous chess camps throughout the city. The skills they learn in chess summer camps are skills they will use for a lifetime. I call it “Thinking in your seat;” although, I also like to remind them that they can stand and look at the chessboard from a different perspective. They just might see something that they had missed beforehand.


I love the collaboration between the Saint Louis Chess Club and Magic House, as it provides an opportunity for some unique experiences! The innovative King, Queens & Castles exhibition is now located at Gary Gore Elementary, along with low-cost chess camps. They have human sized chess pieces for photo opportunities, thrones, capes, crowns, and even a garage sized castle with turrets, too. The floor inside of the castle is a chess board with jumbo chess pieces that were replaceable with students in chess piece clad capes. The students get classroom instructions with breaks to visit the Magic House chess exhibits. Class instruction is kept fun with instructor tag teams. Darrell Young, a retired science teacher, and “the Great Todd” help lead students in engaging lessons.



The Club is partnering with other schools to run chess summer camps as well. At one school, Villa Duchesne, the youngest students play human pawn wars on an area rug. I utilized this on the spot when I noticed that, even after several tutorials and watching a game, most of the younger students could not remember how pawns moved. We enhanced the experience with retired school teacher, Mike Bross, and his role-playing of the other pieces. They loved it. We played it several times over the weeks. We have about ten students per class and 6 classes a day with a wide variety of elementary age groups.


Each day, I rewarded students with a chess themed magic trick. Pieces appeared, disappeared, and I could tell them which piece or chess term they had secretly selected, and much more.


It is not over yet, folks. Families can still visit the Kings, Queens, and Castles exhibit at Gary Gore Elementary located in the Jennings School District through the end of July.