Skip to content
SA Together Again: We’re back in classrooms and taking learning to new levels!

Mission Possible

Stories and insights on excellent education.

A Chess Legend Gives Advice to His Former Students, Now Teachers

Earlier this summer, during a professional development session, the chess faculty had the chance to hear from David MacEnulty, one of the best chess coaches in the city. Most people know David as the New York City coach whose winning teams have been featured on CBS and CNN specials and in the film Knights of the South Bronx. But to me and other chess teachers at Success Academy, David MacEnulty is the person who introduced us to the game we love.

I first met David when I was a third grader at PS 70 in the South Bronx. His passion for the game was contagious, and I became fascinated by chess. I loved that it felt like one big puzzle. The rush that came with discovering new chess moves—a new combination or a new line—was exhilarating to me. David’s program was instrumental in not only helping me understand the rules and intellectual lessons of chess, but in keeping me off the streets and out of trouble.

In less than a week, I will begin teaching chess at Success Academy Bronx 3. I thought I would pass along some of the lessons that David recently shared with us at T School. I think some of these lessons extend beyond chess and can inform every teacher’s practice.

  1. There are no shortcuts. In chess, and in life, patience is crucial. Chess punishes impulsivity—you must learn to evaluate all possible moves before picking up a piece. Every move you make—both in chess and in life—can have either negative or positive consequences.
  2. Integrity is king. David shared two stories: one about his students acting without integrity and the other about his students being on the receiving end of dishonesty. In the first case, he gave his students a serious talk. “I would rather have you lose 100 games honestly than win one by cheating,” he told them. Whether it’s violating the touch-move rule by not moving a piece you touch or recording a loss as a win, cheating is absolutely unacceptable. It undermines both the integrity of the player and the team. In essence, chess teaches students the importance of honesty and integrity in all things, and that one’s reputation should matter more than a win-loss record.
  3. Parental involvement. When David began teaching chess in the South Bronx, parents were not convinced that a game could make a difference in their kids’ lives. But after they saw their children’s confidence and academic performance blossom, they were sold on chess. Parents started attending tournaments, discussing their scholars’ growth, and asking how they could help. David encouraged us to get to know our scholars’ parents so we can share with them how wonderful a game chess is.

I can’t wait to start teaching at Success Academy and contribute to a program that is growing and getting stronger every year. This summer, we learned so much from so many people, including famed Grandmaster Irina Krush.

But David’s talk reminded me that the lessons learned from chess go beyond one’s win-loss record. Above all, I am excited by the incredible opportunity to pass along to my students my passion for the game and what it teaches about perseverance and integrity.

Dakim and David[1]

Written by Dakim Vanterpool August 14, 2015


Related posts

“Happy Children Learn Better” – An SA parent reflects on the return to campus

October 7, 2021 Success Academy

Success Academy reopened its doors to scholars across the city in August, safely ushering students back into the classroom after an unprecedented 2020-21 school year. To keep our scholars safe — and learning — it’s more important than ever that we work together with families and guardians to ensure everyone in our community is on... Read more

Back to Basics: 3 Ways Parents Can Help Scholars Adjust to In-Person Learning

October 4, 2021 Success Academy

The school year is well underway, and it is so exciting to be together again in our classrooms. We love seeing scholars connect face-to-face and participate in hands-on science labs, team sports, and theatre productions alike. Nevertheless, we know returning to a new or unfamiliar learning space can be a challenging transition, and scholars might... Read more

Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

September 29, 2021 Success Academy

The deadly pandemic that forced children to isolate and learn remotely has only deepened painful issues of inequity. All around us, there is profound learning loss and lack of access to equitable resources. At Success Academy, we have a special obligation to get back on track and ensure that our students realize their full potential,... Read more

Enroll your child

We’re now accepting K-4 applications for the 2021-2022 school year.

Work with us

Build your career while making an impact at Success Academy.