Attendees enjoy a game of chess at the Alaska Chess fundraiser on July 29 at Fireweed Meadows Golf Course in Anchor Point. (Photo courtesy of Colleen Evanco)

Attendees enjoy a game of chess at the Alaska Chess fundraiser on July 29 at Fireweed Meadows Golf Course in Anchor Point. (Photo courtesy of Colleen Evanco)

Local nonprofit expanding chess program to central peninsula

A local nonprofit that’s teaching children to play chess is expanding its reach to the central peninsula.

The nonprofit, Alaska Chess, began as a chess club in the Homer Library after co-founder Colleen Evanco’s son learned to play. Her son, Sebastian, was homeschooled and she wanted to give him the opportunity to play with kids his own age. Two summers ago, she reached out on Facebook and was able to organize a group of kids and parents who wanted to play. Then a formal club at the library was formed.

“We’re hoping to replicate the success here that we had in Homer,” Andy Haas, a defense attorney in Homer and co-founder of Alaska Chess, said.

Haas got involved when he heard about the club at the library, where he is a member of the Friends of the Homer Library organization. Last year, the two brought boards to West Homer Elementary, gave some instruction and now the school has its own club. Haas now has plans to expand into Homer Middle School.

“Teaching (chess) in schools in Homer, I found, is a great way for students to feel smart and happy and allow others to hang out with kids of similar interests,” Haas said. “As a criminal lawyer, I’ve seen a lot of issues in the community with drugs and I see (learning to play chess when you’re young) as a way to prevent that.”

Evanco, who now lives in Soldotna, is planning on spreading the skill of chess to central peninsula schools.

“It seems like there is a demand and we’re excited to provide it,” Evanco said.

The nonprofit formed in April and was founded by Haas, Evanco and Jonathan Singler, a graduate student at Alaska Pacific University and chess expert whose graduate project is to create programs in chess education.

As part of his graduate project, Singler is hoping to make chess accessible and beneficial for children and adults alike.

“One of the most beautiful aspects of chess is that it’s not age dependent,” Singler said. “The nonprofit is focused on kids. It’s important to not simply create an endpoint. Because once most youth graduate 12th grade they put down chess. My goal is to provide a continuation for chess. I want the Alaska community to benefit from this.”

Evanco said that there’s something in chess for everyone.

“I think everybody is a chess player at heart,” Evanco said. “Majority of people I’ve talked to about chess have something spark in them when we talk about it. Majority of us were introduced to it at some point in our lives. … It really takes very little start. It’s not that hard to learn.”

Earlier this summer Alaska Chess hosted a fundraiser at Fireweed Meadows Golf Course in Anchor Point, where they raised money for chess boards to give to schools for students to use.

“My goal is to get so much saturation in school programs, so that we can host (chess) tournaments, even in the villages,” Haas said.

Now, Evanco, Haas and Singler are working on setting up chess events at local coffee shops, and in local schools on the central peninsula.

“There are no head concussions in chess,” Haas said.

“No knee pads either,” Evanco added.

To learn more about the project visit

More in News

Members of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education meet on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
New school board group will study 4-day school week

The group will meet regularly until next July, when committee members will present their findings to the full board

Members of the Kenai/Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee raise hands to vote in favor of a proposal during a meeting at Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association in Kenai, Alaska, on Monday, Nov. 20, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Advisory committee supports protections for lake trout and king salmon

Advisory committee recommendations will be weighed by the State Board of Fisheries alongside public testimony as they deliberate on each proposal

The Kenai Peninsula College Main Entrance on Aug. 18, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Inside the Iditarod

Showcase to feature stories from champion, event photographer

Paul Gebhardt is photographed on March 24, 1996. (M. Scott Moon/Peninsula Clarion)
Kasilof musher dies at 67

Paul Gebhardt was a 21-time participant in the Iditarod

Santa Claus hugs Paul Cook during Christmas in the Park festivities at Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna brings holiday cheer

Christmas in the Park drew hundreds to meet Santa Claus, go on sleigh rides, sip hot cocoa and listen to music

From left: Rep. Ben Carpenter, Sen. Jesse Bjorkman and Rep. Justin Ruffridge discuss their priorities regarding education during a work session with members of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
School funding, accountability dominate school board work session with lawmakers

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, Rep. Ben Carpenter and Rep. Justin Ruffridge joined the board for a work session in Soldotna

Snow coats an eroding bluff near the mouth of the Kenai River on Friday, March 3, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai accepting bids on bluff stabilization project

The announcement means that contractors can start submitting their proposals for how they’d complete the work and how much it would cost to do so

A stack of the Seward Journal is pictured. The town’s only daily newspaper published its last edition Nov. 27. (Photo via Seward Journal Facebook page)
‘A thing of the past’

Seward Journal calls it quits after struggle to keep newspaper afloat

Tim Navarre and Dana Cannava discuss a preliminary Soldotna route for the Kahtnu Area Transit with Planner Bryant Wright at the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Getting people where they need to go

Plans for Kenaitze Indian Tribe’s Kahtnu Area Transit move forward

Most Read