Why Chess?

Chess and Education Paper:

'Why Chess?' by Jim Celone

There was quite an interest in chess at the convention for Mississippi Association of Gifted Children held in October, 2002. At least forty teachers attended a seminar, "Teaching Chess to Non Players" given by Beth Wynn, an Open Doors teacher at Green Elementary in Jackson. The MSCO gave out several dozen fliers for our upcoming tournaments and twenty-five copies each of two USCF scholastic aids.

What is chess? It is an art, a science and a sport. The word is derived from the Persian word for "King." It is the oldest of all games of pure mental skill. The chess board is a battlefield made up of 64 squares occupied by 32 chess piece warriors. Each piece has a unique way of moving and capturing opposing pieces. It is complete with maneuvers to pin, trap, or fork your opponent in a variety of opening, middle, and end game systems. The objective is to checkmate your opponent's king, which means putting the king in a position where he cannot escape capture. The game of chess uses tactics and strategy, inductive and deductive reasoning, recall, analysis, judgment, and abstract reasoning skills. Players of all levels are challenged and youngsters are often hooked for life.

Chess probably originated in India in the 6th or 7th century. By the thirteenth century it was played throughout Europe. The first chess instruction manual was written in 1561. London, England was the site of the first international chess tournament in 1851 and world champions have been recognized since that time. Ben Franklin wrote, "The Morals of Chess," an essay, in which he emphasized the chivalry and courtesy of the game. Chess can serve as a common denominator to bridge age, race, culture, socio-economic, and gender barriers. Players from across the world play one another via the Internet.

Chess is good for children. It is now part of the curriculum at thousands of schools in nearly 30 countries around the world. New Jersey enacted a bill making chess a regular course offered in all of their schools. Numerous studies have demonstrated that chess participation by students increases strategic thinking, problem solving, math, and verbal skills. Of particular interest was a New York study from 1986-1990, of more than 3000 inner-city students in 100 public schools, with results proving by having chess taught and played in schools, the students were positively impacted. This study reflected chess instills a sense of self worth and confidence, results in higher overall grades but especially math and english scores, built a sense of team spirit while emphasizing the individual's ability, taught the value of hard work and commitment, and made students realize the consequences of their own actions. The student participants also showed measurable increases in the following skills: rational thinking, cognitive, communication, and social interaction skills.