Extracurricular Activities Students

7th Grader & U.S. Youth Chess Team Member Opens Winter Chess Camp for Peers

Iris Zhou poses for a group photo with all of her camp-goers.

Iris Zhou, a seventh-grade student at Ladue Middle School and a member of the U.S. national youth chess team, has decided to share what she has learned and teach her peers how to play the game.

Iris was the only student to represent Missouri on the U.S. team in the 2015 World Youth & Cadets Chess Championship, and she qualified for both the 2016 and 2017 competitions.

During winter break, Iris gave a three-day chess camp, free of charge, to the young children in the local community. The “2016 Ice Cream Winter Chess Camp” was held from Dec. 28-30 at the St. Louis Modern Chinese School in the afternoons.

“So many young kids are interested in chess,” Iris said. “I feel good that I can help some of them learn, especially when I inspire some of the young girls to get involved with chess.”

Iris’ younger sister, Celina, also plays chess and helped during the camp. Celina is a third-grade student at Spoede Elementary. The two girls decided to name the camp using the the initials of their first names. Both girls love ice cream!

A total of 24 kids attended the camp, ranging in age from 5 to 12 years old. Some students had no experience with chess, while others had some tournament experience. The camp activities included daily lectures by Iris, such as puzzle analysis and game analysis. Campers also participated in puzzle contests and tournament games. By the end of the three days, trophies and medals were given to the top finishing campers. A special girl’s trophy was given to the top girl finisher in the tournament (Because chess is a male-dominant mental sport, much fewer girls play chess than boys. As an accomplished junior female player, Iris has always wanted to encourage more young girls to play chess.) Each camper also received a $2 Froyo gift card. Iris wanted the kids to go home remembering that this was a fun event!

Iris plans to continue this free program as a tradition by holding it every year. She is also considering holding a girls-only camp.

“I think it’s great that Iris is using her own chess skills to serve the community,” her mother Yanfang said. “We realized that there are many young kids out there who want to learn this great mental game but didn’t know how. People would ask us, ‘Does Iris teach chess?’ or ‘Can Iris teach my kid how to play chess?’ So Iris said, ‘This is where I can help, and I am going to do it for free’.”

In fact, Iris has also just started teaching chess in the Chinese school as a teaching assistant. She will help with two classes every Sunday. Many kids from the winter camp signed up for the classes, because they like Iris’ teaching, and because she is someone whom they can look up to.

Iris also maintains straight A’s in all of her coursework. Keep up the great work, Iris!