Chess Coach Stories
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Started by metmike - July 29, 2021, 7:23 p.m.

Please scroll down for the latest posts/additions.

mcfarmer  mentioned  my devotion to scholastic chess in another link. I thought that others might enjoy some stories about it, featuring some former students.

I'll add those when I get a chance this week and beyond.

This is the annual tournament that I run. It was cancelled because of COVID in 2021 but hopefully will return in 2022. I've had over 3,500 students over the last 24 or so years and some very fond memories/stories to share.

One of the most rewarding things that a person could ever do and I was blessed to be in a position to do it.

  Wonderful Chess Tournament                        

                10 responses |            

                Started by metmike - March 2, 2020, 4:17 p.m.     


 Chess tournament November 16, 2019            

                            6 responses |                1 like            

                                          Started by metmike - Nov. 16, 2019, 9:12 p.m.    

By metmike - Aug. 2, 2021, 11:28 p.m.
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In the mid 1990's:

I had 2 sons, Mac and Quinn going to Scott School (grades K and 3 at the time). I signed them up to play chess and would often come early to get them on Wednesday's and help out the chess coach at the time, Tim McLaughlin(who was divorced). 

Tim's son, Daniel was the same age as our son Quinn.

Daniel and  Quinn were both in the same Cub Scout Den, where I was their den I knew Tim and his son from that organization too. I was aware that Tim had some serious health problems because of damage to his body from long lived severe diabetes.  

He was getting dialysis because his kidneys had failed and had to sleep sitting up because of lung/circulation issues that prevented him from laying down.

He told me numerous times, that his dream was to get kids in our chess program signed up in the K-5  city tournament, held at Lodge elementary(I found out the location later), around 12 miles south of Scott School. 

In February 1998, one chess Wednesday, when my sons Quinn in 4th grade and Mac in 1st grade at the time, were supposed to go to chess after school......they came home directly after school on the bus.

My first response was being perturbed and I sort of scolded Quinn "You know it's Wednesday and you guys were supposed to stay after school for chess!'

He immediately responded: "No dad, there was no chess today because the chess coach died!!"

Whoa. How often in a person's life  does your activity  suddenly get canceled because the coach died?

So I first called Tim's parents( who were raising their grandson, Daniel and his younger sister Lena because Tim was so sick) to offer condolences and to find out what happened.

They actually knew this was coming because Tim was so dang sick. They were not surprised a bit.

Then, I called Mrs. Bartley, the principle at Scott School and still remember the conversation like it was a few days ago. 

Mike:  I'm so sorry to hear that Tim McLaughlin died last night. Do you have somebody to replace him as chess coach?

Mrs Bartley: Raaf Stevens offered to be our new chess coach after he gets off work at 5pm but nobody will come back to school for chess!  If we can't find somebody that can do it immediately after school(dismissal was 2:10 pm) we won't be able to have chess anymore.

Mike: I called you because I can do it right after school. I can be the new chess coach. 

The following Wednesday, in late Feb 1998, was my first of more than 1,000 chess practices(with around 3,500 kids)  at 5 different schools.

2024: That number is now around 4,500!

This was before the internet made it easy to look things up and send out mass emails to people. 

I did some detective work and made tons of phone calls and  found out about the chess tournament that Tim spoke of at Lodge Elementary. Each school was allowed to bring 20 students and just our luck, it was still  2 weeks away, right after school and they would have 20 spots for us if I could convince 20 sets of parents to let their kids go and to make arrangements for transportation.

But the tournament was in less than 2 weeks. Time to get to work. 

So over the next week, I got the names of all the students doing chess and got the front office to give me their parents phone number.  Then I called all the parents to recruit their children for the chess tournament. Lots of messages and call backs. 

Being immediately after school meant they needed transportation from Scott to Lodge, when most parents were working.....then needed transportation home after the tournament.

I had a full sized van that could hold 7 students but needed a bunch of help to get the other 13 students there.

The parents in my chess programs have always been extremely generous in helping thru the years. 

I got  half a dozen parents(all Moms not working) to volunteer to drive and also take with them, a few other kids.

All the other schools there had been going to the tournament for years. We had the maximum 20 on that day.

I'd actually been to Lodge Elementary a couple of times before. In 1985?  As chief meteorologist at WEHT, I did the weather from their gym stage, where they were having a Christmas play. While I did the weathercast, they had fake snow falling from above and on top of me. Pretty cool back in those days.

Another time to talk to a group of students studying weather in their science class. I was lucky enough to visit over 100 schools doing this between my previous life (-:

At that tournament, each student played 4 games. There was not enough time for the 2 hour tournament to go to a point where we got just 1 champ. At the end, we would have 4-7 undefeated champs.  There was usually  a dozen different schools there and over 100 students. 

In our first year, Scott had 5 out of the 7 undefeated champs.....doing better than any other school!

I remember a lot of the parents telling me afterwards......."wow, you must be a really good chess coach!"

Wrong, they just had really smart kids and I hardly taught them anything at that point. To me, this still seemed like Tim's team and students. All I did was get everybody to the tournament that he had dreamed about being in.

There's a huge, profound lesson to learn about here that I will share in a short while

By metmike - Aug. 4, 2021, 11:34 a.m.
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The message and lesson is about Tim McLaughlin, the chess coach at Scott Elementary that died in February 1998.

