Chess in Sunrise: Tandem Simul and Evan's Six Steps to Chess Success

While in Florida, I met with two schools and had the wonderful opportunity to see some of the great work the National Scholastic Chess Foundation (NSCF) is doing with Sunrise Chess. It was great visiting the Pompano Youth Drug Treatment Center, the Sunrise Mayor’s Challenge and Bair Middle School. At 8:00 AM on Friday, September 27th, I met Sunrise Center for Excellence in Chess Program Director and NSCF Director of Communications & Development, Robert McLellan at the Pompano Youth Treatment Center*. I shared how when I interviewed for my last Corporate America job at Rapid 7, my hiring manager did not ask about data security; he just inquired about the National Master title listed on my resume. When I arrived, Instructor Chris Goldthorpe was playing a student, who captured a pawn without realizing that Chris could simply take the student’s knight with his queen. This interaction inspired me to offer the class a short guest lesson about captures. I had two main points:
  • GM Maxim Dlugy describes how chess is like a duel. In a duel, if someone asks to you to do something, you would not blindly cooperate. In a chess game, if your opponent offers you something- a piece, sacrifice, etc., you should not immediately go for it. While it’s possible your opponent blundered, you should first carefully analyze why he made that offer.
  • One should not make an exchange just because it’s a “fair trade.” Would you exchange 5 $1-dollar bills for a $5 bill? Sound’s reasonable- right? What if I told you that the vending machine did not have change and you could not purchase the refreshing $1 Coke? You may not be so happy! It is always good to consider trades but you should only do one if it helps your position.
Like the kids we teach on our annual Make a Difference in Africa trip, these students required little classroom management. As they have drug and behavioral issues, chess helps them to make friends, build self-esteem and develop critical thinking skills. 300+ attended Sunrise Mayor Mike Ryan’s Chess Challenge, including US Champion GM Hikaru Nakamura. The mayor officially proclaimed that Saturday, September 28 was “Jacorey Bynum day”. Jacorey was recognized for ranking in the top 100 among 11-years-olds in the nation, two years after Sunrise Area Coordinator Mourice Hylton taught him at a free summer program. The mayor shocked NSCF Executive Director Sunil Weeramantary with the 4th “Key to the City”; Sunil’s stepson Hikaru, a Sunrise resident.

A dozen players had the opportunity to play Women’s FIDE Master Amelia Hernandez and I in a tandem simul. While I’ve conducted several simuls before, there were two firsts for me:
  • Never have I played a tandem simul, where it’s challenging to adapt to your teammate style, openings, strategies, etc.
  • Never have I had the extra pressure of a US Champion watching the games. One participant mentioned he was concerned he was not putting up enough of a good fight; I quickly responded “Trust me; I bet you Hikaru is judging Amelia and I more than you.”
This event inspired 18 other Florida cities to host similar events. Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild visited our camp at Sonoran Science Academy.  Mayor De Blasio  and Chess in the Schools co-host the Mayor’s cup, which annually attracts 200+ students. More mayors should see how chess connects citizens from all ages, socio-economic classes, religions, etc. and helps teach life and business values. On Tuesday, October 1, gave a guest lecture at Bair Middle School. The kids enjoyed my talk about how chess has helped me make money since I was 12- years-old, boost my career and bring me to tournaments in 9 countries. Jacorey Bynum asked me how much I make through chess. While I wouldn’t divulge my income, I shared how in Premier Chess’ first fiscal year in 2018, I had the best financial year of my life. I then shared my six-step thought process, which can be used in all parts of the game:
  • Write down your opponent’s move.
  • Ask why he went there.
  • Come up with 3-4 candidate moves.
  • Use tree method and pick which move has the biggest ROI.
  • If you see a good move, look for a better move.
  • Do a blunder check.
After the lesson, I decided to let the students play as a team against me. While I would like to say I won, I have to say it was hard-fought draw! Looking forward to visiting some of these programs again soon; meanwhile I will am playing in the Canadian International Open in Montreal Oct 11-13 and Los Angeles Open Nov 1-3. Find out more about Premier Chess on their official website.  *corrected from previous version of this article, which said, "drug treatment center." The spelling of Jacorey was also corrected in several places of the article.