You've watched Queen Gambit and there's a little part of you that's saying "It would be fun to actually learn chess"

I'm going to provide a few tips for getting started from the founder of the Berkeley Chess School. In exchange, you can learn about a way to help kids...
First, meet the 83-years-young Elizabeth Shaughnessy. She founded BCS nearly 40 years ago.

Since then, BCS has taught over 250,000 kids!

When you sit with Elizabeth you realize this is more than a game. This requires explanation.
BCS is a true Robinhood organization (as opposed to ahem another one that calls themselves RH). As a non-profit, BCS is funded by donations and fees they receive for after-school programs around the Bay Area (they are in over 120 schools!) and private lessons.

This enables magic
That funding supports their mission to provide free or low-cost chess instruction to students at poor Title 1 schools.

As you can imagine, Covid has decimated enrollment which is mostly in-person and at schools.

BCS made an inspiring audible...
BCS has re-purposed its building to teach disadvantaged kids. These are kids from low-income sections of Oakland, Richmond and Berkeley who are struggling with distance learning. These kids have no internet or computers at home.

The mission is urgent...
Without intervention, these kids, already struggling academically before the pandemic hit, may suffer an irreparable learning loss that could affect their health and financial well-being far into their adult lives.

From her experience, Elizabeth is convinced there is hope...
If you have been following me for awhile, you know I'm a fan of games and games in learning, I like to believe that the skills acquired in play “transfer” to other domains.

I've wondered about it here:
I specifically asked Elizabeth if she thought a joy of chess was simply a symptom of a more general aptitude or if chess was imparting a more generalized skill that could be applied to other fields.

Elizabeth is a big believer that there is transference.

What does chess offer?
1. Kids learn to slow down and be methodical.

Count how many pieces are threatening your own. Do this for every piece, on every turn, to find the strengths and weaknesses on the board. Then look at all the checks you can deliver, then the captures, then the attacks.

Then move.
2. Consequences matter and compound.

Chess teaches you that consequences matter. Make a rash move, get penalized by your opponent. Mistakes are expensive in chess and life. What scenarios can unfold if you always skip math class?
3. Chess sharpens your focus.

She has repeatedly seen firsthand the power of chess to harness kids’ attention. It’s an effective tool to settle kids so they can get into a better headspace for learning. Kids who start out resistant often do not want to go home after school.
Chess can show kids they are smart. It teaches them to believe in their own abilities. Many of the kids BCS teaches face long odds in life but chess can offer lessons in foresight, creativity, problem solving, and self-control.
Children heatseek stimulation. BCS has figured out how to stimulate children that have been written off.

Any witness to that transformation will see one thing — the longest lever we have as a society to improve a child’s current and future well-being.
Learning chess can be a bit overwhelming for good reasons. There are tons of amazing resources out there from software, to YouTube, books, and communities.

If you are like me, sometimes you just want to be told “Do this” and be handed a basic recipe from which you branch.
Here’s the recipe.

1. At first, focus on tactics.

You can think of tactics as a series of maneuvers to gain an advantage over your opponent. They have cool names like “forks” and “pins”. They are the “fun” part of chess. Most websites provide ample puzzles to teach tactics.
2. There’s plenty of time to worry about openings later

Don’t worry about studying openings until you have at least a 1200 rating. More has been written about openings than any other aspect of chess and it is a rabbit hole from which one might never emerge.

Wait on it.
Take solace in the idea that beginners’ focus on tactics is not just the best use of time, but conveniently, fun. Strategy including openings and end games come later (Elizabeth mentioned that endgame chess is especially fascinating to the mathematically inclined)
On the topic of chess and children including:

🏆 high standards
📏pushing too hard
On chess and gender
Why @YinhHinh and I support BCS
When I met Elizabeth finally, I was blown away. She is sharp as hell. She cares so much you can feel it. We want to spread the word and we are excited for what's to come.

It was my honor to meet Elizabeth (she works out everyday in case you needed even more inspiration!)
And if you want to capitalize on that Queen's Gambit energy, she recommends tutorials and play on 

It's totally free.

I'm MoontowerMeta on there (but have only been doing tutorials so far). Holidays will be a good time to dive in!

Tx for reading 🙏
You can follow @KrisAbdelmessih.
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