How to Arrange a Summer Weekend Chess Camp

Many chess leaders have realised the importance of arranging summer camps. A summer camp brings children together and gives them the feeling of belonging to a group. It is a way to make new friends and share a common interest. Getting the right social environment is the key to making the camp a success. A chess camp should be a mix of having fun and having the opportunity to deepen chess knowledge. A summer camp is an opportunity to involve parents. The camp leaders can spend some time discussing their children’s interests. With regular school or club sessions, there is usually little time when the parents come to pick up their children.Choosing camp leaders and the team is crucial. You need an Event Director, a chess expert, a child welfare expert, a venue manager and someone familiar with the local area You may be able to co-operate with a local club. Also, parents may be able to make a contribution e.g. lead an outing. A summer Camp is typically for one week or a weekend. A Camp can usefully be organised in the days before a chess competition as a way to prepare the children.

International group of children at chess camp in Riga

The plan for the Summer Camp should be something as follows:

Phase 1: Planning

  • Check with some parents that they would be interested in supporting a Camp
  • Check the date and duration of the Camp. Avoid clash with other chess events.
  • Decide whether residential / non-residential
  • Budget the revenue and expenses
  • Investigate child-friendly places – schools, community centres, farms, scout camps
  • Check the kitchen and other equipment
  • Check the teaching room layout and furniture
  • Reserve the venue – set a date to cancel if not enough attendees
  • Investigate sponsorhip / funding for children from poor families

Phase 2: Set Up

  • Appoint your team. Of course, an adult can carry out more than one role.
    • the event director
    • chess lecturer(s)
    • child welfare co-ordinator
    • venue manager
    • outings leader
    • driver(s)
    • catering
  • Ensure adults have appropriate legal clearance to be in charge of children, e.g. criminal record checks, parental permission
  • Procure the chess equipment including chess sets, boards, demonstration boards, timers, laptop and projector, etc.
  • Advertise the event with full details: dates, final date to apply, venue, costs, programme, route directions
  • Create an invitation poster and leaflet for display, hand out and distribution to your familiar channels
  • Create an event webpage and get referral links from popular sites e.g. local chess clubs, national federation chess calendar, local classified advertising
  • Inform the children, their parents and club members. Word of mouth is the most effective channel.

Phase 3: Prior to the event

  • Contact the parents who expressed support for the event
  • Register children
    • Find out chess level of children
    • Any special diet
    • Any health/disability issues
  • Send out reminders
    • Joining instructions
    • Chase any payments
  • Check venue facilities
    • Washrooms
    • Fire escape
  • Room Setup
    • Tables and chairs
    • Audiovisual equipment
  • Commemoration
    • Print a Certificate of Attendance
    • Get a memento for each person e.g. a fridge magnet, badge, T-shirt

If many children sign up to the Camp, they should be divided into different groups according to their perceived game strength. You should plan for at least one leader for eight children. Try and get an even age distribution so that the teams can also compete against each other in the outdoor activities.

Weekend Schedule
This is a typical schedule for a Camp taking place over a weekend starting Friday evening. There is a mix of social events, chess study and free time.
Friday
17.00 – 17.30 Welcome. Arrival and check in.
17:30 – 18:00 Plenary: Presentation by director and leaders. Discuss practical details. Get permission for photographs of the event.
18.00 – 19.00 Dinner
19.30 – 20.30 Chess training in each group
20.30 – 21.30 Chess competition
22.00 Close (depending on age of children)
Saturday
08.00 – 09.00 Breakfast
09.00 – 11.00 Plenary: Talk by expert showing interesting positions and best games.
11.00 – 12.00 Sports activity – e.g. football.
12.00 – 13.00 Lunch.
13.00 – 15.30 In groups: Chess instruction and activities
15.30 – 16.00 Refreshments
16:00 – 17:00 In groups: Chess instruction and activities
17.00 – 18.00 Dinner
18.00 – 19.00 Outdoor activity – e.g. chess quiz / treasure hunt
19.00 – 20.00 Chess competition
20:00 – 22:00 Party and chess movie
22.00 Close (depending on age of children)
Sunday
08.00 – 09.00 Breakfast
09.00 – 11.00 In groups: Chess instruction and activities
11.00 – 12.00 Outdoor activity – three sports events
12.00 – 13.00 Lunch
13.00 – 15.00 In groups: Chess instruction and activities
15.00 – 15.45 Clean and tidy rooms and accommodation.
15.45 – 16.15 All gather for closing and award ceremony
16:15 Departure

Awards and Memories
At the last day’s prize ceremony, prizes can be awarded to the team that wins the team competition, as well as individual prizes for those who scored the most points in the chess competition. Recognise sporting behaviour. Plan that all the children get some recognition. Award the Attendance Certificates and distribute the mementoes. Take photos of the awards ceremony and post on the website.

Authors: Jesper Hall, John Foley
Photo (John Foley): Baltic Summer Chess Champ, Riga, Latvia 2014