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On Chess: Have you thought about summer chess camps?

Students eagerly participate during summer camp at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center in 2016.
Austin Fuller | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis
Students eagerly participate during summer camp at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center in 2016.

Having served as Resident Grandmaster for the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis for the past three weeks, I have had the opportunity to interact with many children who demonstrate a passion for chess. Between school field trips, family visits, lectures and competitions, the club attracts a diverse range of players.

Talking with all these chess enthusiasts, I am often asked questions from parents or coaches about how they could help their children advance their chess knowledge. We discuss regular coaching and the opportunity to practice chess vy websites like chesskid.com and chessity.com. But I always remind them that summer is a tricky time for chess. It can be a time for the biggest advancement in a child’s chess strength but also the time for the biggest deterioration of the chess knowledge that they were able to gather during their school year. Summer is unique time. Kids have more time to engage in outside activities, but after-school chess programs are finished and mental stimulation is limited. My message to these parents and coaches is always clear: Send your kid to a chess camp.

Here are some answers to common questions about chess camp:

How much chess does my child need to understand coming into the camp? I believe it’s important for them to understand the very basics: chess rules and how the pieces move. This way they can hit the ground running; it is always more fun for the students when they have a chance to play. The camp will be very beneficial as students learn new strategies, ideas and get practical experience.

How old should a child be to attend a chess camp? I went to my first camp when I was turning 7 years old and I think that is a good age for a chess camp. However, there are children who play chess at younger ages and are capable of paying attention, which means those geniuses are ready for camp, as well. Parents who are hesitant about sending their children for a full day, can sign them up for half-day camps to see how they like the experience.

What are the major benefits of a chess camp? Camps can not only keep children motivated in chess, but also help them socialize with like-minded kids. When I was in camp, I learned about future chess possibilities, upcoming tournaments, met coaches in my area and ultimately found a coach with whom I wanted to work. I also met grandmasters who inspired me and became my role models.

If you have a child who is interested in chess, give him or her the opportunity to not only keep up with their peers when they are back at school from summer, but also to improve at something they love. There are various chess camps in the St. Louis area, four of which are organized by the Saint Louis Chess Club. You can find more information by going to their website or visiting the club. 

Katerina Nemcova is a Prague-born, Czech chess champion who learned to play at age 4. She won the national youth championship in eight different age categories on her ascent, topping out in 2008 as the Czech Women’s Champion and earning the title again in 2010. She has represented the Czech Republic as a three-time Olympic (2008, 2010, 2012) player and a gold-medalist as the second board at the European Women's Team Championship in 2007. Nemcova graduated with a degree in public relations from Webster University and was a member of the school's elite chess team.