Advice from Coaches to Coaches


  • MIKE WOLFE, COTTAGE GROVE – I was getting a bit discouraged. After several announcements and two different meetings, I wasn’t getting much of a turnout from some of the younger players at my school. Here’s what I did: I announced a “freshman-only” tournament, with a cash prize of $15 for the winner (from club funds.) I was really surprised when 16 freshmen (the perfect number for a 4-round Swiss!) showed up. We started playing yesterday, and will continue for the next three Mondays. By doing this, I’ll be able to: 1–Identify the freshman players who play the best and those who have the most potential for future spots on our varsity  2–Get people used to coming to my classroom for chess  3–Have the freshmen meet my varsity players, (who are TD’ing the event) and see that just because they’re seniors doesn’t mean they’re scary  4–Have them meet me (I don’t have any freshman students so I don’t know them from class)  5–Give kids another reason to have fun with chess! So, if you’re wondering, “how do I get more players to come out for chess,” maybe this will work for you as well.  By the way, we only have a 1/2 hour lunch here, so we have to play fairly quickly and adjudicate games that are not finished. Everyone seemed to be OK with that, at least so far.


  • Chris McKinnon, Lakeview High School – If anyone is interested in playing games or matches online, the following link is a quick and easy way to play on freechess: On the site, download Main setup file and Additional components. Then double click on the downloaded setup file to install. If you want additional piece designs and sounds, double click on the graphics and sound setup files. When Babas chess is installed, run it, and login as a guest. You can choose any name for your handle–LakeviewBoardOne, for example (no numbers). Clilcking on one of the dots in the seek graph challeges that person to whatever game they have set up. Holding the mouse over a dot will reveal what the match conditions are. To challenge a specific person, click on the player list, click on the player, and then click on the match button. Time and color can be set at that point.  To have a match, two schools would have to arrange a day and time. The coaches could open a chat line by clicking on the other coach’s name in the player list, exchange player names, and have the home team offer the matches. The server keeps track of time and legality of moves, so  it’s pretty easy to run a match. The biggest problem at this point is getting enough teams to have a bona fide league with a schedule of matches. The point I want to stress here is that you DO NOT need to have accounts to play on freechess. It is very easy to download and install the Babas chess interface and it is very easy to use as a guest (or a registered user for that matter).  I hope people will try this now that the state  tournament and regular league are over and we can have an official cyber league this fall. If you have any questions, please contact me. We are ready to play some matches!!  There are other interfaces available


  • Kate Taylor, Clatskanie – Because of our very rural location, I’m interested in starting a cyber chess league. I’m in the process of gathering league documents from Mike Wolfe and Steve Hawke so that the online league would follow a similar format as the PIL and Western leagues.  Here’s how I think it would work:  1)  Teams would set a date and time to meet each week.  2)  Five players on five computers would match up with the other team’s five players on five computers.  3)  We’d play at a free website like Yahoo or a pay site like ICC.  (League fees could easily cover this expense.)  3)  League results would be posted online.  4)  We could plan to meet at the state event each year and hold an awards ceremony for the best teams in the league.   I’m interested in what others have to say about this league formation.  What would we call it?  Do you have suggestions on places to play?