A very sick man, who in his last couple of years, instead of feeling sorry for himself decided to make use of a chess coach at his son, Daniel's elementary school. 

Just by chance, my sons were in his chess program and because of Tim, I appreciated the benefits to chess playing at the organized level to my children (vs just playing them at home).

Without Tim, there was a 0% chance that I would have, on my own thought "hey, I think I'll start up a chess club for my kids at their school".

Tim, actually didn't think up the idea either. The previous principle at Scott, Mr. Bob Kraft had been the chess coach for some time until he retired, in 1994?......then Tim took over. So Tim was just a very sick but dedicated human conduit passing the chess program baton on to me from Mr. Kraft.

When Tim suddenly died, however and I was trading commodities for a living, had total freedom of schedule(my previous job, chief meterologist at WEHT doing the Noon, 5, 6 and 10 pm shows would have meant being a weekend dad-not knocking that because many dads have to earn a living but I was blessed to be in this position).

So I was suddenly do something that I couldn't have imagined doing just a week earlier but when Quinn told me that coach Tim had died, it suddenly hit me that this was what I was intended to do!

This new appreciation for organized scholastic chess and my flexibility, blossomed into chess expanding to my son's middle school, then the high school when the same kids in the program got older and wanted to continue to play chess. Then Scott grew and we had another NEW elementary school. Both those schools grew and we got a 3rd elementary school.

Here it is, 23 years, 5 schools(currently) and 3,500 students later:  Scott, Oak Hill, McCutchanville Elementary, North Junior High and North High School.

All because a man who was dying at a young age saw an opportunity to give something special to a group of children at his sons school during his last couple of years.

Without Tim, none of this would have happened. None of these students would have had the opportunity to compete in "The Sport for the Brain".

This is the quintessential example of an unselfish/giving act that was only intended to benefit a small group, maybe only with one person in mind(his son)........blossoming into something hundreds of times bigger and way beyond anything imagined at the time of giving.

This same thing is happening constantly in our world today on  a smaller scale and virtually unnoticed.

People are doing kind acts for other people all the time. This may do nothing more than brighten up the day of the benefactor, which in turn, results in the benefactor having an improved frame of mind and doing  kind acts for others.

We often feel powerless to do anything to make the huge world a better place, especially with all the pervasive/massive negatively and divisiveness ready to snuff out the significance of any small acts that we might do.

It's understandable to feel that way because nobody is presenting us with the manual for making the world a better place. 

But all of us have the power to make our tiny worlds a tiny bit better for many of the people we encounter every day. Something as easy as a smile and positive attitude/encouragement/offering assistance. with a problem or gratitude/appreciation for them as your friend.

If you disagree, then maybe you just haven't put enough effort into it's extremely effective. 

It really can make other people's world better and helps empower you because of being engaged in endeavors that bring joy/positives to the lives of other people. 

It's not magic and doesn't work every single time.......right before your eyes because some people that we encounter will ignore attempts to brighten their world, no matter what we do for them.

Try to not let that discourage you. Sometimes it's difficult and sometimes YOU are the one that needs a friend to lift YOU up.  The more lifters we have in the world, the higher it will be lifted!

By metmike - Aug. 4, 2021, 12:21 p.m.
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Here are tons of ideas on how to go about doing this:

                Use this to help make yourself a better person!    

By metmike - Aug. 4, 2021, 12:44 p.m.
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One of my favorite stories about individual students is about Zach Wade.

The last couple of times that I told it to my family, it made me cry(with joy).

That's  next.

By metmike - Oct. 16, 2021, 11 p.m.
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It took me forever to get to the next story.....but you'll like it.

When I took over as chess coach at Scott Elementary, my youngest son, Mac was in 1st grade.

He was actually pretty gifted at chess, even an undefeated champ in 4th grade at our biggest tournament.

But he decided never to play again after 5th grade. I always tell parents to never MAKE their kids play chess or they will end up hating chess. So I let Mac decide for himself. 

Odd for the chess coaches kid, starting in 6th grade to not be on the chess club at that school.......but I always respected HIS choices on non mandatory activities outside the classroom (his older brother, Quinn played chess for several years after that)

Anyways, when Mac got into 2nd grade, besides being the chess coach for his school, I was den leader for his cub scouts, his baseball coach, basketball coach and soccer coach. 

In addition, I was one of the room Mom's(the only Dad) for his class and one of the  chaperones for their field trips. At the field trips, they would assign several students for each parent.

They would always  gave me the mischievous boys because I was probably the most experienced dad at the school in handling mischievous boys.

Besides my own son, the only student that I remember specifically from interactions at the school setting that particular year was Zach Wade.

Zach was a small, often quiet boy(that could be pretty conversational when he started talking to you) that would give you a little sheepish grin when you interacted with him and he was happy much of the time. He had long hair that was tied in the back into a pony tail that  was a bit different than most kids. He had thick glasses. He was all covered in freckles(just like his mom-a spitting image/male version of her).  He was pretty intelligent and had some good perspectives on things. 

His most memorable trait though was an EXPLOSIVE temper and withdrawal afterwards. He wouldn't hit kids or get violent but when he lost it, which was frequently and sometimes over trivial issues... he would blow his top in EXTREME fashion .........then  completely shut down. He would cry and just want to stand in a corner  and withdraw away from everybody completely for a very long time and it would take, like 30+ minutes for him to slowly come out of it.

