March 3, 2016

On Chess: Boy Scouts learn the merit of chess

By Adam Gnuse

On Feb. 27, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis again hosted a Boy Scout chess merit badge workshop. Since launching the merit badge in 2011, the Chess Club has helped hundreds of scouts achieve their chess merit badge. It hosts a free five-hour weekend chess workshop, where certified instructors teach scouts chess topics, including the basics of the game, intermediate strategy and tactics, and even how to play in a chess tournament.

The event offers scouts a unique experience as they have the chance to learn chess fundamentals in the same setting as the U.S. Championships and the prestigious Sinquefield Cup, with the World Chess Hall of Fame across the street.

Luke, a Tenderfoot in Troop 104 who attended the workshop this past Saturday, was excited about the chance to compete in his first chess tournament. “I like chess,” Luke said. “It’s much more strategic. With chess you learn to make smart moves.”

Since 2011, the chess merit badge has been one of the fastest growing of Boy Scout badges, with already over 100,000 scouts having earned the award. Dr. Jeanne Sinquefield, one of the driving forces behind the creation of the badge and a Silver Beaver volunteer on the Great Rivers Boy Scout Council, appreciates that chess is a game that can be played between any pair of scouts no matter where they are.

“You don’t have to be in a big city to earn the chess merit badge,” Sinquefield said. “You can live in a small town. You can be on top of a mountain in the rain or on a boat and still play chess.”

One scout, Joshua Becher, has taken up chess as his Eagle Scout Service Project, a rigorous volunteer project required to achieve the exemplary Eagle rank. Over five months and with the help of more than 20 volunteers, Becher constructed his own giant chess set, in which each of the pieces are represented by different scouting ranks.

Becher is a fan of the game, having played in a variety of chess tournaments, and he looks to receive his chess merit badge soon. Working on the merit badge has been a positive learning experience, Becher says. “My little brother taught me to play chess several years ago, and Boy Scouts helped me hone my skills by working on the chess merit badge. In doing so I learned the history, design, and strategy of the game while participating in tournaments at meetings and lock-ins.”

Becher donated his giant chess set to the World Chess Hall of Fame, which will preserve his hard work for future generations.

Future chess merit badge workshop events will be held on April 30 and June 4. Those interested in an upcoming Boy Scout chess merit badge workshop can call the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis at 314-361-2437 or visit

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