On Thursdays during lunch, a certain classroom in the Grade 9–10 hallway is full of energetic students strategizing their next chess move, chatting amongst each other, and hopping between boards to see the progress of each match. The CA Chess Club has become a popular spot to spend the lunch hour every week.
The recent love for chess at Calgary Academy isn’t a coincidence—people have played the game for centuries. What seems like a simple match is a battle of wits and strategy to get the endpoint: checkmate.
CA Senior School teacher Justin Park has helped establish excitement through the school’s Chess Club, providing a safe space to learn, challenge oneself, and collaborate.
A Love of Chess
Mr. Park has played chess since he was four years old. He jokes that if someone sees him outside the classroom on his phone, he’s either on Instagram or playing online chess. Mr. Park sees it as a timeless yet limitless game—there’s always something new to learn.
“People have been playing chess since medieval times, which shows how straightforward it is… The rules are predictable, but there are so many combinations and different strategies. It’s just endless.” – Mr. Park
Mr. Park first developed an interest in hosting a chess club in his teaching practicum, where he brought in chess boards to let students casually play and learn the game.
At the beginning of the year, Mr. Park checked if there were plans for a club (there weren’t) and then gathered as many chess boards as possible, eventually purchasing more due to the club’s success. Chess is slowly taking over the school, with a Junior School club recently starting on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Besides hoping to bring his passion for chess to CA, Mr. Park knew that school clubs could lead to unlikely connections between students.
“I saw the success of chess during my two practicums, and I thought if there’s no club at CA, why not? I believe it’s a healthy way for students to connect, learn skills, and have fun. I wanted to bring my previous passions and experiences to the school.”
Chess teaches many lessons students can apply to school and the rest of their lives. Mr. Park regularly sees learners using problem-solving, geometry, critical thinking, concentration, and collaboration. Students will help each other make moves and see angles others may not notice.
A Safe Space to Play, Learn, and Connect
Chess Club runs every Thursday at the school during lunch. Students bring their food, grab a chess board, and pair up to play.
If students just want to watch, they’re more than welcome to—though Mr. Park likes to try and encourage everyone to sit down for a game, even if they’re a beginner. He’s happy to teach anyone how to play, but don’t expect him to go easy once the match starts.
One CA student, Lincoln M., has enjoyed the popularity of Chess Club, playing against other students every week. He hoped to have a few games throughout the year but was surprised by how many students were interested in chess.
“I first thought that Chess Club would be an okay year where we would have a few people here and there, but the fact that we manage to have five games going at once now is amazing.”
Chess can seem daunting, but Mr. Park and Lincoln believe choosing to play chess is the hardest step to take.
Winning games isn’t the goal—the fun is in improving skills every week. Lincoln encourages anyone interested in chess to find a board and get started.
“My main advice is to just play. Try and think about what your opponent will do and try to counter that, but overall, learn and play.” – Lincoln
Chess Club shows the importance of extracurriculars—they help foster connection, passion, and learning outside of the classroom. Mr. Park has loved seeing students become interested in chess, hoping everyone can find what inspires them, no matter their interests.
“I feel students should always follow their interests regardless of what others think because it could be their next new thing… I encourage students to look for opportunities everywhere.”
Chess Club runs every Thursday at lunch, so bring some snacks and stop by to learn, play, or watch.