Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Benefits of Chess

Article published in Ipoh Echo, Issue February 1-15, 2009:

Chess is considered a mental sport. What this means is that it develops thinking skills. From what I call the mysteries of the 64 squares, the opening, middle and end games chess teaches tactics, positioning, timing, judgement and risk taking etc. And when it is played in a timed tournament environment it teaches thinking under pressure.

But in my mind it's the other aspects of chess that deserve more recognition. For over the last 5 years that I have been involved in Perak chess, it has been my honour to see the fighting spirit of our kids. To see their fire and determination to win. To see both the joy from winning and the tears of anguish after a loss.

It is from this passion that I see an opportunity and a challenge. The opportunity is for parents, chess associations and chess officials to teach our children how to compete and develop themselves at the same time. For chess can also teach the meaning of strategy. Strategy encompasses the big picture. Understanding ourselves, the type of game we like and don’t like, the type of game our opponents like and don’t like, the time frames for the execution of those strategies. Strategy encompasses every factor/variable that can affect outcome.

And so there is the opportunity for the learning of goal setting, planning and the discipline of training. For without the passion, these are difficult skills to impart. Competition and pressure also exposes the effects of negative thinking and the accompanying strong emotions. And so there is the opportunity to teach our kids on how to rise up again from their defeats, to set more realistic goals, to plan better, to train harder for the next time.

And the challenge? The challenge will be to keep that fighting spirit alive through the adversity. To keep that light in their eyes. Our challenge is to guide our kids till they are ready to handle the world on their own as they must someday. For if the lessons are well learned our kids will now have the tools to set and attain whatever goals they give themselves later in life. For me this is complimentary to academic achievements.

Raymond Siew