History

In The Beginning ...

Freedom Chess Academy was founded in 2000 by Dr. Rose Marie Stutts in answer to the need for a formal chess program in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It began as a weekly meeting on the front porch of her home. These early students chose the name that our organization bears today.

In keeping with her Benedictine spirituality and based upon her work and observations from volunteer work with the disadvantaged in Tuscaloosa, Freedom Chess Academy (FCA) was based on several tenets:

Dr. Stutts is a teacher with a dream for the future of chess in schools for all the students of Alabama.

It wasn't long before Freedom Chess Academy outgrew the front porch of Dr. Stutts’ home and moved to the Benjamin Barnes YMCA, thence to several schools and the Tuscaloosa Public Library. By the middle of the decade, FCA was supplementing chess classes with occasional rated and unrated chess tournaments.

In 2007 FCA became a 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation, and became an affiliate of both the United States Chess Federation and the Alabama Chess Federation. It also established its initial Internet presence.

In 2008 FCA licensed a formal chess curriculum to standardize and improve the consistency of its teaching methods.  A summer chess camp was organized and held.

In 2009, seeking ways to expand its impact and reach more students, FCA partnered with The University of Alabama to draw college students into its service mission. [See Partnerships.] Dr. Stutts retired from her full-time job at The University of Alabama but continued to teach as an adjunct at The University of Alabama.

In 2010 FCA continued to grow in the number of students it serves. The University of Alabama's "Every Move Counts" initiative grew dramatically in the fall semester involving more college-student chess instructors and reaching more elementary and middle school students. This new website became operational. We organized and hosted the biggest pair of chess events in Alabama in recent history: the 2010 Alabama State Chess Championship and the Alabama State Scholastic Tournament; together the events drew 140 players. We've augmented our in-class teaching with Internet-based options that offer out-of-class tactical study for students ranging from advanced beginners to advanced students, and in-depth strategy and opening study for advanced students. In December we held our first interschool chess event in which 60 students competed.

In 2011 inter-school tournaments expanded along with Tuscaloosa educators' enthusiasm for the benefits of chess. The Holy Spirit School Chess Club joined the Interscholastic competition. Our UA partner's Every Move Counts ramped up their efforts bring two dozen student chess instructors aboard to support teaching chess within schools.  Two chess instructors obtained US Chess Federation level-2 District Chess Coach certification.

What We've Been Doing Lately...

In 2012 we claimed our first state championship. We sent students to the Alabama State Scholastic Championship and are proud to have one of our students who has been with FCA since the age of five win the state championship for grades K-3. He repeated the win in 2013 winning the k-6 championship while four other students placed second in the state k-3 club team championship. This is evidence that we not only teach our students how to play chess, we can teach the truly motivated how to play high quality chess. Features in the Tuscaloosa News and on ABC 33/40's Focus@4 boosted community awareness and brought in new students and instructors allowing us to further expand our course offerings.

In 2014 FCA students won both the K-6 state club team championship and the K-8 individual state championship. Arden Marken represented Alabama in the Barber Tournament of K-8 Champions, a national invitational tournament. FCA's president, Neil Dietsch, is one of the leaders the Alabama Chess in Schools Initiative, a pilot program of the Alabama State Department of Education devoted to expanding chess in schools.

In 2015 our primary team was state co-champion in the club team division.

Our organization owes much to the corporate and private sponsors who have supported us financially over the years. We are also indebted to the many volunteers who have helped us. These include past board members, volunteer chess instructors, public office holders, TV show hosts, and the many parents who have pitched in to help when needed. Finally we have our students to thank, a number of whom have come back years after taking classes to help a new generation of youngsters realize the benefits of playing chess.

Freedom Chess Academy continues to grow its capabilities and outreach. Gradually Dr. Stutt's dream is becoming a reality.