Wednesday, January 20, 2010

USCF Chess Coach Certification program

Today I received word that my application for level 4 chess coach certification has been approved. If you are not familiar with the program, USCF has started to put an official stamp on those who are qualified to teach chess.

At first, I was very skeptical of the program, our game has a few personalities that while rated highly are not the kind of people I would want teaching my kid. The certification has nothing to do with saying whether a person is a good teacher or has the classroom skills to be effective, it merely tests if someone has the base chess knowledge, and a track record to be successful.

When I stopped by the office in Crossville a couple weeks ago, I was told that about 50 or so applications had been submitted. When you consider that there are probably more than 50 people in Chicago teaching chess, it is safe to say that so far the program has been underutilized.

So the question is, does certifying coaches have merit? And how important will it be to schools in the coming years?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sponsorship in chess

For years, we have heard from many different people in our sport, that the key to chess becoming more mainstream, or accessable, or popular is sponsorship. Sponsorship for the GMs and top players so that they can support themselves. Sponsorship to lower the cost for kids to participate. Sponsorship to headline tournaments, increasing prize funds and interest in the game. It has been a buzzword and holy grail for many a chess politician.

From a chess point of view, how is it that other things that don't qualify as sports like spelling bees and poker can find financial angels, but our game can't? Well, the single biggest thing is this, we don't market well, and have no idea how to showcase our strengths or even present an attractive product.

When I have met with corporations about sponsoring kids tournaments, the first question I get asked is about the demographics of chess players or their parents. I asked USCF if any studies or surveys had been done detailing this, and the answer was unfortunately no. So how can we expect a corporation that is donating money for advertising and goodwill, to throw money at us when we can't even tell them who US is? The problem is that developing a report on this to be handed out to prospective sponsors is quite expensive, and why it has not been done yet.

USCF would be well served to make this investment, as it will likely pay off in the long run. We do have plenty to offer sponsors. Our players are bright consumers that are attractive to many industries. We do have something to offer, we just need to find the right box and bows to wrap it up in nicely.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Blogging Again

I'm BAAACK! After a 14 month absence from the blogosphere, I have decided to return to blogging...if there is anyone left out there reading these things. What have I been up to? Well, chesswise I have been involved in working with the Chicago Blaze, have run a 500 player National Youth Action tournament, been teaching, and am in the process of putting together my first big money adult tournament to take place in this December.

I will be posting about all of these things, as well as some of the current issues in Illinois chess which there are several hot topics.

Back to the Atlantic City International, which is the 50K prize fund event taking place in Atlantic City, NJ from December 17-19. Our goal (Tim Just's and myself), is to provide a different type of tournament experience than the typical Goichberg swiss (not that there is anything wrong with those). We will be providing boards and sets (trying to do clocks as well, but that doesn't look like it will happen). If you enjoy playing in these types of events, what type of side events, or perks would you like to see? We want to know. I am also looking at having a poker side event during the tournament, which would be interesting given the mass amount of chess players who have gravitated to poker. Our website for this event is

There is a lot going on chesswise, and I am hoping to start updating this blog 2-3 times per week. Check back early and often.