I knew no other kids who even knew as much as I did – which I now know, is almost nothing.
Chess has been around for centuries, and for good reason. The game can be fascinating – players sitting across from each other over a board of figurines, not only thinking through the possibilities of the moves, but watching their opponent’s responses and assessing his/her state of mind.
In Queen of Katwe (now a major motion picture), we read the surprising success of the children of the ghetto is not really so surprising after all. Children living in Katwe must constantly be aware of the consequences of their actions – to keep themselves physically safe, to support the family by selling or working for a small amount that may, in fact, pay for the only meal they eat that day. he goes on to point out that thinking three or four consequences ahead of any action is exactly the sort of strategic planning and sequential thinking that leads to success in chess, and that, in spite of a lack of formal education (many of these children lack even the most fundamental reading skills), these children have already been constantly practicing those exact higher order thinking patterns.
I personally find it interesting that, while some suites have shown a relationship between mathematical thinking and chess (which makes sense – logic, deductive reasoning… even coordinates are all part of math and chess), I found it fascinating that the work doc Alfred Binet indicated that verbal ability is key to the game. He did a study of chess players having them play one (or even more than one) more likely a result of deliberate practice. The players indicated that they were able to use a variety of techniques to manage the various games – some envisioned the chess board(s), others simply worked form the abstract (non-imaged) knowledge of the game. Interestingly, achievement in chess appears not to be related to native intelligence, but rather is more likely a result of deliberate practice.
To my ears, that’s great news. It means anyone – child or adult – can reap the benefits of playing chess… That the results are a matter of time put in, rather than just being lucky enough to be born with the right genetic makeup. And I’ll be honest – I always love it when something everyone is excited about (such as developing logical thinking and deductive reasoning for STEM education) is already present and easily available for us in something familiar.
- One of my favorite resources for learning chess are the books from Championship Chess. The books are really interesting – to me and to the kids. There are descriptions of different types of games, each of which helps the players strengthen different aspects of the game.
- As far as chess sets go – well, my boys have lost more chess pieces than you can shake a stick at. A nice glass set, like this one, is now part of the household decor — Pervious chess sets have very much been treated more like toys. I will give my sons credit for being resourceful – as pieces would disappear, I would notice them replaced with Lego-constructs. However, I think par too the issue was in that the sets were treated like toys. For a time, that seemed appropriate. But, now the boys are older and a nice household set is more in order. They take better care of it, and treat it with the same care that they do the rest of our family tabletop games.
- The computer. Well, frankly, between other games and schoolwork, my kids are in front of a screen enough hours. However, there have been times when the online chess game is the way to go (and I’ll admit it – you can’t lose the piece in the computer game). The computer can also be a great tool for playing distance games with other players.
For me, the key is that you learn chess by playing. I personally would not ever emphasize “practice your chess” with my children, as we are wont to remind them to “practice piano” or “practice your swing.” (Wait, that’s my husband, not my kids….) Anyway, you get the idea – chess has myriad benefits, but remains a game. The best benefits will come from meeting at the board, and playing the game, not from studying the skills.
If you’re wondering if chess might be an option for your child, here’s what I suggest: find a place where other kids are playing. That’s right. Our boys’ imagination was sparked when we happened upon a display for Championship Chess at a book fair. It wasn’t the books or gadgets that caught their attention – it was the tables. Championship Chess had actually paid for extra booth space, but instead of filling it with product, set up tables, chairs, and chess sets, and just let kids sit down to play, anytime, for the three days. The tables were full of kids – it was really something to see, and our boys sat right down with the other kids who got them started. So seek out a group for your child to try – and don’t worry. I have never heard or seen a peep about chess in our current city, but a few google searches on kids, chess, and the name of my current city, and I got plenty of hits to try. See what’s available in your area.
I received the chess set pictured above for testing and review purposes. It’s a great quality set at a very reasonable price. You can view it (as well as countless other chess resources, including books) on Amazon.
Any opinion expressed in this post is mine alone.
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