This happened alot too. I wasn't there enough to know back then but  maybe several times every week in class?

So my son Mac and Zach went into 3rd grade and they were in the same class again. Then, one night I got a call from Zach's  Dad. He wanted help for his son and was having parenting issues and personal issues and the school had given him my name and phone number because they thought I might be able to give Zachs dad some advice on good parenting.

I spoke with him for over an hour about some things and you could tell he really loved Zach and wanted the best for him but his Dad had some serious problems. He was petrified that Zach was going to grow up just like him.

He called me because he loved his son so much. Desperate for help with a situation because he wanted his son to grow up right and not be damaged by him. Zach's extreme reactions in group situations were a very alarming sign.

I told him that I would try to work with Zach at chess and that it would be a great opportunity for Zach to learn to interact with other kids without losing his temper over trivial things.

Keep in mind that I was still a pretty young dad myself and had just taken over a chess program because the previous chess coach died, with no formal training. My experience for several years was just being the parent leading/coaching all my sons group activities/sports teams and helping at school.  This family needed some major professional help........but I found something that was free that helped  be part of a  miracle(we can thank his mom, Susan and Zach for most of that). 

This is when I really got to know Zach. If he was losing or lost a game,  he would knock all the pieces flying off the board  and sometimes they would hit kids playing nearby.

 99% of chess coaches would have kicked a kid like that out of chess, especially when it happened almost every time when he lost or even was starting to lose.  I was actually most worried that another kid was going to get hurt from chess pieces that might hit them in the face.

But this poor little kid was hurting with some issues that he couldn't control and his classmates didn't want to be around him.......and  you know kids, some might even make fun of him and he really needed some friends. Abandoning him would have been the exact worst thing. But of course, I only had him for 1 hour every week and was realistic in thinking  that 1 hour is probably not going to make much difference in his life. However,  it at least might help a tiny bit and I actually don't have the heart to kick out or turn away any kids out of the 3,500 I coached. ........though there have been quite a few that didn't come to play chess and most coaches would have kicked out. 

They're all good kids and some just need a place to go after school and all of them, at least play some chess and many are there because Mom and Dad want them to be there. 

Zach, however REALLY liked chess. Nobody was making him go. He enjoyed playing which is how it ended up turning out so well.

I'm certain that I made ZERO progress with Zach in 3rd grade. If anything, his explosive temper, then withdrawing  got a bit worse. ....things at home were not going well and it was worse than any kid I had in 24 years and this was just my 3rd year as a chess coach. I don't remember once thinking of kicking him out though.

When he wasn't having a temper tantrum, Zach was actually a pretty sweet kid that would open up, be friendly and conversational, intelligent and likeable.

So we started 4th grade and Zach was really bad. Then early in the chess season......his dad died!!

Whoa! No telling what sort of extreme adversity had been going on at home with this poor kid.  I decided to no longer have him play other students most of the time because fellow 4th graders were in no way equipped to deal with this, let alone assist Zach with his psychological issues. Most were more apt to make it worse with the typical reaction of a 4th grader to Zachs behavior.

Zac mainly just played me for much of the season and I had a plan to help him. 

When we played, I always beat him but I was determined to teach him how to be a graceful loser. Not just a lesson on becoming a  better chess player like the other students got but to obtain the ability to think clearly when he was losing or lost...........instead of going into a rage, then withdrawing every time.

In the first couple of games that year, like usual he would knock all the pieces flying, especially if you captured his queen at any stage in the game.

Of course, the chess coach is thinking several moves ahead. With most young  kids, I will often tell them my moves before I  do them  to see if they can figure out a way to defend it and stop me.

With Zach, there was a different twist. I wouldn't tell him the exact moves for him to defend as much as I would tell Zach "I'm getting ready to capture your queen Zach"  Think about having that happen. Imagine it in your head and accept it without knocking the pieces off the board.

"Here it comes Zach, I'm taking your queen now but you already knew this was coming and are prepared for it"

His face would turn all red and eyes would bulge out and he would hold his breath but he wouldn't knock all the pieces flying off the board.

Hurrah! I would congratulate Zach on losing but doing it while controlling his emotions by not knocking the pieces flying.

He actually made incredible progress in 4th grade. By the end of the year, he must have gone something like 10 games in a row without knocking the chess pieces flying. 

I was so proud of him! 

So after chess had ended, I went to Tri State Trophy and ordered him a special trophy and had them put "Most Improved Player" on the name plate.

I spoke with his teacher, Mrs. Steadman(my son Mac was in his homeroom again that year so I was in touch with her on other things going on in the class) and she made some time for me to give a special presentation to Zach in front of the class recognizing him.

He obviously enjoyed the recognition  at the time and the following year, Zac still had some less serious issues but I don't remember him ever knocking the pieces off the board again.

I figured he would probably forget about the trophy as he grew up. My sons got a dozen trophies from playing soccer, basketball and baseball, mostly with me as the coach or commissioner. Zac didn't do any of those sports.

Zach continued to play chess and control his temper almost all the time. He signed up to be in some of the competitive, Scholastic Chess of Indiana tournaments that I've always entered  the students in and did well.

