Iris Zhou, an eighth-grader at Ladue Middle School and a member of the U.S. junior chess team, has hosted her second winter chess camp from Dec. 21 to Dec. 24, 2017.
Iris began playing chess at age 6 and soon rose as one of the top girl players in her age group in the nation. She has qualified multiple times for the U.S. junior chess team to compete in World Youth Chess Championship. Her most recent international competition was the 2017 World Youth Championship held in Uruguay in September 2017.
Besides her own chess training and school work, Iris has been actively involved in promoting chess in young children in the local community. She has volunteered in teaching two chess classes in St. Louis Modern Chinese School for over a year. During 2016 Christmas break, she started her first winter chess camp.
This past winter break, Iris hosted her second winter chess camp. A bit different from last year, where she had a mix of beginner and intermediate players in the camp, this year’s camp was invitational. A total of 15 promising elementary school players in St. Louis area (even one player from Columbia, Missouri) were invited to train and compete in this camp. This group of players had an average USCF rating over 900 and are the dominant winners in scholastic Gateway tournaments. Many of them are Ladue School students from Spoede, Conway, Old Bonhomme and Reed elementary schools. Some of them have been taking lessons from her at the local Chinese school.
“These kids are some of the strongest young players in Missouri,” Iris said. “Some of them are going to progress to become very good at chess in the future. I will be happy if I can make my little contribution to their development!” Her other hope is the Ladue Schools kids in the camp will form a very strong middle school/high school team when the time comes, to represent the district in the National Junior High/High School Championship.
The intensive three day and one night camp consisted of simulation (Iris played all camp participants simultaneously, and yes, two kids managed to beat her), puzzle contests, 6-round tournament, lectures and one-on-one game analysis. Winners of puzzle contest, tournament and overall best players were recognized. Every kid received a $5 FroYo gift card from Iris; she drew the fund from her own tournament award money.
“The camp turned out to be a success, thanks to the parents’ support and volunteers!” Iris said. “I am glad that everybody had fun and actually learned something.” She plans to continue the winter chess camp as a tradition and host it every year.