Little Strategists

Once a month, afterschool elementary chess clubs come together to battle each other. Averaging 120 kids per month between 12 schools geographically covering Yuba City all the way to Corning. Steven Oberlander is like their Brigadier General, overseeing the tournaments and controlling the incoming tide of tiny tyrants. This is his first year as Director of the Sacramento Valley School Chess League, but he handles the chaos like a pro, getting all the rascals into their seats and playing at the same time, kindergarteners all the way up to high school kids playing together, sorted by rank.

Anybody can play in the chess league, and it only takes five kids to make a chess team. Oberlander’s goal is to start an afterschool chess club at every school, while growing enthusiasm for adults and children, offering everybody the opportunity to play competitive chess. Chess scores in SVSC League tournaments are nationally recognized, and kid are given their very own chess ratings. They are then sorted out at the tournaments to play kids in the same ratings group from other schools. It gives them an opportunity to make new friends, or friendly rivalries. Oberlander runs a tight ship but for a chess club it’s definitely a fun ship, the kids love it. And if you’ve never seen two kindergarteners battling it out, trying not to eat their pawns, you’re missing out on a lot of cute. To learn more about the SVSCL, contact Steven at

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