Scholastic Chess in the U.S. is Booming Out of Control

Thanks everyone for your awesome blogging suggestions again. There are definitely a lot of topics I want to cover in future weeks that you’ve asked about, but since I just got back from the 29th U.S Chess School, and someone asked:

how about your experience this past week with your students at the marshall club? smart kids, interesting environment, would be a great read.

I figure this would be a great time to talk about that camp!

For those who don’t know, the United States Chess School is an invitation only camp in which I invite some of the top rated kids in the nation. Our annual camp in New York is typically the strongest one, as there are a lot of top players focused in the NYC area, and we hold it immediately after the World Open which means that quite a few non local kids are still in the area.

These camps are difficult for me sometimes, because the students are very good at chess and so I have to be really prepared. However here are some key points to take away:

1. It’s so awesome to be able to invite multiple girls to my camps without feeling like I’m doing it just to be inclusive.

At this last camp we had three very talented girls in Akshita Gorti, Jennifer Yu and Carissa Yip. They are all 13 or younger, and their average rating is close to 2300. I admit that in past camps I’ve invited girls simply because they were girls, and maybe overlooked boys who were technically more qualified, but now I don’t have to worry about it at all. Also there are at least 3-4 other girls throughout the nation that would easily fit into a camp like this. I also like that at least one of these girls has general contempt for the idea of “girls chess tournaments”.

2. There are kids that are not very well known nationally, who just ten years ago would have been considered a major sensation

I don’t think that so many people around the country know kids like Nico Checa, John Michael Burke, David Brodsky or Hans Niemann. Nico is probably the most well known since he has been ranked in the top 1 or 2 for his age for many years now, but the others have sort of just come out of nowhere. John just got his first IM norm at the World Open at 13 and is rated above 2400, while Hans and David are both 12 year old 2300+ players.

Meanwhile back in 2006 Robert Hess was 14 years old, rated 2450, considered an absolute genius and surefire future star. He ended up proving people right by making the GM title at a young age and then finishing second place in the U.S. Championship. Ray Robson was 12 years old and rated 2250 at the time, and also considered to be one of the greatest talents ever seen in U.S. chess. Lastly there was Marc Arnold, who was 13 years old and rated 2325. All three of these players became GM’s, and Ray is currently a strong GM who will be competing in the U.S. Championship for years to come.

Well believe it or not, every single kid listed above is on a trajectory that could predict bigger results than those three, and some of the girls listed in my previous section, and other students from our camp, are as well. Nico is a year younger than Robert was and has the same rating. Both David and Hans are the same age that Ray Robson was, but over 50 points higher rated. John is the same age as Marc Arnold was but is about 100 points higher rated. The only reason these specific kids are not as talked about as they would have been ten years ago, is because there are just so many of them these days, along with some other ridiculous geniuses like Jeffery Xiong, Sam Sevian, Awonder Liang and Akshat Chandra (who just won the U.S. Junior Closed!).

You don’t have to go back ten years to see such massive changes either…I think in just the past 3-4 years there has been an explosion in skill from our very young kids and it’s going to lead to a very different chess landscape in five more years.

3. The scholastic chess world is being dominated by home schooled kids.

I believe that just about half of our 15 students at this last camp were home schooled. Many of the top rated kids in the nation are also home schooled. These kids are absolute geniuses, and by not going to regular schools, they have the opportunity to spend 4-5+ hours per day on chess every day, while still finding many avenues to learn about other topics and get plenty of social interaction with kids their age.

I know there are a lot of people on both sides of the issue when it comes to home schooling but I am very strongly opposed to anyone who thinks that home schooling is a bad thing (the arguments honestly offend me), and it’s definitely helping these children to achieve their maximum potential in chess.

Chess in the United States is booming out of control at both the scholastic level (for boys and girls), and at the professional level (We have three players in the top 10!). It makes running a program like the U.S. Chess School so much easier when there are so many qualified children around the country to invite each time, and every year it gets easier and easier.

3 thoughts on “Scholastic Chess in the U.S. is Booming Out of Control

  1. Home schooling may be good for a kid’s opportunity to develop his or her chess potential, but I have a hard time seeing how it could be good for the kids’ overall educational development, or for society as a whole. Excuse my stereotyping, but isn’t there a high correlation between home schoolers and anti-vaxers, evolution- and climate-deniers, doomsday-preppers/gun nuts, 9-11 “truthers”, and other shades of conspiracy folks?


  2. Jon, you are indeed displaying your ignorance. Ironically you are the one who is a walking/regurgitating stereotype. And a bigot to boot.

    Recently a local parent was arguing with me over homeschooling. His “arguments” were just as shallow. Ultimately I asked him how many homeschooled kids he’d actually met – because I’d met and worked with thousands upon thousands.

    He said, “Well, none.”

    Except that he was an MIT-educated scientist! I asked him if “evidence” was an important concept in his thought processes….if they taught the scientific method at MIT.

    If you come to NYC (or Boston or San Francisco)….you’d learn that many pagans, socialists, tree-huggers, and “pro-science” secularists homeschool. In fact they dominate these areas. Oh yeah, and many of THEM don’t vaccinate. Things are just not as binary as you’d like to believe.

    Homeschoolers used to be 100% Christians but they are down to more like 40% these days – more in line with the overall population. And they represent the MOST diverse group of people to be found anywhere – as one might expect among true “freethinkers”.


  3. Throughout history, it is always the ones screaming “the debate is over” that are the true “science deniers”. This applies to “global warming” in spades.

    By and large, males hate competing against females. This is not sexist, its just the way nature set things up.


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