Legends Chess

Note from Dave Hatton, Founder

In 2008, when my son was in kindergarten, he came home with an invitation to join his school’s Chess Club. A thought came to mind, “Oh. I like chess!” Since that day, chess was a means by which I was able to grow in my relationship with my son. There are so many skills in chess that transfer over to real life. Most of the time, you see someone run off a list of areas that chess helps kids. Let me try to give you some more concrete ones:

  • Memorization – chess involves several pieces with different movements. Even the lowly pawn has at least five different moves that it can make.
  • Adjustment – early on, players want to just be able to take the king to win (That is not allowed). They need to adjust to the fact that they never truly capture the king in the sense that they take it off of the board. To capture means to trap, to be caused not to move to any other square while it is “checked” on it’s own square.
  • Perseverance – students need to stop, see all of the possible moves, then choose their best move. They need to persevere through this thinking process before making a move.
  • Change of plans – sometimes when we are in the middle of a game, our opponent makes a move that we did not expect. Being able to adjust our game to a new scenario is something top level players are always striving to get better at.
  • Thinking ahead – if I make this move now, how will it affect my game three, four, five moves down the road. This is obviously a life skill also.
  • Confidence – chess players grow more confident over time as they continue to improve their game.
  • Cross-hemispherical – Chess requires a mix of logic and creativity – therefore using both hemispheres of the brain.
  • Stamina – as players get better, they realize that they it is the players with the most stamina that win the games – for the ENTIRE game.

It was with this in mind that I decided that I needed to get my own students playing the game of chess. Despite not being that great a player, I managed to help my team grow and prosper in the game. After two years of chess, out elementary school team finished in 7th place out of 92 schools in the Arizona State Governor’s Cup Chess Championship. I realized that I’d hit upon a beneficial way to coach my players without having to be the best player. I’d be hard-pressed to find a coach that I could beat out of those 92 schools! In any case, I wanted to take this formula to those schools which did not have this available to them – Title 1 schools. Title 1 schools are schools that are in low income areas. They get extra funding through government programs to maintain as much balance between the non-Title 1 schools. Conversely, chess organizations that currently offer programs in the Valley do not offer chess to schools that cannot bring in cold hard cash. My school had to rely on donations from very generous people to fund our chess team. While the cost of purchasing materials was not high, the cost of entering tournaments was borderline unreachable. I knew we would not be able to sustain this pace for the years to come, so I decided to do something about it. At the same time, I wanted to make it available to other schools.

Legends Chess was born.

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