However, when he was playing for us at Oak Hill Middle School(in a Scholastic Chess of Indiana event), in a team tournament,  in 6th  grade, I had  one of the students from an opposing team come up to me and show me some red marks on his hand. . After students  finish every chess match, they always shake hands and tell each other "good game!"

He said that he beat one of my players and when they shook hands, that player dug his nails into his hand and wouldn't let go. I was stunned. I've still never heard of this happening outside of that incident.

I asked him to point out the player, initially thinking this must be some sort of misunderstanding........... Dang, it was Zach and I knew it was a legit account and thanked the kid for telling me. 

So Zach was suspended from the next competitive tournament but got to play again after that. There were zero other incidents like that in tournaments or at practices for the remaining 2 years there.  Zach had truly changed.

I had numerous conversations with his wonderful mom, Susan and she also noted Zach's big positive changes. She had dedicated her life to helping Zac, I only had him for an hour a week, then at tournaments.

He continued to play in high school, where I started a new chess club for our players that were growing up but the teacher having chess practices at North High School  ended up just hosting a get together with kids that wanted to hang out and not play chess. They didn't need a chess coach, so I focused my attention on grades K-8  for a couple of years then.

With most of my previous students, I never see them again, except on rare occasions when I might run into one of them at some random place.

Now a days, I see them when they are signing up THEIR KIDS to play chess in our program. 

However,  that was not the case with Zach.

A couple of years after he had graduated from high school, when he was around 20,  in early 2011,  I was still at his old school, Oak Hill Middle School, almost a decade after he had played there. 

We practiced in the cafeteria on Wednesdays right after school. Always the same place and time. 

In the early part of 1 practice, in walked this tall young man and  I recognized him instantly from the face completely covered in freckles. 

He was around 2 feet taller by then compared to when playing chess in those early days and had a haircut/no pony tail anymore and also wore contact lenses .... but the freckles and face were unmistakable.

He  was thrilled that I recognized him and said that he just decided to drop by  to see if I was  still doing chess at his old school and asked if I wanted to play again.

Heck yes!

What a treat. To have an adult and old student stop by because they had fond memories of playing chess when he was a youngster. 

While we played and talked, it seemed amazing that this very happy, mature, intelligent grown up was once a child with some serious emotional problems and volatile temper that he grew out of.

So I asked him if he remembered me recognizing him with a trophy  as the "Most improved player" in 2001.

He said, yes, it was the only trophy that he ever got and it was still on top of his dresser.

It doesn't get any better than that. When I tell the story and get to that part, I often have to fight back tears of joy. 

I've had some extremely talented chess players that have earned 1st place awards as champions in very competitive  tournaments but none of them make me as proud as I was/am of Zach and for him coming back to make me feel good about it. 

The principle, Mr. Wempe of Oak Hill Middle School,  when I was meeting with him to start chess there for my older son at that school in 1999,  stated something profound that I always remembered.

He said "Mike, there are no bad kids, just good actors"

I'm sure that you can find exceptions to that but Zach was the quintessential example of this!

By WxFollower - Oct. 17, 2021, 1:04 a.m.
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Wow, Mike, what an inspiring and beautiful story!

By metmike - Oct. 17, 2021, 3:07 a.m.
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Thanks much Larry, sorry it was so long.

By metmike - Feb. 24, 2022, 6:12 p.m.
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In the 25 years as chess coach to some 3,500 kids, I've been blessed to know some wonderful kids and parents and teachers. 

With regards to following students, it's better than teachers because teachers have a student for just 1 year usually, then they graduate that grade and its on to the next class of all new kids.

I coach chess at 3 elementary schools that feed into the same Junior high that feeds into the same high school.  5 schools in all. 

So kids who play chess in our program for numerous years, keep coming back. That's how the previous story of Zac morphed into a longer term commitment to help him grow as a person. 

It's always interesting when we have the first practice at the junior high for grades 7-8. If there are a dozen 7th graders,  at the first practice......I usually know all of them already from playing chess in previous years at their elementary school for grades K-6.

One reason that I came back to this thread today is thinking about the fact that this has resulted in me following many of these kids as they mature and grow into young adults, sometimes starting as young as kindergarten and ending in high school.

I've had numerous wonderful opportunities to write recommendation letters for some well deserving students(chess kids are often high achievers) and they  display outstanding traits for many years while playing chess for me that I can document and pass on to organizations that are looking for these characteristics.

I just finished writing one such letter (to the National Honor Society) for a great kid which made me think about and appreciate that even more than usual today.

By metmike - Feb. 25, 2022, 12:23 a.m.
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I probably could write a book about all the wonderful things related to being a chess coach for 5 schools the past 25 years.

Some of the kids have been amazing. 

Chess attracts all sorts of different kids. A lot of nerd types but that would be stereotyping about something that ignores other types of kids.

Each kid is unique. The athletes or kids that are extremely gifted in many areas' will very often give up chess in high school because there are many dozens of more popular endeavors that involve participation with their classmates which they can choose from..

We have around a dozen excellent chess players right now in grades 7-10.

Even though there has been well  over 100 REALLY gifted chess players in the program........the kind that finishes near the top or even ended up as champions for the entire state of Indiana in the Scholastic Chess of Indiana Championships, there is one kid that actually stands above the other 3,500.

Ben Wyatt, in elementary school had actually not developed that much yet. At that time, Scott School only went thru 5th grade. 

