It seems to me that you might have three reasons for running a national chess project for children.
Firstly, you could run a ‘scholastic chess’ project, designed to use chess as an educational tool for young children, without any particular expectation that the children will go on to become strong players.
Secondly, you might want to look for ‘prodigies’, children who will be strong enough to play in top junior international competitions such as the World and European Youth Championships, some of whom will, you hope, reach IM or even GM standard.
Thirdly, you might want to produce serious adult standard competitive chess players, not just titled players but players of all levels.
You’ll probably agree that all three of these reasons are worthwhile in themselves. Observant readers might note that after-school chess clubs for younger children in more affluent areas of the country, and this has been the model here in the UK for the past generation, seem to have been only moderately successful at producing a generation of IMs and GMs, not at all successful at producing lots of serious adult competitive players, and, given the areas in which they tend to operate, have probably not made too many children ‘more intelligent’.
In this post I’m considering the third reason.
Here are just a few reasons (you can probably think of more) why you might want to produce more adult chess players.
I would contend that, if this is the aim of your chess project, you should target secondary schools rather primary schools. Here again are just a few reasons.
Our experience running, say, Under 14 teams at Richmond Junior Club was that the top boards would be children who’d been playing competitive chess half their lives and felt they were growing out of it, while the lower boards were often children who had started later, for whom chess competition was something new and exciting. It was often these players, rather than the top board stars, who continued playing into adulthood.
Fortunately, things are starting to happen here in the UK as Neill Cooper is doing a great job promoting secondary schools chess on behalf of the English Chess Federation.
All secondary schools need (apart from some sets and boards) is an enthusiastic member of staff who will ensure that children have the chance to play chess every day, setting aside a classroom for this purpose at morning and lunch breaks, who will organise internal competitions and matches against other schools for children who want to play competitive chess, and who will encourage those children to join outside clubs and take part in tournaments.
The trick, of course, is to locate that enthusiastic member of staff, and, because, here in the UK, we’ve been getting junior chess wrong for the past 30 years, there are not very many younger adults around who are genuinely enthusiastic about chess.