As the proud parents of an 8 year old child who enthusiastically wished (past tense) to learn the art of playing chess, my wife and I enrolled our son in Friday night classes at The Berkeley Chess School location in Walnut Creek (Grace Presbyterian Church). My wife was told at sign-up that the class was for beginners, and the web description stated "all students must know how the pieces move and have an enthusiasm for chess." Unfortunately, this was not enough; my son and several other new members were "tested" by the instructor, who wanted to know if they truly knew how to play the game. Of course they didn't; that is precisely why my wife and I enrolled my son in the class to begin with! Naturally, the instructor beat my son in just a few moves, at which point he informed my wife (son easily within earshot) that my son simply didn't know how to play chess, and for that reason, he couldn't continue in the class. After my son was shamed in front of a class full of strangers, he started to cry. This was a traumatic event for him, and a terrible introduction to one of the world's greatest board games. In a later discussion between the instructor and the site leader, I recounted how terrible it was for an 8 year old to be shamed in front of his peers and to be asked to leave the class because he was not good enough for it. Worse, my son's treatment was NOT an anomaly, as two other young children also were summarily given the boot for the same reason. I suggested to the class instructor and the site leader, Peter Klein, that the two of them apologize to my son for embarrassing him and having him removed from the beginner's chess class. Peter smirked, he rolled his eyes and he refused to acknowledge that anything was amiss other than the fact that the class description did not match the instructor's expectations of his students' chess skill. He later walked away without apologizing or even remotely addressing my concerns. How's that for empathy, respect and modeling pro-social behavior?
As a recently retired teacher, I have been reflecting on my best memories and successes. One of these best memories comes from the experience of observing the enthusiasm and transformation of my 5th grade students as they as they were guided skillfully and confidently through the chess lessons provided by the instructors from the Berkeley School of Chess. These lessons always had a positive influence on the rest of their academics as well as on the social-emotional aspect of their learning. THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. Emily Rosa
Loving the upgrades and child play area for the extra little ones.
This is an amazing and unique non-profit organization that brings chess to so many children, adults, and families throughout the Bay Area. My family enjoys their many high-quality tournaments, as well as their chess instruction at a variety of levels from beginner to advanced. A couple of my children learned to play chess with Berkeley Chess School, and they moved through the lessons from beginner to master! Grandmaster Sam Shankland, ranked #1 in California, also teaches at the Berkeley Chess School (and he is a former student himself), which speaks to the success of this organization that has been a fixture in the community since 1982! I particularly appreciate how BCS makes a genuine effort to encourage disadvantaged youth and underrepresented populations to experience the benefits of chess through their outreach in Title 1 schools and their girls team (the Queens) and unparalleled girls tournaments. Thank you BCS for helping my children learn and advance in chess, as well as for helping them gain more confidence, study skills, interpersonal skills, spatial reasoning, planning abilities, and resilience in academics and life.
My son took chess many years ago at BCS. It was the one (and only!) activity he loved and looked forward to all week long--that one hour of, "after school chess". As he progressed, he got involved in Friday Night Chess, tournaments, summer camps, etc. Soon, his whole life was focused on chess! Prior to chess, we tried other activities: sports (gymnastic, soccer, baseball, etc), art, music, etc., but the interest just wasn't there. I am so glad we found chess and BCS was there for him! The staff was absolutely amazing and worked with him to find the appropriate class/program for him (BCS has many). There were disappointments when he was not able to take a class because he simply did not qualify. With hard work and determination, he was able to get there. Chess taught him the value of a strong work ethic and perseverance. Thank you Berkeley Chess School!!!