Launch of The Kraken with coronavirus is coincidental, but very timely  

  FERNDALE — Call it fortuitous or call it dumb luck. Ferndale chess coach Randy Kaech calls his founding of “The Kraken” both.

  The Kraken is a free online scholastic chess club for students in kindergarten through 12th grade in northwest Washington. Parents are also welcome to encourage, watch and learn from their kids.

  The Kraken was founded March 7, 2020, before any closures had happened due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  “It had been stewing in my mind already because there had been a number of chess clubs that had started up this year,” Kaech said.

  Kaech, based in Ferndale, had seen chess growing in Ferndale’s schools. Central and Cascadia elementaries were starting clubs, and Eagleridge Elementary and Skyline Middle schools already had clubs. There is also a combined Horizon/Vista middle schools chess club. All of these are taught by high school volunteers.

  “I thought, let’s just converge everything and provide a place where they can play during the week and not just at their meetings,” Kaech said. “I combined the whole Northwest Washington area. Then, lo and behold, schools shut down, and there you have it.”

  Students in Whatcom, Skagit, Island and San Juan counties are welcome to join The Kraken. To give the club a community feel, Kaech decided to use Chess.com to host The Kraken, allowing him to give the club its own unique identity and to invite specific members while keeping troublesome ones out.

  “I used their club feature and opened it to just northwest counties in Washington State,” Kaech said. “To get in, you have to tell me what school you’re from, your grade and your first name.”

  The club holds designated tournaments that happen three times each week, as well as a slow tournament, which is essentially an online version of “correspondence chess,” in which competitors exchange moves through snail mail. In slow tournaments, competitors must make a move every three days.

  Kaech also posts informative articles to The Kraken. The site includes various degrees of chat features, which parents can control for their kids.

  The annual Chess Jam event was supposed to take place in mid-April, but it has been postponed or cancelled. Kaech plans to host an online version of the Chess Jam. “We’re going to try to simulate that as best we can,” he said.

  The online Chess Jam will be April 18 and will be live-streamed on either Facebook or Twitch.tv — Kaech has not decided which yet. The Chess Jam will include prizes such as virtual medals and potentially premium memberships to Chess.com.

  Kaech recently posted to the Kraken an article about kids enrolling in chess schools.

  “I think that’s one of the valuable regions of the website at The Kraken, where I have links to various chess schools,” Kaech said.

  The name “The Kraken” came from the founder’s own mind, although it has some unexpected connections to the real world.

  “I just wanted a fun, catchy name,” Kaech said. “I probably also saw that in the World Chess League, basically the chess equivalent of the NFL, and one of the teams that’s not doing very well, I think they’re from Chile, their mascot is the Kraken. And after I already decided on it, I saw that the Kraken was being considered as a name for the NHL mascot in Seattle.”

  Find The Kraken online at www.chess.com/club/the-kraken.