In 2000, Ben was in 5th grade. The internet was not huge yet, so kids spent much more time at the public library for resources, especially Ben. 

As a 5th grader, his enthusiasm/energy was completely off the charts. Ben talked a mile a minute but not like a typical 5th grader.  He thought more like an adult but at the same time, he was loved by his classmates with his tremendous charisma. In other words, he was the opposite of a nerd.

Extraordinarily outgoing well liked kid(that unlike most kids-cared greatly about others more than himself), especially when the other kids started to appreciate his brilliance when he got older.

In 5th grade, Ben came to many chess practices with several chess books from the public library. They were about chess history, famous chess games, famous grand masters and chess strategies. It was mostly stuff that I did not know and even if I did, would not have been teaching it to kids who were just there to have fun playing chess against their friends and classmates.  I had just recently become a chess coach and had no formal training Ben would go on about some of this stuff before and during practice like a human encyclopedia.  I remember thinking "who the heck is this kid?" He obviously had a photographic memory because he would remember everything that he read in the books. 

I remember his mom telling me at one point that they were worried about him because he was so obsessed with chess.

As a fairly new chess coach, I wondered if this could end up being a bad thing. He got straight A's and was brilliant at everything he did though.

In 4th grade, I was giving him my queen to start the game and by the end of 5th grade, I was playing him straight up but still beating him.  I'd never had a kid that could beat me to that point but he was the best so far.

When he started 6th grade, entering middle school of course I knew him already from the previous grade school.

The first time that I played him there he obliterated me. I could tell that he was MUCH better but maybe he just had a great game and me a bad game. I  usually play down to whatever the level of the kid is.......telling them my moves, making intentional mistakes to keep their heads in the game. If you're being crushed by the opponent with no chance to causes you to lose focus because the incentive to win is lost. 

So I played him a few more times with the metmike chess brain turned to high power. 

He beat me again every time. And while doing it, he would commentate about what type of open he was using and what his strategy was based on what he learned and remembered from his chess books and was  giving ME the chess lesson, not the other way around. 

This was before I found a ton of information on the internet(that wasn't there back then) to train myself to be a better chess coach. 

Wow! In 1 year, his studying chess strategies in numerous books had caused him to advance above me. 

But this was the coolest part. Everybody loved Ben. He was so likeable to the students, who all knew he was better than the coach but they all wanted to play him at every practice, knowing he was extremely superior. Many kids only like to play other classmates they can beat or if its one of their good friends. It's always more fun to win vs losing. 

There was something special about Ben. When he played them, just like me, he played them in a way that kept them in the game while he gave them the best lesson ever. .......better than I could at that early, untrained stage of chess coaching, before I obtained lots of knowledge from the internet.

So Ben ended up clicking with several other, already gifted chess players and he pulled them way up by coaching them. They in turn, played other players and pulled those students up.

The year before that, I remember my biggest concern at the middle school level was that other kids teased the chess players for being nerds. 

I even called the United States Chess Federation and told them that some of my middle school kids, including my son were getting teased for being chess nerds...."do they have any advice"

The USCF guy laughed hard and said. "Chess players have always been nerds and they will always be nerds and there's nothing you can do about it"

  By the time Ben was in 8th grade, his being Ben and passing on to others his Ben chess thinking and enthusiasm resulted in a new state record in a Scholastic Chess of Indiana team regional tournament for kids from 1 school.....for the 8th and under division.

Individual teams have 4 students, with each team from the same school having a letter attached to them..........A, B, C.....and so on.

There had only been a few D teams before in SCI team tournaments(16 kids) but never an E team(20 kids).......until Ben was an 8th grader at Oak Hill Middle School, when we had the first E team at the regional that we hosted at Oak Hill. 

During that year, our top 3 players.........COULD ALL BEAT ME EVERY TIME! I couldn't teach them anything. They were better than me and they understood some opening move strategies  better than me. 

These kids loved chess and each other so much that they could care less if anybody else judged them or thought of them as nerds. Chess was cool!

The 3rd strongest player on that team, Zac Waggoner ended up being the 9th grade state champ in the JV division for the Scholastic Chess of Indiana tournament in 2004. 

The 2nd strongest player, Ian Lynch didn't compete in that tournament but he was also extremely brilliant and learned different openings and strategies that I didn't know. 

Ben also liked to play soccer. I coached soccer for both my sons and so did Ben's Dad, Keith. The Summer before 8th grade for Ben, I was at a soccer coaches clinic and Keith was there.

So I asked Keith what Ben was doing for fun over the Summer before he started 8th grade? I traded for a living so I had the freedom to take my kids( 2 years older than Ben and 1 year younger) to Hartke Pool, Boy Scout Camp and other places.   

Keith says........."he's up at Northwestern University", which is just north or Chicago and 6+ hours drive from here.

I remember this conversation  well. I asked Keith if he was in some sort of Summer Camp and he said, "no Ben is taking college classes. He's taking Latin classes so he understands Latin before going to college"  

What the heck!

What middle school kid spends their Summer vacation going to college????

I he planning to become a  Catholic priest?

Keith said that Ben had already decided on what he was going to study in college(not even in 8th grade yet).

He wants to either be a nuclear physicist or get a PhD in theology(of course much of theology has origins in the language of Latin).