  • Mike Wolfe, Cottage Grove – Yes, Cottage Grove awards a letter in chess.
    Here are the criteria: 1) Participate at the varsity level in at least 3/4 of all matches.  2) Finish the season as a member in good standing of the team, with all dues and fees paid or officially waived. 3) No athletic code violations. 4) No incidents while at matches, or traveling to or from matches, that are, in the opinion of the advisor, serious enough violations that they bring significant embarrassment to the other players, the advisor, the team, or the good reputation of Cottage Grove High School.  This can include anything from unsportsmanlike conduct to more severe violations.  That’s it, and it has worked well for us.
  • Stephen Runion, Lincoln – Yes, If they want they can earn an activity letter which is smaller than the athletic letter.
  • Tim Kniser, Benson – Yes, Benson awards Letters in Chess (same as other sports/activities). We use a formula that weighs a board one match more than board two and so on.  Basically, tenth board could letter if participating in every league match and B division at state.  Win/loss is not used since a first board loss could be harder than a fifth board win.
  • Steve Hawke, Wilson – Most , if not all of the schools in our league award letters-each has different criteria. At Wilson the issue is further complicated by the multiple teams we field so we worked with the activities director to get comparability around time,performance etc. compared to athletic awards. In our case a student letters if they attend over 80% of the practices, complete over 80% of any assigned homework and then meet competition requirements. Competition requirements are complicated but for our A team it looks like this: you start with opportunity points of 5 for 1st board,3.5 for 2nd, 3 for 3rd, 2.5 for 4th and 2 for 5th. You multiply this by 3 if you win a match,1.5 if you draw and .5 if you lose. If you participate in the state championships you can get double the points for your board and result. The total number of points varies based on how many league matches per year- this year it took 28 competition points to letter. Most of our A team letters as long as they go to states. 5th board,for example would get 12 points total if they lost all 12 of their matches in league and another 8 if they played 4 state matches and lost them all so they wouldn’t letter. But on the other end they could get 72 points if they won all 12 league matches and another  48 if they won all 4 state matches so they would letter easily. 2nd team opportunity points are not rated as high and 3rd team points are even lower but the win/draw/lose points stay the same.By the time you get to team 3 you have to win almost all of your matches and win some at states to even have a chance. We give out JV certificates to those who meet the practices and homework requirements and get at least 2 competition points. So in summary a student needs to put in the time and meet some performance metrics to earn a letter.
  • Mike Hughes, Jesuit – Jesuit High School Awards a letter for chess.
  • Kate Taylor, Clatskanie – I posted the original question about lettering in chess since Clatskanie High School did not offer one. I contacted the superintendent and was told it was too controversial.  Those jackets were meant for sports/athletics!  But, on further research with the school counselor, I discovered that the fact that students lettered in anything isn’t shown on a transcript.  (Kids have to include it themselves in their college applications.)  So, we’ve decided to give a letter from the club.  Something that looks very different from an athletic letter.  When a student earns a letter in chess they’ll also receive a letter of recommendation from me that lists their chess accomplishments.  That’s probably more valuable (although less sentimental).  Clatskanie’s requirements to receive a letter are on our website: Hint: scroll to the bottom of the page.



AMY COUGHLIN, NWSRS OREGON COORDINATOR – I The requirements for rating are actually relatively low. Here’s what we would do: To make for more accurate ratings, I would rate every 3-4 weeks. This way, unrated players and rated players would “mix,” sort of like in a standard Swiss event. Also, it’s just less work for everyone. You would have a couple of options for submitting results to me. Whatever method you choose, I would strongly refer you have a coordinator who is responsible for making sure we have the correct first name, last name and grade level for every player. This person would also be responsible for following up if there are conflicting results (see below).

Options for submission:

  1. SwissSys. If the coordinator knows how to use — or is willing to learn (with my help) — the results of each week’s rounds could be entered into SwissSys. Using SwissSys has several advantages in terms of keeping the results straight. There are no “goofy” results, for example, where it might say that player 1 played player 12 but player 12’s record says he played player 6. Or both player 1 and player 12 show that they won against each other. SwissSys won’t allow this. Also, many of the league players are already in the NWSRS database and there’s a registration program that integrates with SwissSys, which makes it easier than manual data entry. The downside of SwissSys is that someone has to purchase a license, but we could arrange a discount. SwissSys is easy to use by someone who is reasonably computer literate.
  2. Excel Spreadsheet. Assuming the coordinator already has Excel and knows how to use it, this is the cheaper and more accessible option. The data entry is a bit more manual and it’s possible to have some goofy results because there’s no error checking. On the other hand, you might be more likely to get a willing coordinator to use Excel over SwissSys. We have a template for the coordinator to use.

At the end of the season, I would bill the league at a rate of 12.5 cents per game. Suppose you have 50 players play 10 rounds. That’s 250 rounds times 12.5 cents. About $32 for the whole season.

I’ve provided enough detail to let the coordinator know what they are getting into, but I’d obviously want to work directly with that person to get into the details. Note that the amount of work for coaches is really no more than they are probably already doing to collect and submit results. The only difference is that I know that because the team results are more important than individual results, not everyone is careful about getting names and grade levels right.