IchessU Success Stories

Success Stories of IchessU Students by their Chess Coach

Aimee’s story of chess learning by John Marble IchessU chess coach:

This is Aimee. She is now 20 years old. From her uniform, you can see she is in the United States Navy where she currently repairs and services jet plane engines. She is happy, independent, and very smart. Aimee also has ADD, and a mild form of Autism called Aspergers Syndrome, and she will have them all of her life.
Most people inherit ADD as a result of a family history. Aimee is different. When Aimee turned in her mother’s womb, prior to birth, the umbilical chord wrapped around her neck, This halted oxygen to her brain. This problem lasted 4 weeks before the doctors discovered it. When Aimee was born, she was blue from the neck up. No one knew how seriously she was affected until much later. Aimee was slower to learn to walk than many kids. She was also greatly affected by severe and frequent ear infections while a baby, which slowed her development of speech. She didn’t speak in a way people could understand until he was 3 years old. In pre-school, teachers began recommending her for special classes for the developmentally disabled because she was so slow to learn how to use scissors, or slow to learn games, or slow to learn the alphabet. But we were stubborn as parents because we had a feeling that Aimee was very intelligent.
When she entered school Aimee was seemingly unable to learn and she was never able to complete any of her school work. But something else began to appear. Aimee could draw. Aimee was the most talented artist in her classes. But she was different. She would start drawing a horse at its hind foot. Not at its head like other artists or children. And she always drew her pictures upside down (The ground at the top of the page and the sun at the bottom.) But the pictures came out better than those drawn by students 5 or 6 grade levels above her (When the paper was turned right side up.) Aimee could also memorize anything that she heard repeated just a few times (She knew every Disney animated movie script verbatim.) Because she was so different in the way she behaved and talked, she was picked on by most of the other kids throughout grammar school. At 7, Aimee was diagnosed with ADD. But the schools would not acknowledge that she needed the special funds given to the schools by our government to help her with her school work. After fighting with the schools for 4 years and Aimee failing in virtually every subject, the schools began giving her the assistance she deserved by law. And with the introduction of medicine, Aimee began to improve. When she entered Jr. High School she was able to pass all of her subjects but only just barely pass them.
Her 7th grade year showed little improvement in performance, Art and chorus were the only subjects in which Aimee could get grades better than a “D”. Schools in the US use letter grades “A” = Superior/Excellent, “B” = Good, C = Average, “D” = Poor, and “F” = Failing. Aimee was so forgetful that dangerous things could happen to her because she would just forget to do something (Like forgetting to turn off the gas stove when there was no flame, or lids being put back on the top of a hazardous cleaner.) Her mother and I were beginning to discuss the fact that Aimee would probably always have to live at home with us for the rest of our lives.

