Monday, November 3, 2014

Summer Chess Fun

Summer time for 8 million kids in the United States includes a plethora of summer camps. Sun Valley, Idaho is no different but includes a rather unique one.  The Chess Rage Day Camp is a week long chess extravaganza that is designed to engage, encourage, and excite young chess players, mostly new to the game.  The camp is held every summer at the Community Campus, Hailey, Idaho and is open to players of all levels and skill in elementary or middle school.  Over the past few years the camp has increased from four campers to thirty-four campers!

Mr. Adam Porth,Silver Creek High School Science Teacher and Chess Coach, indicates that the purpose of the camp is several fold but the guiding concept is fun!  The week long camp is hosted by the Blaine County School District Chess Club and produces an affordable alternative ($125/week!) to the numerous athletic-oriented camps around the Wood River Valley.  But ‘no child is left behind’ as the camp accepts players, even if they can only pay a penny!  “It surprises many parents that we can provide chess lessons and activities for nearly five hours each day and keep the kids so engaged and craving more afterwards!” describes Coach Porth.

Counselors were players from the high school chess team (current Idaho State Champions) and attend either Silver Creek High School or Wood River High School.  “Teaching chess is a great way to expand your own abilities,”  says Coach Porth.  Camper-counselor ratios were 4 to 1.  The high school counselors become icons to the younger kids and this enhanced counselors’ self-esteem as they are the “experts” in the camper’s eyes.  “This camp makes the counselors feel like grandmasters,” says Porth.

A typical day included mate in 1, 2, 3 problems on large display boards (or chess mazes) as a warm up.  Players would then meet with a counselor and work to check off chess skills on a skill sheet (64 beginning skills).  During this hour, the counselors also taught openings, traps, and just played with their group.  We then came back together as a large group and I taught chess tactics and strategies using “think, pair, share” techniques.   Afterwards, a snack break commenced with fruit, cookies, and juices.  

After break, campers would play for an hour and the counselors got to “disappear” while I monitored all the games in my classroom.  After a catered lunch, we played Memory Boards where I would display a chess position for ten seconds on the promethean display board and then take it away.  Campers would then work with a partner to replicate the position.  Each counselor was in charge of a station in the afternoon and campers could roam between blitz, bughouse, giant chess, standard chess, chess problems, or snap-on electronics.

The week also included some other fun activities.  The Brooklyn Knights movie was shown one afternoon in the Community Campus Theater.  A simultaneous exhibition against the BCSD Chess Club Co-Champions was held with Dylan Porth and Tyler Avila each playing 14 campers.  Tyler lost one game and Dylan had one draw.  And, we even played Kickball chess (a fusion of cricket, baseball, bowling, and chess!).  With all this, we never got to do the watermelon hunt!

And what would a chess camp be without a chess tournament?  The Chess Rage Day Camp Open Chess Tournament was a cordial affair, as we stressed sportsmanship throughout the camp.  We also held the Counselors Tournament concurrently.  After the tournament, personalized awards for each camper were presented with proud parents observing.  

Winners included Spencer Gaudreau (5th grade, Alturas Elementary), Joe Hall (8th grade, Community School), and veteran Quentin Van Law (5th grade, Alturas Elementary).  Each had 4.0 points and won trophies.  Chess books donated by Norman Friedman, formerly Manhattan Chess Club and the Right Move Co-founder, were distributed to 4th and 5th place winners.  Ribbons were presented to 6th and 7th place.  In the Counselors tournament, Dylan Porth (9th grade, Wood River High School) won 1st and a book, Keegan Crowson (11th grade, Silver Creek High School) was 2nd place, and Andre Murphy was third place (11th grade, Wood River High School).

Each camper received a medal and a personalized certificate with a picture of themselves playing chess during the week, but there were other prizes, too.  Chess books from Norman Friedman and ribbons were for special prizes.  Spencer Gaudreau completed over 200 chess problems during the week, Devin Karst (8th grade, Wood River Middle School) scored the highest grades on the chess tests, and Joe Hall recorded the most games.  They each won a book.  As part of the camp, all players were provided a rollup chess board and carrier and a camp t-shirt.

It was a great week of mental exhaustion for the campers which had them crying for more by the end, however.  The key to hosting a successful camp is ‘keep ‘em hungry’ to play and always have more than you can possibly do. (See article in the Northwest Chess Magazine).

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