WOW! Learning Latin in college before 8th grade so that he can understand theology written in Latin when he gets to college. 

One of my buddies, Todd Goss at the Pit Barbell Club where I lifted weights was the 9th grade honors physics teacher at North High School. Him and I shared some great Ben stories. He also had never had a student like this in teaching honors physics for over 3 decades. 

Ben got an academic scholarship to Vanderbuilt  and was going into a field that involved medicine and physics.  Todd said that he came back between semesters in college and went to his class as a  guest speaker to motive students about how awesome physics is. 

So I hadn't heard anything for over a decade since then and just mentioned him to my wife recently,  saying that whatever he's doing, he's probably risen to the top of his field.

So she looked him up and found him.......Holy Cow!

See him on the next page.

By metmike - Feb. 25, 2022, 12:24 a.m.
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           Ben did become a priest!    



The Rev. Ben Wyatt is the theology and history content editor for Earth & Altar. Born in southern Indiana, Ben graduated from Vanderbilt University with a double major in physics and religion and worked in corporate information security for several years before discerning a call to the priesthood. He now serves the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis as its Pathways to Vitality Priest. In this role he alternates between several local parishes, focusing his ministry on congregational vitality and community engagement. Ben holds an M.Div. and S.T.M. from Yale Divinity School, and has published original research in Physical Review B and a book review in Religious Education. When he’s not busy ministering, he is probably indulging his passions for baking, video gaming, and musical theater. And yes, he does watch Parks and Rec, and he is aware of the cosmic irony of sharing a name and location with a TV character! He/him

metmike: Knowing Ben from 20 years ago, this is the perfect profession for him and God blessed him with gifts from the get go that made him stand out in a positive way that should be shared with the world. He loved everybody and interacted in an unselfish way that was often motivated with a sharing/giving mentality. He literally was far better than everybody else at chess but the kids still wanted to play him because his charisma and humility and teaching always made it a unique, positive experience that took me many years as an adult chess coach to develop.

  Adults usually develop this big time from being parents. Ben was born with it.  He was created to share it with the world. After Ben interacts with people, he leaves them better from knowing him.

In a conversation with his dad, Keith one time(me thinking there must be a parental secret to creating a Ben), I actually asked him "What do you do with Ben to motivate him like this?"

His dad said: "We don't do anything!" Our daughter(who was a bit younger than Ben, if I recall and did not play much chess)  is not like this at all. Ben has always been like this and we don't  do anything different with our daughter(who I'm sure was a great person)  or from what other parents do.

By metmike - Feb. 26, 2022, 11:51 a.m.
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Here's another really awesome story to add to this thread

My incredible Dad, who taught me to play chess in 1966!

I'm getting ready to play chess against him in an hour on Face Time. He's 96 years old. For the past 10 years, I give him my queen to start the game but he can still beat me half the time!!

He lives in Detroit. When he was 90, I wrote our story and did a press release email to all the Detroit area tv and newspaper outlets. 

We were lucky to get 2 of them to cover us:

Father teaches son chess, son teaches thousands of children

Never too old to learn new tricks

By metmike - Feb. 26, 2022, 11:53 a.m.
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I've written about Dad here before:

            How to make the world a better place Jan. 9, 2020


By metmike - March 5, 2022, 12:24 p.m.
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Every time we interact with other people we have an opportunity that can take many forms.

1. we can learn something and  feel uplifted.

2. they can learn something and feel uplifted

3. we can share something equally

4. we can strengthen the relationship/friendship, love and respect for each other

5. we can bide time and fritter away opportunities because we’re wrapped up in ourselves or in the hectic, complicated, often divisive, political and material world

6. it sounds like I have all theses things mastered but it’s not so. its absolutely necessary for me/all of us  to constantly make posts/have thoughts like this and spend time contemplating their meaning or else the negativity in the world can erode my/our humanity and altruistic frame of mind….and there’s always room for growth!

By metmike - Nov. 29, 2023, 2:14 p.m.
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By metmike - Nov. 29, 2023, 7:37 p.m.
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                Chess videos/links 2023/24                        

               Started by metmike - Nov. 12, 2023, 10:29 p.m.

By metmike - Dec. 9, 2023, 11:44 a.m.
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I'm blessed to be a member of the Scholastic Chess of Indiana board this year.

Working together with some very talented, like minded adults that are leading the state of Indiana in promoting scholastic chess and keeping our young people actively engaged in competitive chess. 

This was a wonderful video conducted by 2 of our board members, Bill Pilate, our president and Jim Dean that runs the states K-12 Canterbury Chess Club POWERHOUSE!

By metmike - Jan. 21, 2024, 4:33 p.m.
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We've finished our 4 regional qualifier events for the SCI Individual championships next Saturday at Pike Central in Indianapolis, including the one in Warsaw that was cancelled last week and barely made it yesterday.

 One of my schools, McCutchanville hosted the Evansville Regional, 2 weeks ago with 107 students playing.........a record for this region!

By metmike - March 4, 2024, 11:32 p.m.
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We just finished another smashing success chess tournament. I mentioned at the tournament, a bit about the history, which started in the mid 80's.

A parent with a student attending McCutchanville Elementary mentioned they participated in that tournament 3 decades ago.