Then something happened to Aimee that would change her life forever. I (her father) had a stroke when I was 42 years old. I lost the use of the right side of my body, and I had moderate to severe short-term memory problems as a result of the stroke. I was able to go to physical therapy to learn how to walk again, and to learn how to use my right hand again, but what exercises help with memory problems? Finally the therapists recommended learning chess. I had learned to play chess and chess rules when I was 8 from my father. (Not all of the chess rules. Not how to castle or en passant. But I played my father 3 games before I quit out of frustration from losing.) I bought books to teach me how to play chess after my stroke and I spent 18 months during my rehabilitation playing 3 hours of chess learning per day. I learnt chess lessons on-line because I didn’t feel I could play chess in a club yet. Aimee would come home from school while I was playing chess. One day she walked into the room and sat on the bed behind me and watched me play an internet game of chess. She didn’t talk, and she seemed to like watching her dad win games, but even better was when I lost. It was much more fun to tease me about my losses. It made dad human, not perfect like her. Eventually I began winning chess games frequently and Aimee would faithfully come in and watch me every day. One day I just decided it must be boring for her, so I began describing for her what was happening in the games. What I was planning, what I thought my opponent was planning and how I was going to stop it. I NEVER taught her the chess rules. Nor did I give her any formal chess lessons.
When the 8th grade began, Aimee’s best friend (1 year younger) started attending Aimee’s school. One day early in the school year, Aimee’s friend told Aimee she couldn’t walk home from school with her because she had to attend the school’s chess club meeting. Aimee told her friend she liked chess (even though she had never played a single game in her life.) Aimee went to her first chess club meeting and played 5 games of chess with different club members. She won all 5 games. A few weeks later, Aimee came home with an entry form for a chess tournament and asked if she could go. I asked her if she had ever played chess before. She said yes. She was a member of her schools chess team and she had to go because she was the best player on her team. I took Aimee the next week to her first chess tournament. Sure enough Aimee won 3 points out of 5, even stranger. Aimee had this knack for gaining draws in totally hopeless positions. From that point forward, Aimee was going to chess tournaments.
Our goal was not for Aimee to win. It was for Aimee to sit and concentrate for an hour (Each game had 30 minutes on each players clock), five times in a day. Aimee would lose more games at the end of the tournament because the more you won the harder your opponents became, but also because she would tire and concentration became harder. But Aimee improved. She also had a knack for beating players rated far above her own rating. She never understood that she should feel intimidated by her opponents rating.
Something else improved as well. Aimee started finding ways to listen more in class. She began to show signs of being a very smart young lady. By the end of her 8th grade year she had climbed 4 grade levels in reading and 3 grade levels in math. More importantly to the schools, Aimee was holding a “B” average in all of her classes.

In High School Aimee earned some very big chess wins and was invited to a very exclusive chess event. Her best performance came in the Western States Championships. She played a two day event where she lost her first two games on day one and then finished the event with 5 straight wins. Her performance in her senior year of high school seemed to be a miracle and she graduated (Something her mother and I had not dreamed possible when she was in the 7th grade).
One year later Aimee took the ASVAB. A test required by the US Military to see if you are fit to join the service. Aimee had one of the highest scores in our county for that year.
After basic training for the Navy, Aimee was sent to Florida for school to learn how to work on jet engines. She wrote me a letter and asked me to send her a chess board and set. “There are lots of players who play chess here.” She tries to solve a chess problem a day, to keep sharp for school. She pays her own bills, socializes with friends and lives an adult’s life with all of its responsibilities. And learning chess was a very big part of the reason why she can do it. It performed true miracles for my daughter. I have since taught chess to other kids with ADD and it is proving to be just as helpful for them as well. I have 3 children now that I work with who have ADD. Some show improvement greater than others but all benefit in some way.
I now am a tournament director at local youth chess tournaments. There is a boy with Aspergers who plays in the high school section at every tournament. He is much lower on the spectrum than Aimee was, but he PLAYS chess. He never wins, but he really does play chess and winning isn’t the most important thing for a child with autism. He is not isolated like other kids with autism. While he talks little but he does talk. His conversations are appropriate and on topic (Something quite rare for someone at his spectrum level.)
I wish I could go back in time to India and thank that man for inventing that game. It may have saved my Aimee’s future.
If your child has a developmental disability, or suffers from Autism or ADD, you should investigate what chess might be able to do for him or her. Always keep in mind that one should have realistic and appropriate goals for ones child with such disabilities. But they may just surprise you. Aimee sure surprised us.


Interview with a rising chess star Shayna Provine, IchessU student:

Shayna Provine is a student at IChessU, her coach is John Marble.

INTERVIEWER: Hello Shayna, congratulations on your win at the US Championship Game in 60 tournament held in Chicago last August.

Shayna: Thank you.

INTERVIEWER: How old are you Shayna?

Shayna: I’m 9

INTERVIEWER: When did you take your first chess lesson?

Shayna: I don’t remember. Less than a year ago. (Her first chess lesson with IChessU was in January 2009)

INTERVIEWER: Had you had chess lessons before you came to IChessU?

Shayna: No.

INTERVIEWER: What do you like most about Chess?

Shayna: I really like the chess tournaments.

INTERVIEWER: Do you play other games or sports?

Shayna: I play soccer. I play the guitar, and I like to read. I read the Harry Potter series. I just haven’t read the last book yet.

