Campers had all kinds of reasons for spending their mornings for a week in a room at the Waunakee Village Center learning to play chess.
Simon Marx, a sixth-grader at Waunakee Intermediate School, said it was natural for him to attend the morning Chess Wizards camp since he participated in chess club at school.
“I did chess a bit with my friend in winter,” he said. “I just came to have some fun.”
Aadya Sharma, a third-grader at Madison Country Day School, said it was a chance to play with other youths since she normally plays chess on a computer, her tablet or with her dad.
“I like it because a lot of times I’m not patient,” she said. “Chess just helps me strategize and become patient.”
Jackson Scheller, a fourth-grader at Arboretum Elementary School in Waunakee, and Logan Huza, a fourth-grader at Heritage Elementary School in Waunakee, both said they are into sports, but Logan acknowledged chess has some similarities because of the strategy involved.
Nora Jimenez, a fourth-grader at Waunakee’s Prairie Elementary School, said she came back because she enjoyed the camp last year. She said it is a chance to play with more people than her brother, Brody, a fifth-grader at Waunakee Intermediate, who was also attending the camp.
“I learned a few things” such as more strategies to get other players to checkmate, she said.
Lucas Steinbruegge, who was teaching the camp, said he wanted the campers to learn how to checkmate — in which a player’s king is in a line of attack by an opponent’s piece and cannot escape. The attacking player then wins the game.
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“They still thought of it (chess) as killing the king,” he said. “I’m trying to teach them a few ways to get to checkmate.”
Steinbruegge said that in addition to learning some strategy, the campers get a chance to play each other and had a mini tournament with trophies on the last day. They also had a chance to play a different version of chess that he referred to as “two on two.”
“It’s more fun versus the usual chess,” he said.
Time for playing outside of the Waunakee Village Center also was built into the camp.
The official name of the camp is Chess Wizards K-8 Scholastic Chess Day Camp but at some venues — such as the Waunakee Village Center where the camp was designed for first- through fifth-graders — only students in certain grades are enrolled with exceptions based on circumstances.
The program started in the Chicago area in 2002 and has since been slowly building into a national scholastic chess program, said Rob Brose, partner and co-founder. He said the organization has local coordinators and instructors operating its program in 14 states with about 200 chess educators involved nationally.
“Our approach to chess education and education in general is to make the learning process very fun, interactive and exciting. We’re playing a 2,000-year-old game that has been used as a teaching tool for just as long, but kids don’t care about that. First and foremost they want to have fun, make some friends, and conquer some challenges in a safe environment,” he said. “Chess is this great social game, where a 6-year-old can beat their parent on an equal playing field if they have enough skill.”
Brose said he hopes the campers find a game they can take home to their friends, siblings, parents and grandparents.
“At the end of our camp, our students will be better chess players, but our bigger goal is for them to have an amazing experience that inspires them to take their learning even further,” he said.