So I put together a story about how this wonderful tournament has evolved the past 4 decades. With several key people along the way that started it, then saved it, then improved it, then saved it again!


Ashley Xxxxxxxx 

2:18 PM (8 hours ago)

Hey Mr Mike!

Did I hear you correctly in the morning announcements that this tournament was held at Lodge Elementary in the 90s? If so- it made me realize that I was a participant back then. I cannot remember which year it was, but I got a participation ribbon and remember playing.

Just thought it was cool

By metmike - March 4, 2024, 11:36 p.m.
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Hi Ashley,

That is REALLY, REALLY COOL that you played in this tournament.

Where did you go to school then?

Here's the history that I know of which you may connect strongly with...........along with more than just that. I'm copying it on my chess coach story thread. 

Scott School had chess going back, possibly to 1992/93, with Mr. Bob Kraft the principal taking over that full school year, also their chess coach.

My oldest son, Quinn started K in September 1993 at Scott. It was the saddest week of my life and I wept several times over it because, as chief meteorologist at WEHT, I would never see him anymore on school days and it meant being just a weekend dad.

2 weeks later, I parted ways with that job.........which started the happiest period of my life as a stay at home dad that traded commodities for a living.

Using the weather forecast to position for price changes in energy/crop markets caused by weather pattern changes BEFORE the markets knew about the weather. I bought a satellite dish to put on the roof to get the same data the NWS had access to in timely fashion. No internet back then!

Available to be at every school function for both boys. Coach their soccer, basketball and baseball teams as well as commissioner and treasurer. Be their den leader and end up available to BE THE CHESS COACH  in February 1998 when the chess coach died in the middle of the season….which was the last thing on my mind in the early 90's.  My daughter, Shani was already going to Thompkins MS by then.

When my wonderful wife, Deb and I met, Shani was already going to Cynthia Heights and I didn't want to also be a weekend dad for our much younger boys.


The Lodge principle hosting this tournament, Pat Edwards (previously Pat Loge) was beloved by everybody and did so much for her kids and Evansville Chess, hosting this tournament from the mid 1980's thru 2009.

The people at WEHT, especially Shannon Hurd knew and loved Pat because she was doing so much.....had so many unique programs to enhance the education of the low income families at Lodge. The children and families at Lodge and everybody that knew Pat, respected and adored her.

In 1985, when we made a debut of our 6pm news on WEHT, in Pat's first year as principle, she invited me out to do the 6pm weather just before Christmas. They performed their Christmas play and I did the weather with them, while fake snow fell on us on the stage.

This was right around the time that the EVSC "K-5 Lodge Chess tournament" started.

The story I got from Pat, in 1998, if I remember it correctly was that a wealthy Evansville doctor donated 50+ chess sets to Lodge so that they could have chess and a chess tournament. I use those same chess sets today at our schools(with 150 more that I purchased from the USCF). 

Lodge would always have a few kids at the tournaments they hosted even though Pat didn't seem to know much about chess herself.

However, Pat recruited Vogel elementary, which did have a solid chess club to run her tournaments from the get go.

Vogel principle Mr. Barnett would do the hand pairings(like Craig Hines does for us except not on a computer) and Mr. Nimnick, their long lived chess coach would help out and be the floor ref, along with some assistance from Cynthia Heights coach Shirley Cree, myself and Cedar Hall chess coach Brent Symon……starting in the mid 90s .

They all played in the same division and it was mostly the older students…….grades 3-4-5.

The tournament  was ALWAYS the Wednesday before Spring Break in March.

There would be around 100 students each year and each school was limited to 20 players.  Only Scott School and Cynthia Heights would have 20. Vogel had double digit students but Mr. Nimnick from Vogel would not allow any students from his school under grade 3 to sign up because he said "I'm not a baby sitter!" Shirley Cree from Cynthia Heights also made it a requirement that all students must know how to play chess before signing up. 

In  27 years as chess coach, I start  them in grade K and teach beginners……at least try to  in some cases. You’d be surprised at how  some  Very young children can understand chess.  For instance, I explained the rules/how the pieces move to my youngest son,  Mac 1 time when he was in preschool  and he never moved a piece incorrectly after that.

In some years at Oak Hill (and Scott, when they had 1,200+ students attending) with 100+ coming and no adults helping, I had to put on my baby sitter hat ……and  enthusiastically adapt to whatever  the circumstances or environment  given to me were.

Back to The Lodge chess tournaments. 

The tournament ALWAYS had 4 rounds and each round was 30 minutes. 

The inner city schools provided transportation with buses and we HAD TO be done in time for them to be on those buses at 5:30 pm.......NO EXCEPTIONS.   

K-5 schools dismissed at 2:10 pm in those days and the tournament started at 3pm.

I had a full sized van and would take 7 kids. 

I would call Scott moms available at 2:10pm to get 5 or so of them to agree to take several students each.  

The competition was in the Lodge gym and parents could watch from the bleachers as they slowly arrived. 

There were 4  rounds of 30 minutes each. Winners of unfinished games were determined by points/pieces left on the board.

After 4 rounds, shortly after 5pm..... there would still be 4-7 undefeated students. They were declared 4-0 champs and we would quickly recognize them with a 6 inch plastic trophy similar to this one with most parents  from the non bused  schools there by then........

then we quickly rushed out the inner city  kids to their buses and parents took the rest of them home......and I might have several that still needed to be dropped off  in our van based on prior arrangements. No cell phones back then.

