In September 2008, I founded the Chess Team of The School at Columbia University and remained its coach through May 2010. During that time, the team won fifty-two team awards. Thirty of those awards were for 1st place, twenty-one were for 2nd place and one, our very first, was for 3rd place. In addition, my students won hundreds of individual trophies and medals.
On February 1st, 2009, one of my students competed, for the first time, in the 43rd Annual Greater New York Scholastic Chess Championship. This particular tournament is extremely popular among young chess enthusiasts and typically attracts more than eight hundred participants. Out of 86 competitors in the Elementary Novice (K-6, Under 700) section, my student won clear 1st place with a perfect score.
On January 31st, 2010, the Chess Team of The School at Columbia University competed, for the first time, in the Elementary Novice (K-6, Under 700) section of the 44th Annual Greater New York Scholastic Chess Championship and placed 1st in a field of 19 teams. Individually, one of my fifth grade students tied for 1st place and another received 12th place out of 140 participants. In the same section, a third grade student was named the Top Unrated player. In the Primary Novice (K-3, Under 700) section, one of my second grade students tied for 3rd place out of 112 participants. In the Junior High - Junior Varsity (grades 9 and below, Under 1200) section, a seventh grade student of mine tied for 3rd place, and a fourth grade student was named Top Unrated player out of 63 participants.
Watching my students receive these awards, and seeing the joy and sense of accomplishment reflected in their smiles and eyes, was deeply moving. However, witnessing the transformative effect that chess made on their minds and character was the greater reward. To me, teaching chess is more than just teaching the game and creating a chance to excel and win; through chess, I aspire to making my students' lives richer. Chess, just like life, is complex and full of choices. In order to be successful in chess and in life, players need to be confident, strong, and fearless. When I saw my shy and insecure students become more social, confident and decisive, I knew my hard work paid off. I am sure that as happy as my students were with their achievements, I was the happiest of all.