Eastlake’s Own Seattle Chess School Reinvigorates, Inspires Community

Many people walk by, stop and do a double take. There are young people sitting at tables, looking serious, deep in thought. In front of them is a chess board: an unusual sight in the era of smart phones and virtual reality, but a welcoming one nonetheless.

When Steve Ryan and Bill Schill opened the Seattle Chess School at Vybe Communications Hub, 2226 Eastlake Avenue, in July 2016, it was a culmination of their many years teaching students in the Seattle area and their passion for chess. Finally, they had a centralized location to teach students young and old, and have a meeting place in the community for all ages of chess players to gather and learn.  Ryan and Schill have been teaching students for ten years now, in local schools such as the Bush School, Seattle Prep and TOPS. Soon parents were seeking them out and opening up their living rooms for small tournaments.  This grassroots effort to educate students in chess is still apparent in the brick and mortar space they now call their own. Having a place people can step in and inquire, meet and learn has given a tangible space for their organization. Although they mostly teach youth, people of all ages come in asking to learn chess and hone their skills.

 

chess players

They use a tournament model, or Tournament Success Course to teach their youth. “Chess is a very individualistic activity… there is a little bit of a team concept at tournaments but it is ad hoc, kids are compared with other ones at other schools… anytime you add team competition, it is socially binding and therefore the games matter more [to the kids]”, Ryan says. The local tournaments have anywhere between 150-300 children competing for trophies and titles, Washington being a well-known area of chess interest.  Ryan and Schill believe this healthy competition motivates children to learn and enjoy chess. Although they do private lessons, Ryan believes the value lies in this model: “…doing a small focus class from top kids from different schools, and they can compete for fun with each other is more valuable than just private lessons”.  According to Ryan, children also gain verbal skills, social skills, as well as the ability to think more logically. Of course, these benefits aren’t just isolated to children. And of course, adults benefit too!

discussing chess

For Ryan, the long term goal for The Seattle Chess School is “… to elevate chess in the whole area. We are chess lovers; we think chess is a game which has numerous benefits. It is fun to play, and compelling to play it… you can begin at age six and still be in interested at age 80 to play it. It is social at all phases of life, and the game itself is a physical object”. Indeed, chess is a timeless activity. The community of Eastlake has surely embraced it as well. There has been a push to fix the public chess board on the Franklin Green Street (between TOPS and Rogers Playground) that was vandalized a few years ago. In addition, there was a regular Meetup group that met at Louisa’s before it closed. There is certainly an interest in the neighborhood. The Seattle Chess School may be the venue that is needed to foster this desire in the community.

funny hat chess players

For those who do not know how to play but are interested, Ryan says: “It is executive functioning in a game… you learn how to set a goal, the steps it takes to get to the goal, and how to adapt to changing circumstances…these are fundamental life skills. When people invest in learning the game.. .they gain a clarity and honed life skills that is applicable to life goals. People from all ages can benefit from it.” Eastlake has welcomed The Seattle Chess School eagerly – and looks forward to the additional community events and education it is and will offer.

The Seattle Chess School is located at 2226 Eastlake Ave E. Check out their website at seattlechessschool.org or drop in to say hi!

pondering the next move

Article  reprinted with permission from the Eastlake News.