INTERVIEWER: What is your current chess rating?

Shayna: I think it is over 1200. (The USCF has her rated at 1238 and this will be officially published on 10/01/2009.)

INTERVIEWER: How often do you get to play chess?

Shayna: Almost every day. I play on the internet.

INTERVIEWER: How many chess tournaments have you played in?

Shayna: I don’t know?it’s been a lot.

INTERVIEWER: Who goes with you to the chess tournaments?

Shayna: My dad, my mom and my sister.

INTERVIEWER: Does your dad help you between rounds?

Shayna: He mostly just looks at my games after they are over.

INTERVIEWER: So, was this a Youth chess tournament?

Shayna: No. But children can play. I played 2 kids, a teenager and an adult.

INTERVIEWER: Do you find it scarier to play chess against adults?

Shayna: Sort of?Because they’re a grown up so they have to be good.

INTERVIEWER: How many games did you play in this tournament?

Shayna: I played 4 games in the tournament.

INTERVIEWER: Which round was the hardest?

Shayna: Probably the last one.

INTERVIEWER: Why? What happened in that game?

Shayna: The material was even, but it was harder because in the others I was always up a bishop or material. He was really good.

INTERVIEWER: Is that the game you are most proud of? Or were you more proud of a different Round?

Shayna: I liked that one the best. It was against a teenager. (Reno, Shayna’s father, interjected that there was a championship in 30 the next day that Shayna could not play in. The teenager she beat in the final round of this tournament won the under 1200 section of that tournament.)

INTERVIEWER: Do you have plans for any more chess tournaments this year?

Shayna: I’m going to play in a tournament this weekend.

INTERVIEWER: You must agree that most people do not take chess lessons for 7 months and then go out and win an under 1200 section of an adult chess tournament. Why do you think you have become so good so quickly? Is it hard work? Is it great help from mom and dad? Is it good coaching? What do you think made this possible?

Shayna: I think it is because I am a bit smarter. I’m in the gifted group in my school.

INTERVIEWER: What did you win?

Shayna: A $100.00 check. They gave the trophy to a person who didn’t get a prize.

INTERVIEWER: Well thank you Shayna, and congratulations again.

Reno Provine is Shayna’s father and we decided to get his incites into his daughter’s phenomenal success, and the world of youth chess.


INTERVIEWER: Congratulations to you and your wife for doing such a great job with your kids. What a great way to finish the summer for Shayna with a win at the US Game in 60 championships. Could you be any prouder of Shayna?

Reno: No. Not really.

INTERVIEWER: Tell me, did you teach Shayna chess prior to her coming to IChessU?

Reno: No?just the basics of how to move and that was actually wrong.

INTERVIEWER: Do any of her siblings play chess?

Reno: No?Her sister knows how to play but there’s no interest.

INTERVIEWER: What made you choose chess for Shayna?

Reno: I knew it was a past-time that exercises your thinking and it would allow her to exercise it in a competitive way. It’s a great one-on-one activity. I figured that with her intelligence it would be a perfect fit.

INTERVIEWER: But chess is not the only thing Shayna plays right?

Reno: She’s on a competitive travel soccer team, She is in KUMON which is basically an advanced math and reading program. She is nationally ranked in that program as well. She plays the guitar. She did do gymnastics, but it was hard to keep it up, because it was a 4 day commitment, and soccer is 5 days. There just isn’t a 10 day week. And she reads more than she does anything else. Right now I think she’s reading Harry Potter?She reads a lot of the fantasy series books.

INTERVIEWER: Has she surprised you with her talent?

Reno: I expected it?she pretty much excels at everything. I figured chess would fit her well because it is one-against-one problem solving and critical thinking. The biggest surprise is the reaction of others as they see her ratings improve. It is like a different person playing chess every month because she is constantly improving. Chess coaches are at the tournaments with their kids and they try to prepare for her and then they find she is no longer the same as she was two months ago when she was under 600.

There are instructors at every tournament. And they are really taking notice of her. She is a huge threat to their students.

