Municipal Government

Meet Joe Miccio, The QuickChess Master

December 26, 2016
By Katrina Hohlfeld

Retired firefighter and NYPD Veteran Joe Miccio

New York, NY – Retired firefighter and NYPD veteran Joe Miccio was only 6 years-old when his older sister taught him how to play chess. Although he quickly became comfortable with the classic game, Miccio never imagined that years later he would actually develop a revolutionary chess teaching system called QuickChess.

As a kid, Miccio found the weird checkered board and strange pieces intimidating. And focusing on one game for hours only to lose in the end was often disheartening for a child. Those losses could have put other kids off the game forever — but not Miccio. 

Many years later, after being inspired by a friend who wanted him to teach her child how to play chess, Miccio started to consider the game he had always loved from a whole new perspective. QuickChess didn’t happen overnight, however. While the adult Miccio certainly knew how to fight crime and put out fires, he didn’t know much about running a business. Miccio ended up mortgaging his house to fund the initial manufacturing. In those early days, his living room was the warehouse and his kitchen counter was the assembly line. While this experience was a bit nerve racking, Miccio remained positive.

“You have hopes and then you have fears at the same time — combined,” he says. “Which is excitement — right?”

Eventually, QuickChess began attracting the attention of the chess world elite.

“Having the elite get behind it was a big morale boost and validation of the product’s effectiveness,” Miccio says. “In the chess community in general, they don’t like their beloved game messed with.”

Micco’s QuickChess teaching system is both intelligent and accessible. It focuses on introducing the pieces and their capabilities one at a time, in order to pave the way to broader strategies. The size of the starting board is only 5 by 6 squares — making the game much more approachable. This type of game can hold a child’s attention much better than trying to explain all of the complex rules and strategies at once.

Micco’s QuickChess teaching system is both intelligent and accessible. It focuses on introducing the pieces and their capabilities one at a time, in order to pave the way to broader strategies. The size of the starting board is only 5 by 6 squares — making the game much more approachable. This type of game can hold a child’s attention much better than trying to explain all of the complex rules and strategies at once.

Ten years into its new life, however, Miccio found it necessary to take a step back from QuickChess when 9/11 occurred. He worked at Ground Zero for six months after the attack, and also helped create the September 11th Families’ Association. Miccio was also elected secretary of the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) shortly after that. All of his post-9/11activities meant that Miccio could no longer manage his own company. But he soon discovered that his QuickChess work had actually prepared him to take on this next chapter in his life — describing the experience as a “great foundation skill set to represent labor”.

Over the next decade, Miccio worked steadfastly for the UFA while friends in the toy industry took over the manufacturing and day-to-day operations of QuickChess.

Now retired, Miccio is getting involved again to help launch the digital version of QuickChess. The original game design lends itself naturally to digital application because of the smaller board and the quick games. If the goal is to provide a fun and challenging app that still preserves the essence of chess, Miccio feels he has the perfect product to make that happen.

Says Miccio, “I love teaching kids… seeing them make the connections.”

In his view, chess teaches kids valuable life lessons like thinking ahead and assessing risk. Part of Miccio’s teaching method revolves around making analogies between the game movements and real life decisions.

“Even going into a fire, you want to take a moment before you go running into that building to know the forces you have working against you, and what things you have available in your favor,” he says.

Miccio’s inclination to relate chess to broader concepts and life lessons is one of the reasons why pawns figure so prominently in the game. They may not be the most powerful or versatile pieces on the chess board, but as Miccio points out, “Pawns are the only pieces on the board that never run away.”

“They always forge forward…they do their job,” he says. “And even more important — they have to work together in order to be successful.”

It’s an excellent metaphor for labor in general — and unions in particular. The first mini game in the new QuickChess app is called “Power Pawns.” In it, pawns are the only pieces on the board. If a pawn does its job, uses forethought and exercises patience, it receives a “pawn promotion.” For Miccio, this ability to work together and move forward (despite setbacks) can really empower individuals in school, at work, and in life in general.

QuickChess is currently involved in a Kickstarter campaign to help launch the digital version. There are several tiers of packages available based on pledge amounts — including lifetime digital access, physical game boards, a video chess lesson from Grandmaster Susan Polgar, and even a visit from Joe Miccio himself.

Click here to find out more about QuickChess and to check out the Kickstarter campaign.

December 26, 2016

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