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Spotlight: Failing Forward with Robert Dugoni
At the center of a Venn diagram of law, writing, and chess, you’d find Robert Dugoni. He is a bestselling author who integrates the game of chess into his writings to impact millions of lives. He’s also spent time as a professional legal practitioner before returning to writing, his original career path. Robert wasn’t always this well-rounded and...
March 25th 2023
Chess4life Spotlight: Setting Chess Apart From Competitive Sports And Expanding Chess Awareness
Josh is a chess master who has dedicated much of his life to transforming thousands and thousands of kids' lives through the game of chess. He grew up in the Seattle area where...
November 25th 2022
Chess4life Spotlight: How Kids Can Learn Chess And Its Effects On Their Growth With Siva Sankrithi
The game of chess has been a major part of Siva Sankrithi’s life. It is something he has always enjoyed and dabbled in various ways. Siva retired from his career as a high school teacher only at 29 to focus on homeschooling his kids and running a small educational consulting nonprofit where he...
November 18th 2022
Chess4Life Spotlight: Becoming Dean of Scholastic Chess And Playing A GM In Chess with Dewain Barber
Having been involved in chess for about 10 years, Dewain got a phone call back in 1984: a phone call that still resonates with him 38 years down the line...
November 11th 2022
Spotlight: Coaching An International Master In Chess And Chess On The Great Wall
At the age of 9, Dewain Barber was able to learn chess from his brother. They both had a unique and interesting experience of learning and playing chess together. He attended his high school in Arizona and given that his father was in the military, Dewain had the opportunity to move around the world. When he finished high school, Dewain...
November 4th 2022
Spotlight: From State Trooper and Air Force Veteran to Chess Coach
If you looked up “serving others” in an encyclopedia you just might find a picture of Orrin “Checkmate” Hudson. Orrin is an Air Force veteran and a former state trooper who founded Be Someone, an organization that helps kids develop leadership and life skills through chess one move at a time. Just what inspired such a massive career change?...
October 28th 2022
Spotlight: Breck Haining on Parenting and Chess
Breck Haining is the father of two children who participate in chess competitively. He learned from his father to play chess when he was 8 or 9 years old. Breck’s dad taught him how the pieces move and the general goal of the game. His brother got into learning tactics and Breck observed how much this improved his brother’s ability. Years later, Breck’s own son came home from school and asked to learn how to play chess. Breck saw a parenting opportunity: chess can be a tool for...
October 21st 2022
Spotlight: Chess Bridging the Gap from College to Career with Florian Helff
The transition from college to career can be a challenging time. Since the beginning of the pandemic it can be even more difficult for recent graduates to make the necessary connections to find employment. At the same time, the challenge of ...
October 15th 2022
Spotlight: Robert Katende, Coach of the Queen of Katwe
What do you call the coach of a queen? This week’s Chess4Life Spotlight guest Robert Katende is just that. He was the coach of Phiona Mutesi, the “Queen of Katwe” (you can even see Robert in the Disney film!). Though...
October 7th 2022
Spotlight: How Dr. Joe Castleberry Sees a Connection between Chess and His Faith
Dr. Joe Castleberry has lived an incredible life – he’s traveled and lived all over the world, had amazing educational opportunities, and became the president of a university despite being the first in his family to attend college. Dr. Castleberry describes his life as like a chess match, but it might not be in the way you initially expect. He sees...
October 1st 2022
Spotlight: Filling Gaps in the Chess World with Randy Kaech
Randy Kaech once directed a tournament where Walter Browne, six time U.S. Champion, played. Knowing this fact from his adulthood, you might never guess he once had no idea there was a broader world of chess. Randy grew up in a small town in a rural area of...
September 23rd 2022
Spotlight: Chess Impacting STEM Careers with Bruce Kovalsky
It’s easy to see that Bruce Kovalsky has had a successful career in the STEM industry from even a quick glance at his resume. He’s been a senior manager and senior engineering specialist at places like Boeing and IBM and has now been taking...
September 16th 2022
Spotlight: Chess Skills as Successful Business Skills with Jim Egerton
This week’s Spotlight guest is Jim Egerton, owner and founder of Business on the Board, a talent development company that accelerates employees’ mastery of critical business skills through the game of chess in the corporate world. Jim believes that chess leads to better thinking, better thinking leads to better decisions, and better decisions lead to...
September 9th 2022
Spotlight: Parenting Through Chess with Ken Lee
You may have seen our recent interview with 14-year-old Christos Boulis where we explored the benefits of chess from the perspective of a student. What benefits of chess are seen from the eyes of a parent? Ken Lee is Vice President of Michael Wiese Productions, the number one publisher in the world for books for indie filmmakers and writers. One evening during family movie night, Ken decided...
September 2nd 2022
Spotlight: Chess4Life Student Christos Boulis
At Chess4Life we believe that chess has great potential to teach kids life skills. Children can benefit from far more than just enjoying the game by learning to play. Instead of having you take our word for it, we decided to go straight to the kids and see what they think! This week’s Spotlight features Christos Boulis, a 14-year-old student of Chess4Life. Christos has achieved remarkable chess growth in a short amount of time and has a big goal of achieving Master level before he turns 18. We asked Christos what...
