In the July 2015 issue of Chess Life, writer Brian Jerauld highlights the chess merit badge, which will be in the clutches of 100,000 Scouts as of this summer. The badge is only a few years old but its influence on the game of chess is profound, as boys everywhere are not only learning the game but also teaching it to others.
Read Jerauld’s article in full, republished below courtesy of US Chess Federation.
The Boy Scouts Merit Badge: A Prime Example of the Game’s Resurgence
Providing a metric on the game’s resurgence across the U.S. today—and simultaneously planting a wide crop of players for tomorrow—the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) will issue its 100,000th chess merit badge this summer, less than five years after its launch.
The first chess merit badges were earned by 20 scouts in St. Louis in September, 2011, and more than 6,000 followed nationally before the year’s end. Since then, the achievement has maintained itself as one of the fastest-growing merit badges out of 135 options, landing in the top-25 in each calendar year since inception. The Boy Scouts of America counted 87,881 chess merit badges awarded at the start of 2015 and, given its pace of nearly 2,200 earned each month, is expected to hit six-digits this June.
“The chess merit badge teaches youth members strategic planning, critical thinking, concentration and decision-making skills—as well as good sportsmanship,” said Deron Smith, Director of Communications for the Boy Scouts of America. “In fact, while discussing the merit badge with their counselor, scouts must describe how the skills he obtained can help them in other areas of their life. These life skills align with the BSA’s mission to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes.”
The Boy Scouts aren’t just the next crop of wood pusher, they are instead entering chess—as their reputation goes—prepared. Requirements to earn the chess merit badge go beyond understanding rules and how the pieces move; they are discussing Zwischenzug and clearance sacrifices, and organizing round-robin tournaments before earning their validation. Scouts learn about pawn structure and tempo, proving a clear understanding of checkmate along with four different ways to draw, and the values of the game are even learned off the board.
“While earning the chess merit badge with their counselor, scouts learn the rules of the game, notation, how to organize a tournament, and then they must take on a leadership role to teach another Scout how to play,” Smith said. “They also must describe how the skills he obtained can help them in other areas of their life.”
The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, whose founder Dr. Jeanne Sinquefield helped develop the badge along with Jerry Nash and the U.S.
Chess Federation, offers regular day-long sessions that teach and fulfill the BSA requirements for the chess merit badge. Capped at 60 scouts a session, the Club’s sessions have been pushed by demand and moved from quarterly to bi-monthly in 2015. Before the January 28 session began, May’s session had filled.
“We can see that there’s a lot of preparation ahead of time,” said Bill Thompson, Scholastic Coordinator for the CCSCSL. “They know what they need to do to pass, and they prepare before they come in. That falls in line with the general philosophy of the Boy Scouts: Prepare and think ahead—that’s kind of their motto.”
~ Brian Jerauld, Chess Life