On Tuesday, December 9, for the first time in Broward County history, students from two Sunrise public schools will participate in an event as part of the London Chess Classic, a major international chess tournament held in London, UK. However, the students from Sawgrass Elementary and Sandpiper Elementary will not be jet lagged and they did not have to fundraise to fly to this international friendly event.
In collaboration with the United States-based National Scholastic Chess Foundation and the United Kingdom-based Chess in Schools and Communities, students from schools in the United Kingdom and Sunrise, Florida, will be linked electronically to participate in friendly games of chess. The event starts at 8:00 a.m. EST/1:00 p.m. GMT from Sawgrass Elementary and Sandpiper Elementary in Sunrise.
The event was the collaborative idea of Mayor Michael J. Ryan of Sunrise; Malcolm Pein from Chess in Schools and Communities, UK (“CSC”); Sunil Weeramantry, Executive Director of the National Scholastic Chess Foundation (“NSCF”); and the principals from the Sunrise schools.
“While I was researching how other countries work to expand scholastic chess, I came across the great work of Chess in Schools and Communities in London,” explained Mayor Ryan. “I realized so much of the CSC mission, aimed at training community volunteers, parents and teachers to expand scholastic chess throughout the community, was similar to the mission of the National Scholastic Chess Foundation who had been providing assistance here in Broward County.”
This year has seen an astonishing growth in scholastic chess in Broward County. Last school year, in collaboration with the America’s Foundation for Chess “First Move” program and the City of Sunrise, a pilot program was launched to provide chess education as part of the curriculum in Sunrise public schools’ 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms. The program was so successful that the “First Move” program has now expanded to provide chess in the curriculum for every 2nd and 3rd grader in Broward County public schools, resulting in over 30,000 Broward County public school students learning chess in the classroom.
“Our mission is to expand scholastic chess by focusing on the academic benefits of chess in the classroom and community,” said Sunil Weeramantry, Executive Director of the National Scholastic Chess Foundation’s “Next Move” program and world-renowned chess coach, instructor and author. “Building upon the enthusiasm in Broward County and with the assistance of the Broward Education Foundation, we have launched the “Next Move” program which provides free training sessions for teachers, parents and community volunteers intended to expand the number of classrooms introducing chess as well as the quality of chess mentors in the community.”
According to a landmark 2000 study published in the journal “Research in the Schools,” students who received chess instruction scored significantly higher on all measures of academic achievement, including math, spatial analysis, and non-verbal reasoning ability. Chess in the curriculum is not new internationally.
“We know here in the UK that chess in the classroom is a powerful tool for students to develop necessary critical thinking skills, higher levels of reasoning, problem-solving ability and improved concentration,” outlined Malcolm Pein, Chief Executive of Chess in the Schools and Community in London, UK. “Based upon the identified academic benefits, we see chess as a community project where teachers, mentors and chess coaches can be trained to help expand chess into every aspect of the scholastic environment and community.”
The London Chess Classic, from December 8 through December 14, brings together some of the world’s best chess players for an international tournament. The ties between the London Chess Classic and Sunrise extend beyond the students from Sawgrass Elementary and Sandpiper Elementary participating in the event. American chess Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamaru – currently ranked #1 in the US and #7 in the world – calls Sunrise home and will be competing in the London Chess Classic. Organizers hope to have Mr. Nakamaru, while in London, say a few words of encouragement to the Sunrise students.
“This is a unique opportunity for our students to link internationally with other students through chess and the schools,” explained Mayor Ryan. “I know these students will develop lasting memories from this event. I am also confident the relationship between the National Scholastic Chess Foundation, Chess in the Schools and Community, the Broward Education Foundation, our schools and the City of Sunrise will expand even further to collaborate on the best methods to bring the benefits of scholastic chess to all students.”