August 26th 2022
Spotlight: Supporting Women in Chess with Ashley Priore
She played her first chess game at 4 and started her first non-profit at 14… does this sound like a child prodigy to you? Us too! When Ashley Priore sees a problem, she jumps right in and does what she can to solve it. Her story with chess has a complexity many girls and women may face in the chess world. Chess helped Ashley develop the life skills she...
August 19th 2022
Spotlight: Bryan Heathman, What Do Book Writing and Chess Have in Common?
If you were able to tune into Chess4Life’s Spotlight last week, you heard the story of how Kyle Haining’s chess mastery helped him in his coding career. Well, what about book writing? Can a game that is played mostly in silence have...
August 12th 2022
Spotlight: Kyle Haining, from Chess National Master to Computer Coder
This week’s spotlight falls on Kyle Haining, a current software developer. He’s also a national master in chess, ranking him among the top percentage of players in the United States. Kyle has been playing chess since the first grade when he had a meaningful introduction to the game. He found a book on chess at school that caught his interest and took it home with him. At the time, Kyle’s father had cancer which...
August 6th 2022
Spotlight: Benjamin Mukumbya, from African slum to Disney movie to medical profession!
From a chess club in a slum of Uganda to being part of a Disney live action film to attending university in the United States with a big dream of positively impacting others, Benjamin Mukumbya’s story is one you do not want to miss. I’ve always believed in the capacity...
July 30th 2022
A Chess Rating is a number typically ranging from 400-2000+. It is an estimate of a person’s tournament playing strength. You receive a rating after playing in a rated tournament once your name is entered into the database of players. The number will go up or down depending on how well you do against other rated players. Here is a list of sample ratings and how they typically correlate to chess skill:
June 22nd 2021
Nationals is an ‘open championship’ meaning that there are no qualification requirements. Every participant simply must have a USCF membership. There are sections for all rating levels, from unrated through ‘open championship’ sections. We recommend that if a student enjoys competing in tournaments already, then attending nationals can be an amazing experience!
October 15th 2019
The Queen of Katwe is a real-life story told in a book and Disney live-action movie…and the story continues to develop. At Chess4Life HQ in Bellevue, WA, thousands of students develop Life Skills Through Chess: critical thinking skills, focus, planning, social-emotional skills and more. On the opposite side of the world, similar life-changing results are being seen…meet Phiona & Benjamin, whose story has brought them on an amazing journey that includes the Slums of Uganda, Red Carpet of Hollywood, Chess4Life, and most recently Northwest University in Kirkland, WA!
July 19th 2017
In 2013, our Founder and CEO, Elliott Neff, heard about an inspiring book entitled The Queen of Katwe. This story chronicles the life of a young girl named Phiona Mutesi who was born in Katwe, a Ugandan slum where food, water, and clothes are difficult to come by. Despite her harrowing circumstances, Phiona was able to achieve tremendous things after being introduced to chess by Robert Katende, her chess coach and mentor.
September 20th 2016
Finding a balance between your children’s wants and your needs while piecing together a full summer schedule can be daunting, as there are hundreds of summer programs in the Seattle area to choose from. Which programs are best? Look for programs that have the following four elements, and both your needs and your child’s needs will be met.
April 21st 2016
With over 1,100 competitors at State, roughly 5,000 people are expected. Parking can be especially challenging if you arrive late. If possible, come on Friday and visit the event to acquaint yourself with the layout. There is free parking in the parking structure next to the Tacoma dome and a free light rail service that will transport you to the Convention Center. For more parking information, click HERE.
March 15th 2016
PRACTICE CHESS TACTICS AND PUZZLES We recommend approximately 15 minutes per day, 5 days a week. REVIEW PAST TOURNAMENT GAMES Review the last 20-30 tournament games to refresh on where the student could improve or WOULD improve if playing the same game again. PRACTICE ENDGAMES Spend at least 30 minutes reviewing/practicing basic endgames/checkmates – preferably with 5 minutes on a chess clock against another person. DON’T CRAM Avoid spending the week before a tournament cramming on chess strategy.
March 15th 2016
We want to give a big THANK YOU to all those who participated in the 100 board simul last weekend! 115 people ended up playing against Elliott which was a personal record for him in a simul. Play started around 12:20PM. In the end, Elliott drew 4 games and won the rest (NO LOSSES!!) The last game ended at 8:15PM, a total play time of about eight hours!
October 22nd 2015
On April 24th, Chess4life played host to Phiona Mutesi, a young girl with a powerful story of success and inspiration. While visiting, she spoke to students, told her story, and even took the time to play some games with children while teaching them to think positively and have confidence in their own abilities. Phiona’s youth gave her the ability to relate to students easily, allowing her to connect with them and earn a positive response.
May 13th 2015
Excitement buzzed in the air as hundreds of students and families flooded to downtown Seattle for the 2014 Washington State Elementary Championships. The tournament was held on the Seattle waterfront in Smith Cove Cruise Terminal, a two story building with 145,000 square feet of space. In addition to players and their families, numerous chess related organizations arrived up and gave support for the event including Pico Dragons,,, and Chess4Life.
May 13th 2015


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