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Small-Business Success Story: Learners Chess Academy – Kiplinger Personal Finance

His nonprofit uses chess to help kids succeed in and out of school.

Victor Francisco Lopez, founder and executive director of Learners Chess Academy Photo by Minseh Barcrania

By Pat Mertz Esswein, Associate Editor From Kiplinger's Personal Finance, September 2017

Kiplinger's spoke with Victor Francisco Lopez, 31, founder and executive director of Learners Chess Academy, an Albuquerque, N.M.-based educational program that aims to enhance child development through playing the game of chess. Here, he discusses what motivated him to start the program and more. Read on for an excerpt from our interview:

What's your mission? We use chess to teach kids intellectual, social and leadership skills in school clubs and camps. The game is the medium, not the ultimate goal. The kids learn the rules, moves and tactics; practice analytical skills; and play chess puzzles and mazes. They practice mindfulness -- sitting and breathing -- to calm down and resume their decision-making after they lose a piece or make a bad move. They learn not to brag or talk too much while playing, as well as to respect their opponents. Many older players become junior leaders and teach newer players.

How did you learn to play chess? I learned from my dad when I was 5. In sixth grade, I joined a chess club at school. I loved it, and I noticed that as my game improved, so did my grades, and school became easier. I started a chess club at my sister's school and ran it until I graduated from high school. Im a Class B player, meaning I'm in the 90th percentile of U.S. amateur players.

Why did you start Learners? After college, I came home to start a micro-lending nonprofit while I went to business school and worked as a substitute teacher. One school asked me to coach its chess club. I thought, I forgot how really fun this is! Teachers told me, "You're literally coaching the kids to think." So in 2010, I started a summer camp, and the next summer I began pursuing Learners full-time.

How did you launch it? I borrowed $2,000 from my mom to print fliers, and I either cold-called school principals or took substitute-teaching jobs to develop relationships. I hired coaches who play chess, believe in our mission and are good with kids. Kids love our program, so we've grown through strong word of mouth, too.

Learners is a nonprofit? I started it as a sole proprietorship. But in 2012, I registered it with the IRS as a 501(c)3 nonprofit so I could gain access to more venues and raise more money for a need-based scholarship fund. The club costs $75 to $100 per semester, and the camps cost $150 per week of half days or $250 for full days. We offer need-based scholarships for 25% to 95% of the cost. We reinvest our profit into programs in low-income areas. I take a salary.

How big is Learners? In the 201617 school year, we reached about 1,700 children in chess clubs at 51 schools and chess camps over 11 weeks. So far, weve taught 7,055 children and awarded more than $72,000 in scholarships.

What's your greatest challenge? How we continue to grow and raise money to give more scholarships without losing the heart of who we are. Right now, we're doing exactly what we want to do without changing to meet, say, a foundation's requirements.

What's your greatest satisfaction? Seeing kids I taught become leaders and coaches. In the summer of 2016, two of our high school leaders spent 10 days teaching chess to 36 kids in a rural village in El Salvador. I was in tears almost every day watching them teach in the middle of the jungle.

Link:
Small-Business Success Story: Learners Chess Academy - Kiplinger Personal Finance

Feature story: Lauren Goodkind plays, teaches and writes about chess – The Almanac Online

While her last name may reflect noble human qualities, when it comes to playing chess, Menlo Park resident Lauren Goodkind can leave those attributes -- certainly the "kind" one -- at the door.

"On the chessboard, I would say I'm a mean kind of person," she said, smiling, in a recent interview. "I'm a competitive person. It feels really good to win, so I can be mean on the chessboard. ... If you're playing chess, you've got to be mean, if you want to win."

A French proverb offers these words for the kindhearted: "You cannot play at chess if you are kindhearted." Another French source, painter, sculptor and chess player Marcel Duchamp, described chess as "the movement of pieces eating one another."

OK, so you probably have to be mean. Ms. Goodkind, 33, apparently has what it takes, with 15 years of playing behind her and a current rating of Class A from the U.S. Chess Federation. She's one category away from being rated an expert.

When she plays, her opponents are usually men or boys.

She says she once played entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel. At the time, he was in his mid-30s and enjoyed a chess-master rating while Ms. Goodkind was just a year out of Woodside High School and rated well below Mr. Thiel. Ms. Goodkind says she played him to a draw. "Oh, it was exciting to draw against Peter," she says.

(Mr. Thiel has not responded to requests for comment.)

Occasionally she'll run into a bad apple, like the time she beat an older man in Burlingame whose skill level was one rating above hers. He began swearing at her after she won, she says. "Really bad sportsmanship."

