Experiment: Chess Camp in a mall

by Sagar Shah
5/21/2023 – Our Summer Camp has completed five days, with many hundreds of new players being trained. The camp is being held at the Phoenix Marketcity Mall in Mumbai and is open to all. There are no charges and people can learn chess in a fun and engaging way, at their own pace. Trainers and volunteers help to educate the public and guide them in the right direction. Is this a model that can be emulated in countries all over the world? Full video impressions at the end of the article.

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Some years ago co-founder of ChessBase Frederic Friedel showed us a little trick. He held a five Euro note between thumb and index, and challenged us to catch it when he let go. It seemed quite simple, But we could never succeed. It would always fall to the ground.

So I tried it the other way around: I held and released the note. Frederic would catch it each time. I couldn't understand why. I asked him the secret.

"You decided when to release it, and I could pick up clues," he said. "When I hold the note, I slowly loosen the pinch, not knowing when the note will be released. You have no clues to sense the moment when it falls, there is nothing to tell you when it will."

That the answer! I had no way of knowing when the note would be released, because even Frederic didn't know! Sometimes not having a firm plan, a clear intention, can be a good idea!

Apart from the stellar coverage he has done for chess, Frederic Friedel is loved in the chess community for his logical puzzles and tricks! In the above picture he is with Anish Giri and D. Gukesh at the WR Masters 2023 in Germany.

In some ways this is how we approached the Big Chess Summer Camp. We wanted to chalk the outline, but we didn't want to control was how people would react. We wanted it to be chaotic, we wanted learning to spread in all directions! It should not always be a one-way stream – from the teacher to the student. And when you plan it this way, you need to make sure that there is some structure to it, but enough room for people to find their own ideas (where to sit, with whom to sit, how to solve, at what speed to solve etc.).

In April my friend Priyanka Ved told me that she had some time on hand and that she was ready to work together with me and ChessBase India to do something for the chess community. I told Priyanka that we should figure out something that would help in spreading chess. We came up with the idea of doing a chess summer camp. She was on board with this thought. We decided to do a self-paced chess training camp that would be open to all. We would have printed sheets that would take them step by step through the rules, show them how the pieces move, the basic tactics, opening principles, and make them into decent players. It would give people the ability to learn chess in their own space, at their own pace. If they got tired of solving they could play with other people who had come to the camp. There would be no fees attached and the camp would be open to all.

I asked Phoenix Marketcity if they would be interested in hosting such a camp at the same place where we have the ChessBase India Chess Club. They agreed.

Priyanka and Nithin Chandan, who has worked with ChessBase India in the past, would be the main trainers and we would have strong chess players from the ChessBase India chess club and our community who could volunteer. We would call it the Big Chess Summer Camp. The aim was to reach 1000 people in 10 days!

The Big Chess Summer Camp idea has done well until now. We have had 280 people who have learnt chess or improved at it in the first four days. There is no entry fee, it is open to all and if you finish 32 levels you get a special certificate. 

Name: The Big Chess Summer Camp

Venue: Atrium 5 area, Phoenix Marketcity Mall, Kurla, Mumbai

Dates: 16th - 25th May 2023 (You can join on any day and learn at your own pace)

Timings: 3-7 p.m. IST

Level of the camp: Beginners

Age group: Open to all

Aim of the camp: For those who do not know the rules of chess, or know them only partially, we would like you to reach a level where you can play a good game of chess 

Fee: The entry is free!

At the Summer Camp people have the opportunity to learn how to play chess from absolute basics to a level where you can play a good game with your friends. There is no prior registration required, so anyone can simply show up and be a part of the camp on any day they choose!

Before you enter the training arena, you are asked by a volunteer whether you know the rules of chess? If your answer is yes, then you can proceed to the training area and take a chair. There your training will begin with the level one sheet that will be given to you. If you do not know the rules, then you will go to a zone where the rules of the game will be taught. Once you learn the rules of the game, then you can enter the training area!

Here are examples of the sheets visitors are given to solve (click to enlarge):

Video impressions of the Summer Chess Camp

We, at ChessBase India, have always thought that chess has the power to bring out a change in the social fabric, to meet and connect people across ages, nations, financial backgrounds! ChessBase India teaches chess at the Chembur Children's Home in Mankhurd and we hope to do so at many other places under our Teach Chess India initiative.

 Check out this video to know what happened on 20th of May 2023

If you are in and around Mumbai, do plan a trip to this place. It is from 3-7 p.m. IST from 16th to 25th of May 2023. I will be there waiting for you! And if you are an organizer who wishes to stage a similar camp in your country you are welcome to contact me:

Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India, the biggest chess news portal in the country. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and to date close to a billion views. ChessBase India is the sole distributor of ChessBase products in India and seven adjoining countries, where the software is available at a 60% discount. compared to International prices.


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