 In late 2009, the loved and respected principle at Lodge, to everybody's complete shock had some mental issues that resulted in her shoplifting that led to her leaving before the tournament in 2010. 

The tournament would have come to an end........but Shirley Cree at Cynthia Heights stepped in to save it in March 2010!!

 She hosted at Cynthia Heights but  used the Vibbert couple to run it(they live 3 doors down from us). They had a son, Sean who represented the USA in the U-16 division of the World Championships and they ran USCF rated tournaments. They only agreed to do our tournament if we discarded the Lodge rules and changed to USCF rules.

After saving our Lodge tournament with its 25 year history in 2010, Shirley did something really profound. She had a close contact at Ivy Tech that would allow us to use Ivy Tech for free. They had the space to expand to K-12 and invite other schools.

So we renamed it to The Spring Scholastic Chess tournament  or Ivy Tech tournament for ALL grades and schools.

It was a massive success in 2011-2012-2013. Then Shirley suddenly died!!!

This was shortly after NJH was built. We now had an EVSC school with a perfect facility to host the expanded K-12 chess tournament!

NJH has been hosting for around a decade now.

Extremely strange coincidence. Today at my skin cancer surgery, I was telling Dr. Davis(who's son plays chess at Cynthia Heights) about our tournament and his assistant, Mel told me that she played chess at Cynthia Heights in the 1980's.

Holy Cow!  I had always assumed that Shirley Cree started chess there in the 1990's for her grandsons!!! So this will go out to their current coach, Brittney Beckerle, who took over there after Kathy Weinzapfel. Kathy replaced Shirley Cree who was the chess coach for Cynthia Heights when I first met her at the Lodge tournament in 1998.  

If not for Pat Edwards, this tournament would have never existed.

If not for Shirley Cree, at Cynthia Heights,  this tournament would have died in 2010!

If not for  Mr. Kraft starting chess at Scott  in the early 90s, then Tim McLaughlin, a dying man taking over briefly……chess at Scott would have died in 1996 and I would never have started chess clubs at Oak Hill Elementary/Middle School, McCutchanville or NJH/NHS......or continued this tournament after 2013.

This is how I became a chess coach at Scott in 1998 after Tim McLaughlin died:

This demonstrates how people no longer with us today.......did things while they were alive that blossomed into something much bigger and/or things that they continued ….like passing on the baton in life's positive endeavors that make the world a better place!

I ended up getting that chess baton at Scott in 1998, which blossomed into chess at our currently robust programs at 5 schools. …..then again at NJH in 2014 which has continued the expanded, continuous Lodge tournament, now almost 4 decades old!

To play a key role in such an awesome endeavor which has positively touched the lives of over 10,000 children in Southern Indiana since the 1980s has been a joy and privilege with parental and faculty support and friendships every step of the way!

Another piece of trivia. Our TD on Saturday, Craig Hines was chess coach for Oak Hill Middle School(grades 6-8) in the 80's to early 90's. He gave me his large, vinyl, portable chess board 25 years ago. The same one that I still  use now to teach chess to beginners.

Coach Mike


Ashley XXXXX:

That is crazy!!! I actually went to Lodge and started K in 1994 and my 5th grade year ended in spring 2000. Granted, I remember her as Pat Loge- I had forgotten she had a name change.  since I was a student at Lodge- that history recount actually helped me remember.


Coach Mike:

That is super awesome, Ashley!

I knew her as Pat Loge too and always thought it funny that her last name was almost the same as the school name.

When retelling the story, I usually have to think hard to remember her remarried last name, Edwards.

So did you guys actually have a chess club there. If so who was the coach?

I remember several Lodge students at the tournament there every year. What was your  recollection?


Ashley XXXXX:

To be honest I cannot remember the coaches name! I do remember he volunteered in many extracurriculars at the school but chess was his main one.

I remember staying after school at least once a week to learn Chess and then the tournament was held in their gym right after school one day. I remember being amazed at how many people were there!

By 7475 - March 5, 2024, 10:16 a.m.
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Hi Mike

 Thats some story!

I finished high school in 1966 and although there seemed to be  abundant clubs to join  after school activity, I do not recall anything like a chess club being offered. 

I was in quite a rural/farm district while growing up and we had no high school of our own,so we were bused to the nearest high school,as was another township- I suppose that school would have been considered a "regional" school by all rights. After school transportation for us was non existant except for hitch-hiking and an occassional sports bus.

 I would have more expected a checkers club at our school.

I learned basic chess from my dad as did my brother but never stuck with it. Home chores, hunting and fishing were more the ticket back then.

 My dad corresponded via mail and graph paper to play chess with an old college buddy ,one move at a time, for a while as I recall.

 Nice contribution to life ,you and others have got going there.


By metmike - March 5, 2024, 12:11 p.m.
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Thanks very much, John!

I love hearing about the lives of other people. We all have unique experiences that played a role in who we are.

Those experiences  can be shared with others to help them to see a world they never  knew much about.

Your story is facsinating to this Detroit City raised boy.

  Its especially fun when we find out about a commonality or crossed path like Ashley just did at our chess tournament.

Regardless of the circumstances or origins/birthplace, , nationality or religion or wealth……we are all human beings that deserve respect.