She's been teaching chess to Peninsula residents of all ages for about four years and is the author of the recently self-published "50 Poison Pieces," a 217-page book of 50 chess puzzles. Each puzzle asks the beginning player to analyze a situation in which capturing a vulnerable piece is a mistake, and often a costly mistake.

"One silly move can cost you the entire game," she says.

Chess was relief

In high school, chess served Ms. Goodkind as an escape. The arc of her life before ninth grade included working with a speech coach and spending time in special-education classes, she says. In high school, she says she was bullied because of the way she talked.

With a C+ grade point average and unable to concentrate on her schoolwork because of the bullying, Ms. Goodkind says she had no interest in taking advanced-standing or advanced-placement classes. "I didn't really care," she says. "My classmates were really mean to me."

The weekly chess club offered her a way past the misery. "Chess helped me get through high school. It felt good to win and I felt happy beating other people," she says. "Everybody is smart in their own way."

She graduated in 2002 and went on to earn a bachelor's degree in communications from Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont.

Women and chess

Playing other women is something she especially appreciates, but it doesn't happen often. "I hope to see more women and girls playing chess," she says.

Most of the top players in competitive chess are men. At tournaments, she says, the number of women players is usually less than 2 percent.

"A woman can beat any man," says Alexandra Kosteniuk, a Russian grandmaster and author of "Diary of a Chess Queen," published in 2010 by Mongoose Press.

Ms. Kosteniuk says the challenges of attracting women and girls to chess are like the challenges in other areas, including physics, math and being an astronaut. The key, she says in a 2016 interview at the World Chess Hall of Fame in Saint Louis, Missouri, is creating more chess clubs that are friendly to girls and more programs to support them.

Asked about women mixing it up with men in a milieu in which men outnumber women, Ms. Goodkind had a simple reply: "Women are strong. We can play chess, too."

Judit Sztaray is the executive director of the nonprofit, BayAreaChess Inc., and the mother of three chess-playing girls. At BayAreaChess, she is organizing girls-only events to give them a better chance of winning titles.

She says she sees no differences between girls and boys in their ability to play. "The value of learning chess is universal," she says, "especially among the young in that their brains and capabilities are still developing."

Resistance from men to the idea of playing against women is "very, very rare," she says, though boys do tend to tease girls about it. "I have to say that generally kids who are playing chess are the more civilized people," she says.

Chess is a civilized game then? She laughed. "Depends on who you ask," she says. "Mentally, it is a brutal game. It's win or lose."

Avoid silly moves

Skilled chess players typically think two or three or four moves ahead, which takes practice. A lot of practice. With her puzzles, Ms. Goodkind gets the readers on the road by asking that they think just one move ahead. And avoid moving without thinking.

An inner Q-and-A about upcoming moves for you and your opponent, and whether they can succeed, should become second nature, she says.

"You have to focus," she says. "That's the key to playing chess."

--

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Feature story: Lauren Goodkind plays, teaches and writes about chess - The Almanac Online

Solve Puzzles (And Sometimes Crime) In Picross Dating Sim – Kotaku

Picross Makeout League tests your love of picross through puzzle-themed dates.

Picross Makeout League is a short visual novel about a group of superheroes called the Puzzle League, who are all themed after various kinds of puzzles. You play as Picross Girl, whose superpower is to be really good at picross, a puzzle in which you follow a numbered guide to make rudimentary pictures on a grid. Picross Girl sees picross puzzles everywhere, and you, the player, are tasked with solving them. Her teammates are basically the personification of different kinds of puzzles: Crossword is constantly giving you crossword clues, Chess is obsessed with black and white thinking, Piecea is an actual puzzle piece, and Sudoku is pretty unforgiving. The plot is not fully developed in this demo, leaving you on a cliffhanger as Picross Girl is kidnapped, but you do get to go on dates with some of your teammates.

While it might sound boring at face value, Picross Makeout League is an unexpectedly funny affair. Heres the very first puzzle you solve, based on what Picross Girl sees as she is kidnapped and blindfolded:

After being introduced to the team, the player selects a character for Picross Girl to go on a date with. Only your teammates Crossword and Chess have full dates in this version of the game, but the whole cast has distinct personalities, and youll get a chance to spend some time with each of them. While I wish I could have dated Piecea, the anthropomorphized puzzle piece, I did love my date with Chess, who ranted and raved about conspiracy theories and chess puzzles. At one point he says that he needs to be five, ten or even 500 moves ahead of his enemy and Picross Girl asks, Can you play 500 moves ahead in chess? Her date answers, If you are both really bad, then yes.

