I was first introduced to chess in the third grade, immediately falling in love with the complexity of strategy and the rush of competition. Three national titles and eight state titles later, chess has become a foundational and irreplaceable part of my life. Though I have enjoyed my experiences in competitive chess, it is my experience integrating chess into my community that has truly changed how I look at the game.
Motivated by my love of chess, I started ChessHelps, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Through ChessHelps, I run an annual chess charity tournament focused on giving back to my public high school and the larger community. The initial tournament attracted over one hundred players in 2014, but with creative advertising and community support, over 183 players from all around the country played in the 2017 tournament, including two international masters, and several National Masters. Through tournament entry fees, charitable donations, and corporate sponsorships, ChessHelps has raised over $40,000, money donated to my high school’s annual teacher fund and to KIVA, a microlending nonprofit organization that helps people elevate themselves out of poverty. Thirty different projects from all around the world have been funded by ChessHelps, and next year’s tournament is going to be the biggest yet.
Teaching chess has also been exceptionally important for me. I started teaching when I was in eighth grade, with both one-on-one and group lessons, then started chess clubs at two elementary schools in my city. I teach increasingly complex topics as the year progresses, starting with basic rules, then moving to more advanced topics such as tactics, endgames, middlegame strategy, and openings. Together with my friends that I’ve recruited, we’ve taught chess to over a hundred students in our club and another fifteen students through private lessons, raising $15,000 for my high school.
Inspired by one of my early coaches, Mr. Tobin, I hope to inspire others the way he inspired me. In the coming years, I hope bring this wonderful game to even more children during a formative period in their lives, when developing problem-solving abilities and thoughtful gameplay would have the most impact.