Starting with one annual program – the Mid-South Chess Camp – in 2001, Mid-South Chess has grown to be a fully integrated educational consortium. Mid-South Chess coordinates scholastic chess programs in both public & private schools, places instructors, manages curriculum, provides opportunities for practice via club outlets, and organizes competition via tournaments. Our capstone event is still the annual summer chess camp. This event brings instructors of the highest caliber to Memphis, and has included World Renowned International Grandmasters, former US Champions, US Chess Hall of Fame Inductees, and even a former Women’s World Champion.
Mid-South Chess started out as the brainchild of a 13 yr old, Jake Kleiman, who was co-champion of Tennessee’s Adult State Championship and a 16 yr old, Justin Lee Gardner, who had just won the Mississippi Adult State Championship. The two joined forces to put on a summer chess camp in Memphis, TN. The camp was a rousing success; i.e. 52 campers participated and loved it. The momentum had begun! The 13 year old had to finish middle and high school and the 16 year old with a full chess scholarship went on to college. The 13 year old kept playing chess and found himself playing in the Pan American Open Chess Tournament in Kentucky. There he met a new friend and future coach, Grandmaster Alexander Stripunsky. GM Stripunsky was quickly becoming a force in the world of chess. With the success of the prior summer chess camp in his sail, the now 14 year old asked GM Stripunsky to join him in his next summer chess camp. GM Stripunsky accepted, Mid-South Chess was born, and the rest is history.
To this very day, Mid-South Chess continues to hold a phenomenal Annual Summer Chess Camp in Memphis, TN in addition to weekend Fall Chess Camps. The reputation of Mid-South Chess was such that it could not stop at just one super summer chess camp but was developing into a year long chess coaching operation. This was more than a then 14 year old could handle and Mid-South Chess took on its director, Arlene Kleiman. With her at the helm, Mid-South Chess has become a superlative provider of public and private school chess programs throughout the Memphis Area, and its Summer Chess Camp has become one of the Premier Chess Camps in not only the South but the whole country as well.
Jake Kleiman continued playing chess, earning the title of International Master. He graduated from Rhodes College, Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa and then went on to graduate from The University of Tennessee School of Dentistry with a DDS degree. Currently, he is a Periodontal Resident who still plays chess and remains to this day the highest rated native Tennessean.
Justin Lee Gardner, with a full chess scholarship, went on to graduate from the University of Texas at Dallas with a BA in Business Administration. Now with his National Master title, he owns and runs his own chess business, HOT Chess in Houston, TX. Justin and Jake are still the best of friends.
Mid-South Chess with its incredible director, Arlene Kleiman, went on to provide chess programs in the Memphis area for multiple public and private schools, provides private instruction, and holds a major phenomenal summer chess camp. Its instruction spans over 19 years in Memphis and includes coaching elementary, middle and high school students, camps, tournaments, seminars, and simultaneous chess exhibitions. Under its instruction, many of its students have won state and national championships. Not the least of its accomplishments is the continuing development and hosting of the phenomenal and we mean the phenomenal Annual Summer Chess Camp which is always held in Memphis that brings in numerous chess campers from coast to coast who want to train and learn from some of the most successful International Grandmasters, International Masters, coaches, and players in the country and for that matter, the world.
For 2020, when in-person events halted globally, Mid-South Chess pivoted to become a complete online provider. Scholastic programs went virtual and continued teaching, providing a constant for students who suddenly found themselves without most of their daily routine. Chess tournaments online became regular events where people could gather to chat and associate with friends remotely. Even the Summer Camp went global – and instead of being a limitation, it was turned into an opportunity. Instructors representing (and in some cases, located in) their home countries turned what could have been a limitation into another educational experience.
Glad to report we are now in person again.
Mid-South Chess looks forward to continued growth and strives towards excellence. It is often said that “Chess is an Art, a Science, and a Sport” but it is also a lot of Fun!