If you dont really get or like picross puzzles, the game lets you skip through them using the fast forward button, but its more fun to play through the puzzles during your dates and elsewhere. While youre out with someone, the puzzles are all themed to the date at handChesss picross are all chess pieces, Crossword takes you to an art gallery where you solve art-themed picross. Im not very good at picross, but I was able to guess my way through the harder puzzles.

If you love picross a lot, Picross Makeout League is worth a try. Even if you dont, its funny writing makes for a good diversion. Grab it for free on itch.io.

Originally posted here:
Solve Puzzles (And Sometimes Crime) In Picross Dating Sim - Kotaku

Play Chess For Your Soul In Chess Ultra – VRFocus

Best known as a videogames publisher rather than a developer, Ripstone Games has announced the launch of the first title to be entirely developed by its in-house development team; Chess Ultra.

The title will be heading to PC and console, with virtual reality (VR) versions available for PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift. Non-VR versions will also be released on Steam, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, and the company have also announced that the title will be heading to the Xbox One X.

Ripstone Games have revealed that the AI for Chess Ultra was tested an approved by a chess Grandmaster. Single-player within VR consists of the player taking on The Grim Reaper, playing against Death himself to save their mortal soul. If players do well, Deaths eyes with light up with rage and lava will flow through the pits of Gomorrah where the chess duel is taking place. If the player loses, then Death claims their soul.

There are 10 Grand-master approved levels, with several modes including Classical, Blitz and Marathon, all of which feature several different styles of chess set to choose from. Cross-platfrom play between console and PC has been included, the allow for both local and online multiplayer, along with a ranking system. Over 80 chess puzzles have been included, and there are tutorials for players who are new to chess.

To support online play, Ripstone plans to hold official tournaments where users can either spectate or compete, using the full Twitch integration to allow players to show off how well (or how poorly) they perform against friends or the AI.

You can view the Chess Ultra launch trailer below.

VRFocus will bring you further information on Chess Ultra and other new VR titles as they become available.

Staff Writer at VRFocus who helps bring the news to your screens. Rebecca comes from a background in technology and computing and has been a gamer and console collector since the days of the Commodore 64. She also hosts a weekly gaming related radio show on RadioSEGA.

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Play Chess For Your Soul In Chess Ultra - VRFocus

8 must-see indie Xbox and PC games you may have missed at E3 2017 – Windows Central


Windows Central
8 must-see indie Xbox and PC games you may have missed at E3 2017
Windows Central
More than 80 chess puzzles will challenge players' mettle, including historic matches that can play out identically or differently to their real-life counterparts. Need to brush up on your chess skills? A vast array of tutorials will get you back onto ...

and more »

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8 must-see indie Xbox and PC games you may have missed at E3 2017 - Windows Central

Chess Ultra is now available for pre-order on Xbox One – OnMSFT (blog)

Chess Ultra is finally available for pre-order on the Xbox One and has been given a special discount in all regions for those that pre-order it before it launches on June 23rd. The game is a digital version of the traditional game but comes with a variety of different themed boards, online multiplayer, leaderboards, and a collection of chess-related puzzles to solve. Heres the official description:

Introducing the most breathtaking chess game ever made. Chess Ultra features stunning visuals, seamless online multiplayer and Grandmaster-approved AI to offer the ultimate chess experience. Explore an array of intricately crafted environments and choose from a selection of iconic chess sets designed with both the modern and traditional chess player in mind. Whether youre a beginner or a veteran of the great game, Chess Ultra has something to offer for players of all ages and ability.

Stunning chess sets and beautiful environments

10 Grandmaster-approved AI levels

Intuitive, overhauled local and online multiplayer with ELO ranking system

Comprehensive time controls, including Classical, Blitz and Marathon, available online

Spectate and compete in Official Ripstone tournaments

Demonstrate your skills in over 80 chess puzzles

Re-write the past by winning the biggest historic matches

In-depth tutorials to help improve your game

Chess has never looked this good!

Do you like playing chess video games? Let us know why or why not in the comments below.

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Chess Ultra is now available for pre-order on Xbox One - OnMSFT (blog)

Chess Ultra release date announced for Xbox One to go alongside … – TheXboxHub (blog)

You may be sitting there happily pondering your every move with Pure Chess, but very soon youll be given the chance to play the most breath-taking chess game ever created. Its been 1500 years in the makingthis is CHESS ULTRA!