INTERVIEWER: Did you have any idea she would be this good this quickly?

Reno: I really did?She is such a talented and smart girl. I feel she could really be one of the best players in the world, if she sticks with it. She has taken lessons from others but she really enjoys John Marble. She had a lesson with a nationally famous chess coach, and she took lessons with a GM and an IM, but John seems to really have shown patience with her quiet tone. She is very quiet and she can take a long time to answer a question. That just doesn’t work with most coaches. She thinks, and wants everything to be perfect when she answers. In some cases that’s a good thing. But, as you are aware, sometimes that can get you into trouble with your clock in chess. But she hasn’t lost any games because of time recently.

INTERVIEWER: Did you know what you were getting into when you got Shayna involved in chess?

Reno: I really read a lot, so I knew about the chess tournament environment. There were some books on the subject. The first couple of tournaments, I had some high expectations. We started at the lower rungs early?she always finished in the top third. But the Vegas tournament (The world Chess Festival/Susan Polgar tournament for girls in Las Vegas Nevada is held at the beginning of June, every year.) was a real turn around. She really began to realize she could beat the higher rated players. Once she realized she could do that, she wanted more. So we talked on the way home about the amount of time the other top rated kids spend on chess. Before, she would take a chess lesson from John, do her homework and wait for the next lesson. We then talked about commitment. She decided she would put in more effort.

We talked about what would be needed to be successful in chess. We have added a lot of DVD’s, Books, on-line training puzzles, and we increased her lesson time on IChessU. The result has been that she really has hardly lost to anyone within 500 points of her (in either direction) over the past couple of months.

INTERVIEWER: Every parent feels their child is special. But when did you first start to realize you had something special in Shayna where chess was concerned?

Reno: Really when she was a baby?people really started to notice what a wide-eyed-sponge she was. We even got comments from strangers about how attentive she was. She was just always paying attention to everything around her and absorbing it like a sponge.

INTERVIEWER: Can you explain where the talent comes from? Maybe a few genes passed on from dad?

Reno: I don’t know. Maybe both of us.

INTERVIEWER: We talked with Shayna, but what are your plans for Shayna where chess is concerned?

Reno: The short term plans are that she really wants to break into the top 10 for girls. Beyond that, a lot of it is up to her. She loves the puzzles, and she loves doing it, so?as long as she does, we will keep her playing and taking lessons.

INTERVIEWER: Shayna says you go to the tournaments. For our parents who have not experienced the tournament atmosphere yet; can you describe what it is like for a parent who has a child playing in a chess tournament?

Reno: There are several different types there. There are the parents that are right next to their kids like a hawk?which I feel is unique. Most of the parents of the lower rated kids won’t talk to anyone. The parents of higher rated kids are very gregarious, and feel confident with their kids. So they will talk to you and they can be very helpful.

I really like the non-scholastic chess tournaments better than the youth chess tournaments. I like them because I can go in and watch her play. The youth tournaments are a bit boring. In those tournaments you have to sit outside and wait for the kids to finish and come out.

We only really had one major incident. It was in a tournament we both were playing in. It involved a touch move conflict. Shayna was playing another child. She picked up a piece and started to move it. Then she changed her mind and put the piece on a different square. The child accused her of picking up the piece a second time and moving it, but she had not removed her hand. Because it was an adult tournament, the child’s mom was right there. I couldn’t do anything because I was playing. The kid had a tantrum right there in the middle of the tournament hall. A tournament director came over and the kid accused Shayna of lying. She was crying, but she did not give in. The TD asked if she had taken her hand away, and she said; “No.” The mother said she was looking the other way and did not see what happened. So the tournament director ruled in Shayna’s favor.

INTERVIEWER: And how did you do in the tournament.

Reno: I lost all 4 games. It was an open tournament, and my reward for losing the first 3 was to play a 1700 rate player in the last round.

INTERVIEWER: Is chess meeting your expectations for the benefits to Shayna?

Reno: Yes?it has met every expectation, but she gets very emotional when she plays chess, and she will cry when she loses. Even when she wins she can cry if she makes a bad move in the middle of the game. I’ve had some of the experienced chess coaches come over and tell me that I shouldn’t have her play if she feels so terrible when she loses.

