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Facing COVID-19 Challenges

Since March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, New York City schools suspended teaching and all activities–including the Intermediate School 318 Brooklyn Castle Chess Club.

The COVID-19 pandemic sadly impacted some of the children with deaths in their families.

“I had two children whose parents died from COVID-19,” said chess coach Elizabeth Spiegel.


Elizabeth Spiegel chess coach in green top with blue eyes

Elizabeth Spiegel
Chess Coach

For over two decades the 45-year-old mother of four has worked tirelessly for both chess and children.

Eight years ago, a documentary film, Brooklyn Castle, highlighted the I.S. 318 chess club’s achievements.

Elizabeth, a Woman FIDE Master with a rating of 2149, started as a part-time tutor in 1999 through the Chess in the Schools charity before taking the full-time position in 2007.

Students gathered around chess teacher at table

Some Accomplishments

To date, the I.S. 318 Brooklyn Castle Chess Club has won 58 national titles, dating back to 2003!

In 2012, Brooklyn Castle Middle School chess team won the United States Chess Federation’s national High School championship! Middle School students defeating High School students is an incredible accomplishment!

The Brooklyn Castle Chess Club has transformed the lives and prospects of hundreds of students, many from extremely impoverished backgrounds. The I.S. 318 student body comes with significant challenges. Poverty levels among the students’ families stand at 75 per cent.

Elizabeth today teaches chess to 300 kids a year ranging from complete beginners to players with ratings pushing 2000 and beyond. Eighty highly engaged children play on her chess teams.

Rochelle Ballantyne

Rochelle Ballantyne African American chess player appeared in the 2012 documentary Brooklyn Castle

Raised in New York City, Rochelle Ballantyne learned to play chess through the Chess in the Schools program at P.S. 139 in Brooklyn, then played at I.S. 318 and at Brooklyn Technical High School.

At Brooklyn Tech High School, Rochelle was part of the Chess in the Schools College Bound Program. During her 9th grade freshman year at Brooklyn Tech, she won the 2012 All-Girls National Chess Championships, and earned a full scholarship to the University of Texas at Dallas. The film Brooklyn Castle featured her story.

She then earned a full scholarship to Stanford University, and graduated in 2017. After Stanford, she earned an MA in education policy from Columbia University in 2020.

In the Fall 2020 she began law school at New York University Law School, fully funded by the AnBryce Scholarship.

The Future

Elizabeth Spiegel portrait

Despite COVID-19, Elizabeth teaches chess!

“In New York, COVID-19 had a really serious traumatic impact in March and April 2020. I had students who didn’t leave the house for three or four months, and they became quite depressed and fearful of going out.”

The I.S. 318 Brooklyn Castle Chess Club’s future?

“My school administration plans to return to school soon on alternate days,” Elizabeth said. “Kids will be in groups of 10, depending on the size of the classroom.

“They cannot come within six feet of each other so I can’t have anyone playing chess and we can’t share any supplies, so they can’t share a chessboard.

“I don’t know. My classes will all be mixed so I will have some kids who know chess and some kids who don’t know, and I’ll only see them half the time. The classes will be short, I don’t really know what we will do.

“We’re lucky that kids can still play online. I don’t know if nationals will happen this year. I would assume we should write this year off and hope things get better.”


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Beginner’s BookChess Rules For Students

Chess Rules For Students workbook

Chess Rules For Students is a workbook for students learning the game of chess and for beginning students returning to the game. No previous knowledge of chess is necessary. Parents unfamiliar with chess will find this booklet a valuable guide to their child’s new interest.

Chess Rules For Students is designed with students, coaches, and parents in mind. Reading level is appropriate for grade-school use. All major rules of chess are covered, and algebraic notation worksheets are included. Each page is in easy-to-use worksheet format.

A student-friendly Answer Key makes self-correction fun!

Beginners & Intermediate Book – Checkmate! Ideas For Students

Checkmate! Ideas For Students

Checkmate! Ideas For Students is a workbook for beginning and intermediate students. Checkmate! covers the tactics used in checkmate attacks with clear explanations, diagrams and arrows to pinpoint the key features.

Unlike many other basic checkmate books, Checkmate! categorizes the checkmates by the tactics used to force the checkmate–like Pins, Sacrifices, Removing the Guard, Attraction, Clearance and Attacking Flight Squares–rather than only the checkmate pattern itself.

The worksheets and Answer Key are clear and simple for the student to use, and easy for the parent, teacher and coach to correct! Fun!

Intermediate & Advanced BookChess Tactics For Students

Chess Tactics For Students workbook

Chess Tactics For Students is a workbook containing 434 carefully selected problems in worksheet format. Chess Tactics has been extensively field tested with elementary, middle-school, and high-school students over a four-year period.

This book is ideal for independent seat work as well as for homework and classroom instruction.

The worksheet format and Answer Key enable self-correction with minimal dependence or direct help from a chess teacher, coach, or parent.

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Checkmate In One Prize
Chess Rules For Students Workbook
An instructional workbook designed for students learning the game of chess. Click here to learn more!
Checkmate In Two Prize
Checkmate! Ideas For Students
An instructional workbook containing tactics in worksheet format used to checkmate--like Pins, Sacrifices, Removing the Guard, Attraction, Clearance, and Attacking Flight Squares!
Checkmate In Three Prize
Chess Tactics For Students
An instructional workbook containing 434 carefully selected problems presented in worksheet format.

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