Ripstone Games have today announced that Chess Ultra will soon be launching. Due for release on Xbox One come 23rd June 2017, with pre-order options open from the 7th June, Chess Ultra is the chess game you always wanted.

It comes with absolutely stunning visuals, the most seamless of online multiplayer options and a Grandmaster approved AI system that will provide the ultimate chess experience. Itll also deliver Classical, Blitza and Marathon game modes, more than 80 chess puzzles and the chance to rewrite history by proving your worth in some of the most historic chess scenarios ever seen.

But thats not all, as alongside some beautiful environments and chess sets, the chance to play cross-platform with PC players from the comfort of your Xbox One shouldnt be ignored.

Key features include:

Chess Ultra is not only coming to Xbox One though, and Ripstone will be delivering the goods to PlayStation 4, PlayStation VR, Steam, HTC Vive & Oculus players as well.

If that all sounds good to you, and you wish to know even more, then you could do worse than hit up the Ripstone Twitch stream at 4pm UK time on the 7th June 2017 as the team show off Chess Ultra. Failing that, just grab a view of the new trailer below. It looks awesome!

Originally posted here:
Chess Ultra release date announced for Xbox One to go alongside ... - TheXboxHub (blog)

Play the Grim Reaper and Save Your Soul in Chess Ultra This … – VRFocus

Back in February British indie developer Ripstone Games announced virtual reality (VR) compatible board game Chess Ultra, due tobe released forOculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR this year. Today, the studio has confirmed a launch date and released a brand new trailer showcasing a previously undisclosed feature, a game with the Grim Reaper.

As you may expectChess Ultrais about one thing the classic, centuries old game of chess. Not content with providing just your average chess videogame, Ripstone Games has added a wealth of features, whether youre new to the game or an experienced pro.

Featuring high-resolution 4K environments,Chess Ultrahas in-depth tutorials to start newbies off, learning what piece does what and the myriad of tactics that can be used. Matches can be played either locally or online, with cross-platform support available as well astime controls, including Classical, Blitz and Marathon.

There are over 80 chess puzzles to complete, and for those well versed in the game, ten grandmaster approved AI levels are included to really test those skills out. Additionally,Chess Ultraincludes full Twitch integration so that matches can be viewed online andinvite fans to play against their community. There will also be official Ripstone tournaments to spectate and compete in.

Lastly theres the Grim Reaper seen right at the end of the trailer specifically for VR. Players can challenge Death in the pits of Gomorrah, putting their mortal soul in jeopardy. Play well and hell get angry, his eyes burn with rage and the lava will flow ferociously. Lose, and hell reach over and take their soul.

If you want to see theTwitch integration in action, Ripstone is hosting a livestream on Twitch at 4pm BST time on 7thJune, where viewers can play Chess Ultra against the team and ask questions about the videogame.

ChessUltra will be released on 21st June 2017 via Steam and PlayStation Store. For further updates from Ripstone Games,keep reading VRFocus.

Staff writer at VRFocus who enjoys bringing the latest news to our keen readers all over the world. Obsessive gamer since the days of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, when Peter does step outside he's off to practice Bruce Lee's Jeet Kun Do, or see the latest local live bands.

E-mail: pgraham@vrfocus.com

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Play the Grim Reaper and Save Your Soul in Chess Ultra This ... - VRFocus

On Chess: Are chess books dying? – St. Louis Public Radio

I must confess. I have a very difficult time answering the classic question: Whats your favorite chess book? Heck, I dont know if I can even name the last chess book that Ive read to completion. As an international master and chess coach, the inability to answer such a simple question could raise some eyebrows.

Perhaps 20 to 30 years ago, books were the dominant resource for learning chess. Today, this is no longer the case. Having begun my chess pursuit in the 21st century, the vast majority of my chess knowledge has been consumed through a computer. Between instructional videos, online lessons with grandmaster coaches, and the tens of thousands of games I have played online, I have been able to continually learn and develop as a player. A boom of young and improving players are taking a similar approach.

The influence of technology on education extends well beyond chess. Schools across the world are integrating technology into their curriculums to make learning experiences more interesting, interactive, and efficient. The chess community is taking advantage of the same opportunities. With just a Wi-Fi connection, learning chess is now easier and more accessible than ever.

Lets look at a website like ChessKid.com. The kid-friendly, online platform gives young players access to a complete training curriculum, video lessons and more than 50,000 chess puzzles. Also, users can compete against anyone from around the world. The advantages to a site like ChessKid over books are endless. Active engagement, interactivity, animation, progress tracking, and easy communication with other chess enthusiasts are all features that books cant provide.

