I first interacted with chess before I could count my age using all my fingers. My father loved board games and introduced this to us. We would play at least one game a day after dinner. My mother and I took more to scrabble and we left chess to dad and my brother. My brother still plays chess though not competitively. I still appreciate the impact those games had in my life then and now… especially the bonding… the thrill of ‘winning’ my parents… the humanness that brought to our relationships…
When I became a parent, having learnt from the best, I also bought my fair share of board games and puzzles… but chess was not one of them. Remember I was not good at it…
I then worked as a school administrator and one day a parent challenged me to consider offering chess at school. And the management quickly jumped at the idea… it took about two years to get a trainer. Many were already working in other schools. We opted to run it school-wide as opposed to a club for at least two years. The explosion was unimaginable! We had students from Standard 1-6 taking an hour of chess per week. This was timetabled and they went through a curriculum.
Before we implemented chess in the classrooms, we had a two week holiday training for those interested and then entered a tournament after the two weeks. That is where I began to see the beauty of chess! What amazed me the most was the growth in concentration for the children that participated! At the beginning of the two weeks, majority would not sit and concentrate on a game for three minutes. That was very long. By the end of the two weeks, majority could manage at least 10 minutes! In two weeks! Then beginning to appreciate structure. With chess, the different pieces move in specific ways and one has to learn that and use that to their advantage.
On the tournament day, I saw how critical emotional strength is in chess. Since many rounds are played in a day, a child has to understand how their emotions after one round affect the next. With a loss, a child has to learn how to keep hope alive as they tackle the next round and with a win, to be calm and composed and not allow pride to come in the way. They also begun to understand that in chess, one has to analyse why they won or lost and what they would have done to get better results. The tears for sure were many that first tournament and the learning immense! Big question… was there any impact in their lives, studies?
After we implemented chess in the classroom, the beauty of chess continued to show. Concentration, desire to learn through their games irrespective of the score, management of emotions, the drive to grow in the game and others begun to emerge. Then the impact on their studies! Many parents reported that their children were becoming more organized, patient with themselves especially when they do not understand concepts and seek to learn until they get it, they would concentrate longer and most of all, ready to learn from one another. With time, this also translated to improved academic performance.
One case in point, a child living with dyslexia took up chess with such passion that he would not let any tournament pass him by (he currently has an international chess rating). Before chess, he struggled with the languages and math where his scores would normally range around 30-40%. Within a year of chess, his work ethic had so improved that he was now headed to the 60-70% range. It was clear, even to his parents, that the difference was chess. This progress we also saw in many other children (including my own son) and the school was generally calmer and there was more respect between the students. Chess, by the way, knows no age, it is an equaliser, and anyone can win! This was seen in the 2021 National Chess Championship where one of the students who started with us at the school was 8th in the country defeating many veterans.
Why chess? Chess is not just a game, it is a life-training ground! The values picked up from playing a game of chess are lifelong!
- Develops logic, critical thinking and creativity
- Increases concentration and memory
- Develops problem solving skills
- Improves reading skills
- Teaches planning and foresight
- Engages the mind off of screens
- Connects you with others and helps you tour, not just the country but even the world playing chess
Why don’t you join us at Whiz Kids Africa by Eveminet to learn how to play chess both for enjoyment and competition? Enrol your child and let them teach you, as the parent, how to play as they learn. That is a perfect way of mastering the content and also bonding as a family. Consider this a worthwhile investment!