The Incredible Max

Chess at Three exists to provide children with “ah-ha!” moments where they experience the wonder of discovering something new. Anytime we see a student grow through those “ah-ha!” moments it makes us incredibly proud!

Seven-year-old Max discovered he loved his chess lessons so much that he makes the last move of each lesson extra slowly because he doesn't want it to end.

Max is a third-grader who has spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) type 1, a genetic disease affecting motor neurons that leads to profound muscle weakness but doesn’t affect cognition. Max uses a range of assistive devices, including an eye-gaze computer, to communicate.


Max started working with Chess at 3 when his aunt Sarah, a chess tutor with the company, thought he might enjoy private chess lessons. They soon found that Max had an amazing aptitude for the game and fell in love with the funny and adventurous Story Time Chess characters!

Sarah gave us some fascinating insights into why Max, or other kids in a similar situation, might really enjoy chess:

Although Max has quite a packed weekly schedule with online schooling and a variety of therapy appointments, chess is one extracurricular activity Max can simply enjoy. In the chess arena, Max can grow his confidence in making decisions, forming strategies, and most importantly: having fun!

Chess lessons are a great way for Max to supercharge his self-esteem. When he first started taking lessons, Max wasn’t totally comfortable making decisions about where to move. Now, after some practice, he’s become used to coping with the risk-reward possibilities inherent in decision making. He’s also come to accept that making a mistake ultimately isn’t a big deal! Every chess player makes mistakes sometimes.

His chess lessons work great online! Max and his family have been in strict quarantine since the beginning of the pandemic so online chess lessons are a great way for Max to connect with his tutor, hear a fun story, and play some chess!

We are so incredibly proud of Max, which is why we wanted to tell you a little bit of his story. Here’s a quote from Max’s website if you want to help:

There is hope for people diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy! In the last five years, the first three treatments for SMA have been FDA-approved, with still more being researched and trialed. Furthermore, a vibrant, diverse community of SMA-affected individuals, families, and allies are working to improve quality of life with SMA at many levels. Please join us!

Experience the magic today!