Chess club is essentially a course in magic.
How it Began
Ted Winick started teaching chess in Toronto in 1998 as a volunteer at his children’s elementary school. His initial motivation was simply to provide a fun, intellectually stimulating activity. Later that year, when he started working with the new club to prepare a school team for the city championship, he was in for a surprise: the best under-15 chess player in Canada had been attending the school all along! What happened next was the watershed event that led to the philosophical foundation of Chess Institute.
“We need five players on the tournament team,” Ted said to this boy. “Although I would love for you to be one of them, what I would really like is for you to be the coach.” The boy agreed, and not only coached, but played first board, taking the team to a first-place win.
As Ted reflected on how he had helped this young player grow into his role as a coach and leader, he realized how many other life-changing skills his chess program was imparting to students: perseverance, perspective, learning from mistakes, finding one’s best move before committing to it, managing emotions, winning with grace, losing with dignity, respecting one’s opponents, and learning to be a positive role model. Ted realized that chess can help children acquire the personal and social skills to become successful in life.
Doing Magic with Chess
After the championship win, Ted began receiving requests from other schools to teach chess. Clearly, it was the tournament success that was behind these requests. However, as Ted grew increasingly convinced that the real value he had been providing as a coach was changing lives, he began in 2002 to promote his program in schools in this way:
“If I told you this is a tutoring program which will significantly improve your child’s reading, math, logic and problem-solving skills, focus an ADD kid, humble a braggart, boost the self-esteem and confidence of a shy child, and teach the real-world skills of learning from mistakes, thinking before acting, and consideration for others – and your child will love this course and see it as fun – you would agree it is magic.”
In 2005, Ted took his program and approached 32 city schools ranking very low on TDSB’s Learning Opportunity Index. With a $10,000 donation from a British foundation and an additional $18,000 from Manulife Financial over five years for one particular school, the program got started in its charitable work. Chess Institute of Canada (CIC) was founded on October 5, 2005, with Ted as its founder and first CEO.