INTERVIEWER: I wonder what their motive might have been in telling you that?

Reno: By the way, she’s won her division in several other chess tournaments. She won the Under 600 division in an earlier tournament and she won the unrated division once, but it was like a division of the section she was entered into, so we never talked about them.

INTERVIEWER: Well, thank you, Reno, for sharing your thoughts about chess, and your daughter.


Michael Anthony Elwell chess learning story,
IchessU student:

Michael Elwell,  Age 47,  Foster, RI, U.S. Chess Federation ID# 1260230 Life Member

I have been playing since my mother taught the game to me when I was seven years old.  I did not know about tournament chess until I was 18 years old. I would play here and there with no commitment to the game.  I played during my military career so on and so forth.  I enjoy the game, and play a lot against computer programs, but it’s different when you play against a human over-the-board. I started back again in 2006 after battling cancer in 2005.  It is satisfying when you win the game while playing over the board or even when I didn’t win, but played well enough to learned something new.

In the past three years, I learned that I really do not know the game of chess that well.  I would read books and use chess programs to learn more, but something was missing.  I know I am a strong chess player, but I was not winning the games I should have won.  Players, who were higher rated than me, would tell that I don’t play like my rating?that I am a lot higher.  Great, wonderful!!!  But still that does not help me in understanding where I am having problems.  I knew I needed someone to help, to teach, and to coach me. So I did a Google search, and found IChessU.

I did my research, but was not sure that I should join IChessU.  I looked at the cost and what others would charge for lessons.  It was fair what IChessU was charging.  In December 2008, I decided to be committed to playing chess.  Retired because of disabilities; I have time to put an effort in to my game playing.  So I met with Alex, who evaluated me, and set me up with a coach, John Marble.  The session with Alex was great; right off I could see where I needed improvement.

Now this is where the rubber meets the road, I’ve been taking lesson with my coach, John Marble, for the past three and half months.  The improvement is amazing. In one month of play in tournament chess,  I have gone from a 1000 rating to a 1305 rating.  The confidence and guidance that John Marble has given me is beyond words.  John and I would look at my games and he’d show me where my thinking was off.  He let me talk through my thinking, and did not shut me down… which I enjoy. He provides positive feedback and useful advice, which I have used in my over-the-board play.

No matter where you are?in what stage of chess, beginner or advanced.  IChessU can help you to improve your game, please check my rating history at http://www.uschess.org/.  You will see how much I have improved my tournament games.


Elaine Baker chess learning story,
IchessU student:

My name is Elaine Baker.  I am 66 years old and I have lived in beautiful Napa Valley Wine Country for about 47 years. Yes, I have a vineyard growing on part of my 20 acres, but it is not mine. It belongs to a grape grower who leases the land from us.  My husband, George and I have been married 45 years. He doesn’t play chess (boo hoo), but I am soooooooooo addicted to the game.  I used to play a lot of word games, upwords being my favorite, until I got hooked on chess.  Crocheting, making greeting cards, acrylic painting and reading, are other things I like to do too.

About two years ago, not knowing anything about chess, I tried the game out online and found I just needed to learn more. So I bought some books and learned the basics and also continued to play chess online. I was introduced to a boy who was 7 years old at the time. We both started out at about the same level, but because he was taking chess lessons and I was not, he soon became a much better player. I would encourage him to do his best in his tournaments and he would always encourage me to continue playing chess and to never give up. Nearly two years later we are still playing chess. He always beats me up, in all of our games, but he teaches me a lot too and explains some of the mistakes I make. He likes to try out his new moves on me and he is always setting up traps. It is so much fun. 🙂

But that just wasn’t enough, so I had to take some lessons. Taking lesson at the International Chess School – IchessU – has been a very exciting and rewarding experience. Chess is fun and I highly recommend taking classes to get the full enjoyment out of the game. Thanks a million IchessU. And thank you John Marble, you are one terrific chess teacher. 🙂 Elaine