Bill Clausen started teaching kids in his north Raleigh neighborhood how to play chess a few years ago. But when the kids had learned enough to compete in chess tournaments, Clausen couldn't find one in the Triangle.
So Clausen eventually started Chess Achieves, a nonprofit that now works with at least 150 kids a week, offering programs in schools, lessons, camps and regular tournaments.
He'll be at Go Ask Mom's event at North Hills' Farmers' Market from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday with a giant chess board for kids to check out and more information about his program and offerings. Read all about the big event here and here.
Chess has been a life-long passion for Clausen. The father of one started playing the game with his own father as a kid, eventually competing in tournaments. He also started programs at his high school and college.
"I've always been fostering chess in different ways," he tells me.
Kids learn a lot more than how to play a game when they learn chess, he says. They learn strategy, reasoning and time management. Creativity is another tool as they look for different ways to move the pieces on the board, Clausen tells me. Kids ages 6 to 12 are at the right age to start playing.
Clausen fears that chess is becoming a lost art as it competes with video games and all the other extracurricular activities that take up kids' time these days. But when kids give chess a chance, they often come away with a new passion of their own.
"It's interesting how kids love it once they learn chess and how little there is," he says. And at tournaments, he tells me, "it's interesting to watch a group of kids standing quietly watching two kids play a game."
Clausen hopes to grow his program so he can offer it at more school and to more kids. He's working on a video series to help teach chess instructors and kids to play the game.
"People want it," he says. "There's no doubt about it."
To learn more about Chess Achieves and its programs, watch the video, come by our North Hills event from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday or check out the Chess Achieves website.