March and April are traditionally the months that State Chess Organizations hold their Scholastic State Championships sometimes referred to as “Super States.” So it is, every year around this time, I receive lots of questions about the best way to prepare a young chess player for the Scholastic State Championships.
Most of my students who play chess at this level are very focused on the State Championships. The Super States are very important to their family and we prioritize these tournaments every year. These kids have spent at least six months preparing to play well at the Calchess Scholastic State Chess Championship, so by the time we are just a week away, our training sessions are all about maintenance and review. If I have done my job right as a coach, the most difficult topics and hard training sessions happened during the course of the school year and now our focus is on familiarizing the students with the longer time controls and lowering their stress levels.
For this chess coach, the final week before the Scholastic State Championship is a time make sure my students are comfortable with the time controls at Super States, conference with their parents and research top players in each section. The best way to familiarize kids with a specific time control is to have them play a couple training games with the clocks set to how they will be at States. After the training games, it’s good to look at each students rate of play and make adjustments where necessary. Conferencing with parents is incredibly important and I use these meetings to look at ways to make the Scholastic State Championship experience less stressful for the entire family. Finally, my personal research will result in special databases that I will refer to before critical matchups so that my students know what to expect from their opponents before the game begins.
For the last 15 years, all the school teams that I coach have achieved an average performance rating at the Super States which is higher than their average team rating. However, even if you are not a professional chess coach, the methods described above will help your student/child play their best while better enjoying the state championship experience.