A Creative Approach to Teaching Chess Online

Rich Boschetti, DPIE Academy Director
February 18, 2021

It is said that “necessity is the mother of invention.”  When it comes to the pandemic and the DPIE After School program, that description could not have been more accurate.  Our chess partner, Pacific Chess Academy, has moved to online classes and made it a positive and rewarding experience for its students.

DPIE has partnered with Mr Jeff Pernik, the owner of the Pacific Chess Academy, for the last four years to bring chess instruction to students in the Dublin School District.  The in-class program grew rapidly over the years and chess became one of DPIE’s most in-demand classes.   However, when the pandemic hit two weeks into the 2019-2020 After School Spring session, many students had to drop out because instructors were not able to “pivot” and offer their courses in an online format.  That was certainly not the case with our chess program.  Mr. Pernik was totally vested in continuing chess education and was able to continue chess instruction using Zoom, virtual chess boards and live instructors through the Spring and then our 2020 Summer program.

Innovative Approach to Teaching Chess

Moving to an online format, Mr Pernik hired computer programmers and invested heavily in making his online chess classes, interactive, challenging, flexible and fun for students.  Asked about those changes Mr Pernik explained, “It was important that we continue to offer our courses so students could build on the skills they had already learned, but to do that, we had to create an online infrastructure that would enable kids to play the game of chess.  We’ve come a long way in less than a year and we think kids are definitely enjoying the program.”

Highlighting Changes

  • Pacific Chess switched from a Zoom to an “All in One” chess platform hosted on their website, which allows his instructors to combine lessons with students playing.
  • Students can now play together during class time.
  • Instructors can play all students simultaneously, providing an additional challenge for students.
  • Introduced several different kinds of online tournaments for kids so they can test their skills against their classmates.
    • Mini tournaments can be held during class time
    • Larger district-wide tournaments can be held outside of the normal class schedule.
    • The website has been modified so that students can meet other students virtually any time of the day or night or on the weekend and play chess.

Our goal is for kids to keep playing chess and to have fun while they are learning.  The more they play the more they come to understand the strategy that is needed to become a competitive chess player,” said Mr Pernik.

Online Tournaments

Kids enjoy the challenge of playing in tournaments.  Playing chess in a competitive format is a great way to make new friends, to help students learn to focus their minds, think creatively as well as strategically to find solutions for the problems that confront them in the game.  This is how kids improve their game and why we offer them the opportunity to play in a variety of tournament formats.   

Kids can participate in speed tournaments with 10-minute games where they have to think and move quickly, team tournaments where they complete against an opposing team and accumulate a team score as well as open tournaments where students complete in open competition to determine who is the best. 

This winter we have offered a three-day tournament on January 22, 29 and February 5.  On the first day everyone will play, on day two the 12 best players will complete against one another and on the final day the top 6 players will compete against one another in a 5 round tournament to determine the best player.  As a professional chess teacher, I enjoy watching the improvement in the kids playing ability and love seeing how they develop their ability to think strategically. Given the Bay Area is such a diverse area, chess helps to bring students closer together and encourages better understanding and respect of people, who are different from ourselves.

Positive Student and Parent Feedback

Aditya Ashwin is a third-grade student at Cottonwood Creek School who has been taking chess courses through the After School Program for the last three years. Asked about the transition to the online format Ashwin said, “The chess classes are just as much fun as when we are in the classroom. Chess is a fun game to play because its challenging and it teaches you to think about what your opponent is trying to do and strategize how you are going to win.  Its fun playing different students in the class and in tournaments because each person plays differently and you learn different ways to play the game.”

Asked why he thinks students should take up chess, Aditya said, “they should learn to play chess because it’s a lot of fun and helps you focus and develops you mind.  If I lose, I get more determined and I enjoy practicing different situations on the chess board. Practice helps make me a better player and someday I would like to be a grandmaster.”

Asked about Ashwin’s participation in the Chess classes, his mother, Ms. Alankar Bandyopadhayay said, “Over the last three years, even with the online format, Ashwin’s enthusiasm for chess continues to grow, it’s never a question with him about continuing to enroll.  Even though classes are now online, he continues to improve as a chess player. A lot of that is because the instructor does a great job of developing personal relationships with the students and that makes a great difference for kids.  From a parent’s point of view, I like seeing Ashwin’s personality and strategic thinking development over time.   He’s learning you can’t win every match and losing can be difficult for kids to handle.  But he is also learning that chess is about more than one move, there is strategy involved and you need to think through what you want to do.  In fact, because he is so interested in getting better at chess, we gave him a copy of the book, Greatest First Moves for the holidays.” 

We have offering beginners, intermediate and advanced classes in our Spring After School Program- click here to enroll and find out more details.