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Make the Right Move

Chaya Englard

I heard about a yeshivah girl’s school in Flatbush that took their students to a chess tournament and I was intrigued. My crash course began

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

 Mishpacha image

 

I

’ll tell you the truth: until last week, I knew nothing about chess. My meager knowledge consisted of black and white pieces and old men shuffling chess pieces across a marble and stone table on the streets of Ocean Parkway.

 But then I heard about a yeshivah girl’s school in Flatbush that took their students to a chess tournament and I was intrigued. My crash course into the world of chess began.

 

Here’s what I learned in one week:

 -   I will not become the next grandmaster (which is the highest title a chess player can receive from the world chess organization FIDE) in one week. Not even close. I tried and I was very humbly trounced by a younger player.

-   It takes a lot of brainpower to think a few steps ahead.

-   Yes. Kindergarteners can beat students way older than themselves.

-   Chess is not just for boys. Girls excel at it too.

-   If you go into a chess game without a plan you will lose.

-   Don’t be a show-off with your queen. Use wisely and later in the game.

-   Watch out for pawns. They can be sneaky.

-   Even a non-player like myself improved significantly over one week. Hard work really does pay off.   

 

Mrs. A. Klestzick is the principal of Prospect Park Yeshiva and Mr. Olug Frenkel is a chess grandmaster. The chess program is their joint brainchild.

 

How it all began

Three years ago, with a mutual love for chess. “As a young adult, I fell in love with chess. It’s a fabulous game,” said Mrs. Klestzick. But launching a chess club wasn’t easy. At first she started an after-school chess club which she herself taught. “I wanted it embedded in the curriculum. Not everyone could afford the fee or stay after school. My dream was for it to be free and available for all students. But I couldn’t find anyone to teach it.”

Then Mr. Frenkel contacted Mrs. Klestzick. “She immediately said, ‘When can you start?’”

 

Born in Moscow, Mr. Frenkel is “chess royalty.” “My father was an international grandmaster and my mother won second place in the 1984 Malta Olympics.” At a young age, Olug Frenkel was rubbing shoulders with some of the greatest grandmasters in the world. “I studied at a chess school for four years under the leadership of Mikhail Botvinnik. I trained together with Garry Kasparov, who was the world’s number one chess champion for 15 years.”

In 1979, Mr. Frenkel emigrated to the United States. On his way, he stopped in Italy where he earned the title of grandmaster himself. At 21, Mr. Frenkel was one of the top players in the world boasting a high rating and competing with the best. After a 17-year break, Mr. Frenkel turned to chess again, but this time as a teacher. “I came back to chess by accident. Someone referred me to a school and I started teaching and it just took off. I loved giving over my knowledge.”

Together, Mrs. Klestzick and Mr. Frenkel created an airtight chess curriculum. But first they needed to decide on a grade.

Mr. Frenkel: We originally started with second grade but the program expanded. Now I teach students from grades 2-7.

Mrs. Klestzick: I was nervous about starting so young. We’re talking about seven-year-olds; some of whom have never seen a chessboard before in their life and have no idea what to do with it. But Mr. Frenkel was insistent that their minds are able to learn best at a young age so I went with it.

Mrs. Klestzick was skeptical but went with his advice. To her surprise, the students surpassed expectations. Three years later, chess is now offered to grades two through four and some select fifth, sixth and seventh grade students.

(Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 712)

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