As a young child I loved playing chess and competing with others in the game, whilst moving up the ranks for a period of about 5 years. The game was ever so consuming and each victory gave me a thrill. However, with other priorities coming to the surface and the need to move countries as a teenager, I quit playing chess. So much so, that I have only played a proper game for the first time the other day. My opponent was no other than my 6-year-old, who seems to share the passion for the game I once possessed. I won (just!) and it made me think of my childhood and how great the game of chess actually is.
I know that regardless of circumstances I should have never given up on it. Chess, although not the most ‘cool’ game to play, has many benefits. It:
- exercises both sides of the brain;
- develops and greatly improves memory;
- improves other necessary skills such as reading, problem solving and concentration;
- teaches planning and foresight as well as looking at the whole picture;
- promotes imagination and creativity;
- teaches independence, as the players have to make decisions of their next moves; and
- is not age dependent.
It has been proven in many studies over the years that the earlier in life the person starts playing chess on a consistent basis, the better will be the benefits and improvements listed above. Kids learn a lot of life skills and life lessons from chess. Chess teaches us that there is likely to be more than one solution to a given problem and that success is usually a reward for hard work, as the more you practice, the better you become.
Benjamin Franklin summarised the benefits of chess well. “Chess teaches foresight, by having to plan ahead; vigilance, by having to keep watch over the whole chess board; caution, by having to restrain ourselves from making hasty moves; and finally, we learn from chess the greatest maxim in life – that even when everything seems to be going badly for us we should not lose heart, but always hoping for a change for the better, steadfastly continue searching for the solutions to our problems.”
Can you play chess? I can and I will ensure that my kids can too. My job is to share the knowledge and the fun this game brings. It will be up to them how far to take it in the future. One thing I know for sure, no one had ever suffered any negative consequences from being able to understand and play a game of chess. Today may just be the perfect day for you to give it a try.