Chess is one game I have seriously lamented not becoming acquainted with from a tender age. I have however purposed that I will not die a chess-novice. Becoming a good chess player and grooming my children likewise has become one of my life-long goals because it is such a worthwhile investment in one’s life.
Chess has been around for eons and is generally mistaken to be a game played only by geniuses and gifted people. However, the reality is that chess can be played by people of all age groups and mind sets. Chess is a two-player game that is really helpful for brain development from a young age and throughout life. It is an incredibly beneficial and enjoyable pastime which results in better brain function, improved memory and cognitive abilities, strategic thinking and attention improvement.
Children are usually ready to start learning chess from the age of about 5-6 years; when they can be taught about the different pieces and their specific moves. Prior to that, it is helpful for them to develop the habit of playing board games by playing games like Snakes and Ladders, Pick-Up sticks and Ludo. From the age of about 6-7 years, you can start playing chess with your child as a soft opponent and thereafter they can develop their chess skills through interaction with other ‘mini-chess’ players. If you would like to learn how to teach your child to play chess, this link (http://www.chesskid.com/learn-how-to-play-chess.html) might be a helpful resource for you.
Chess benefits for children
- Improves Concentration. During a game of chess, you are focused on one main goal –to checkmate your opponent and become the victor. To play the game, you have to focus and concentrate because if you don’t keep track of every move you cannot respond, no matter how smart you are.
- Develops logical thinking. Chess requires some understanding and logical strategy. You will know that it is important to bring your pieces out into the game at the beginning, to keep your king safe at all times and not to weaken your position unnecessarily.
- Develops analytic skills and patience. As children play chess, they learn to evaluate the results of specific actions and sequences. They also develop in patience as they learn to stop, think and ask themselves: Does this sequence help me or hurt me? Decisions are better made during chess (and in life) after analysing the situation rather than just acting on an impulse.
- Develops visualisation skills. While learning to play chess, children will tend to imagine a sequence of unfolding actions before it actually happens. By so doing, they strengthen their ability to visualise as they learn to shift the pieces in their minds several moves ahead.
- Develops decision making skills. While playing chess, children are confronted with various alternatives and need to consider the pros and cons of various actions. A child learns not to do the first thing that pops up in their mind but to try and weigh various factors before making a decision.
- Develops abstract thinking. To be successful in chess, you have to step back periodically and consider the bigger picture. By so doing, children learn to take patterns used in one context and apply them to different, but related situations.
- Develops Planning Skills. Playing chess teaches a child to develop longer range goals and take steps towards bringing them about. They are also taught to re-evaluate their plans as new developments change the situation
- Develops Memory. The chess theory is quite complicated and usual requires for a child to memorise different opening variations. They will also learn to recognise various patterns and remember lengthy variations.
Playing the game of chess on a regular basis therefore improves the learning, thinking, analytical prowess, and decision-making ability of a child. It also enables a child to understand the importance of foresight and planning whilst developing self-confidence, self-discipline and the ability to strategise in life. Chess is also helpful for preventing and dealing with ADHD –the epidemic of the 21st century! –because it demands attention. If your mind is not focused during chess, you lose; simple as that. Chess is therefore probably a more effective way of dealing with attention deficit disorder in a child, than heading for the local drugstore.
Chess benefits for Adults
Chess is also tremendously beneficial for adults (http://www.chessity.com/blog/431/The_Benefits_of_Chess) and has been proved to have remarkable health benefits (http://www.onlinepsychologydegree.net/2012/09/24/7-surprising-health-benefits-of-playing-chess/) for people with mental disorders like schizophrenia and memory disorders like dementia. Playing chess also significantly improves memory capacity in aging people.
Becoming a chess player is a sure worthwhile investment in any person’s life. This game is no longer only played on a physical board game (a preference I naturally default to) but can also be learnt, taught and played online (https://www.chesskid.com/ ). A recently published inspirational read on how playing chess has remarkably changed the life of one young Ugandan girl, Phiona Mutesi, who is on her way to becoming a Grandmaster –The Queen of Katwe by Tim Grothers– will definitely motivate you to get your child into joining the chess bandwagon!