No, it’s not a title of a film I’m reviewing, nor is it the third in a series of anything.
When was the last time you played chess? Have you ever played it? What’s stopping you?
Or another question I could ask, why isn’t chess part of the early learning in school, say Prep and Grade One? Yes, I am serious, why are we not teaching young children chess?
If you’ve never played the game, this might be a hard concept to understand, but chess is a great way to get kids involved in learning. It teaches them strategy, it teaches them mathematics, it gets them interacting with others, it gives them the basics of reasoning, and responsibilities. Chess tests you and let’s you learn at your own pace. While your opponent is thinking about their move, you are to only thinking about their move, but all the possible ways you can counter their move. Can you see where I am going with this?
I love playing chess. I’m not very good at it, but I love playing it. Sure the best I have ever done is beat a state champion, but they were a bit drunk at the time, it was late at night, and they left their queen open early which in the end cost them the game. It was a one time big win for me and since then, I’d say I’ve lost about 80% of the games I’ve played, but I’ve loved every one of them.
A few years ago, I was teaching a four year old how to play chess. The basic moves, the basic forms of attack, generally just getting their interest in the game. I’d say we had played about thirty games over time, and even though I was helping and showing the best possible moves, they still lost every game. The winning or losing didn’t matter in the end, because they still wanted to play so they could win. One day, I knocked over my king. It was an honest mistake, but it still happened. Now I could have easily put it back up and kept playing, but that is not in the rules of fair play. So I told my opponent (who was now five years old) that they had won, and why they had one. It was like turning on a lightbulb of thought process. Instantly a new game was set up, and this time I was playing against someone with more confidence, who took the game on, who wasn’t worried about a pawn being taken from them, if it exposed my bishop for them to take. The chess board suddenly went from being a game, to something that showed through effort, sacrifice and imagination, you can succeed.
Yes there is a lot to learn in chess, and to start playing it takes a bit of time to learn. But once you have the basic moves understood, you can play against anyone. It’s not about raw physical strength, or being smarter than the person you are playing. Even the best players have to be on their game, every game. Think of how the cogs will turn in their head, as they work out how to get the more versatile pieces out from behind the pawns, while still using the pawns to protect their assets. The number of possible moves just for that first move (16 possible moves) is a wonderful start to the millions of other possibilities in every game.
In a school setting, where all students are learning the game together, you would have some interesting results, which would open their eyes and minds to the wonders of learning. I see it as a great stepping stone, to a whole world of possibilities, and it doesn’t even need electricity to work.