There were over 1000 players at this event. Chess has many levels of competitive play, with tournament sections often designated by school grade. While a tournament for individual competition may have sections organized by grade or US Chess Federation (USCF, see www.uschess.orgfor more information) rating, school team tournaments are structured by grade level. Typical team sections are: K-1 (Kindergarten & 1st graders), K-3 (may overlap with K-1 and, if so, would primarily have 2nd& 3rd graders), K-5 (stronger younger players, primarily 4th & 5th graders), K-8 (middle school), and K-12 (high school).

So, how does a school create and develop a chess team, particularly a strong, competitive team? While there is no pat formula, here are suggestions for building and developing a successful, long-term program culled from schools known for their award-winning chess teams.
One of the best experiences a child can have at school is to be part of a strong, enthusiastic school team. The most successful school chess teams have consistent parent involvement over consecutive school years. The best way to improve in chess is to play often with different people at equivalent or greater skill levels than oneself. If you’re fortunate to live in an area with frequent scholastic chess tournaments, take advantage of the bounty and encourage your child to play at least one a month. Kids love to be with their schoolmates as they “take on” kids from rival schools in the community, and oftentimes friendships will develop between chess kids who otherwise would have never met. Coordinating parental supervision and carpool duty is very helpful, as tournaments often span a full day and some run longer.
It may be a cliché, but teaching kids that sometimes it’s not just winning, but how one plays the game, is important for both individual character and team development. Applaud the kids’ best efforts and positive attitudes, and they will learn to support their teammates and feel more appreciated and confident in their own playing abilities. It’s not easy to shake an opponent’s hand after a loss, but a game well played can be respected in its own right. From time to time, a child should be reminded by a parent or respected teacher or coach that it’s more important in life to be considered a good, decent person than just a successful player. Remind the kids when they’re feeling dejected that they’ll “live to fight another day” and that they can take pride in playing better and better with every match, as they learn to examine their mistakes and understand how to improve their game.

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