Comparable platforms like Chessity, Chess.com, Lichess.org, The Internet Chess Cluband many others offer users a vast amount of educational resources. Why buy a puzzle book, when you can solve more than 30,000 tactics on Chess Tempo? Why buy a chess opening book when you can interactively learn hundreds of openings researched by grandmasters on Chessable? You can even find a host of chess lessons on YouTube, like the channel hosted by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center here in St. Louis that has more than 100,00 subscribers.

Now is an exciting time for chess. We are witnessing the brink of technologys influence on chess education. New websites and applications are emerging at a fast rate and are providing greater value and power for the learning chess player. Today, I can walk around with a 7-million game database and an engine as strong as IBMs Deep Blue in my back pocket. A couple decades ago, this would be unimaginable.

With the sheer amount of information across the web, its difficult to see how books can compete. Will chess books go extinct? Probably not anytime soon. To be fair, books are still a valuable resource especially the classics. They offer guidance and specializations in certain areas that could be difficult to locate online. Just go ahead and check out any book by MarkDvoretsky.

However, the popularity of physical chess books is certainly declining. If I were to read a chess book, I would much rather have it in a digital format where I could interactively play through the moves. As a chess player it is important to leverage the available resources and technologies to facilitate engaging learning and further improvement.

Eric Rosen is an international master and a member of the Webster University Chess Team. In 2011, he won the National K-12 Championships with a perfect 7/7 score. In addition to being an active tournament player, Rosen coaches students from all over the world via the internet.

See the rest here:
On Chess: Are chess books dying? - St. Louis Public Radio

On Chess: Are Chess Books Dying? – KBIA

I must confess. I have a very difficult time answering the classic question: Whats your favorite chess book? Heck, I dont know if I can even name the last chess book that Ive read to completion. As an International Master and chess coach, the inability to answer such a simple question could raise some eyebrows.

Perhaps 20 to 30 years ago, books were the dominant resource for learning chess. Today, this is no longer the case. Having begun my chess pursuit in the 21st century, the vast majority of my chess knowledge has been consumed through a computer. Between instructional videos, online lessons with grandmaster coaches, and the tens of thousands of games I have played online, I have been able to continually learn and develop as a player. A boom of young and improving players are taking a similar approach.

The influence of technology on education extends well beyond chess. Schools across the world are integrating technology into their curriculums to make learning experiences more interesting, interactive, and efficient. The chess community is taking advantage of the same opportunities. With just a wifi connection, learning chess is now easier and more accessible than ever.

Lets look at a website like ChessKid.com. The kid-friendly online platform gives young players access to a complete training curriculum, video lessons and over 50,000 chess puzzles. Also, users can compete against anyone from around the world. The advantages to a site like ChessKid over books are endless. Active engagement, interactivity, animation, progress tracking, and easy communication with other chess enthusiasts are all features which books cant provide.

Comparable platforms like Chessity, Chess.com, Lichess.org, The Internet Chess Cluband many others offer users a vast amount of educational resources. Why buy a puzzle book, when you can solve over 30,000 tactics on Chess Tempo? Why buy a chess opening book when you can interactively learn hundreds of openings researched by grandmasters on Chessable? You can even access a whole host of chess lessons on YouTube, like the channel hosted by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center here in St. Louis that has over 100,00 subscribers.

It is an exciting time for chess. We are witnessing the brink of technologys influence on chess education. New websites and applications are emerging at a fast rate which are providing greater value and power for the learning chess player. Today, I can walk around with a 7-million game database and an engine as strong as IBMs Deep Blue in my back pocket. A couple decades ago, this would be unimaginable.

With the sheer amount of information across the web, its difficult to see how books can compete. Will chess books go extinct? Probably not anytime soon. To be fair, books are still a valuable resource especially the classics. They offer guidance and specializations in certain areas that could be difficult to locate online. Just go ahead and check out any book by MarkDvoretsky.

However, the popularity of physical chess books is certainly declining. If I were to read a chess book, I would much rather have it in a digital format where I could interactively play through the moves. As a chess player it is important to leverage the available resources and technologies to facilitate engaging learning and further improvement.

Eric Rosen is an international master and a member of the Webster University Chess Team. In 2011, he won the National K-12 Championships with a perfect 7/7 score. In addition to being an active tournament player, Rosen coaches students from all over the world via the internet.

The rest is here:
On Chess: Are Chess Books Dying? - KBIA


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