Thursday, May 17, 2012

What are the benefits in chess?




Chess is a game for people of all ages. You can learn to play at any age and in chess, unlike in many other sports, you don't ever have to retire. Age is also not a factor when you're looking for an opponent-young can play old and old can play young. Chess develops memory.

The chess theory is complicated and many players memorize different opening variations. You will also learn to recognize various patterns and remember lengthy variations. Chess improves concentration. During the game you are focused on only one main goal-to checkmate and become the victor.

§ Chess develops logical thinking. Chess requires some understanding of logical strategy. For example, 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, not to make big weaknesses in your position and not to blunder your pieces away for free. (Although you will find yourself doing that occasionally through your chess career. Mistakes are inevitable and chess, like life, is a never-ending learning process.)

§ Chess promotes imagination and creativity. It encourages you to be inventive. There are an indefinite amount of beautiful combinations yet to be constructed.

§ Chess teaches independence. You are forced to make important decisions influenced only by your own judgment.

§ Chess develops the capability to predict and foresee consequences of actions. It teaches you to look both ways before crossing the street.

§ Chess inspires self-motivation. It encourages the search of the best move, the best plan, and the most beautiful continuation out of the endless possibilities. It encourages the everlasting aim towards progress, always steering to ignite the flame of victory.

§ Chess shows that success rewards hard work. The more you practice, the better you'll become. You should be ready to lose and learn from your mistakes. One of the greatest players ever, Capablanca said, "You may learn much more from a game you lose than from a game you win. You will have to lose hundreds of games before becoming a good player."

§ Chess and Science. Chess develops the scientific way of thinking. While playing, you generate numerous variations in your mind. You explore new ideas, try to predict their outcomes and interpret surprising revelations. You decide on a hypothesis, and then you make your move and test it.

§ Chess and Technology. What do chess players do during the game? Just like computers they engage in a search for the better move in a limited amount of time. What are you doing right now? You are using a computer as a tool for learning.

§ Chess and Mathematics. You don't have to be a genius to figure this one out. Chess involves an infinite number of calculations, anything from counting the number of attackers and defenders in the event of a simple exchange to calculating lengthy continuations. And you use your head to calculate, not some little machine.

§ Chess and Research. There are millions of chess resources out there for every aspect of the game. You can even collect your own chess library. In life, is it important to know how to find, organize and use boundless amounts of information. Chess gives you a perfect example and opportunity to do just that.

§ Chess and Art. In the Great Soviet Encyclopedia chess is defined as "an art appearing in the form of a game." If you thought you could never be an artist, chess proves you wrong. Chess enables the artist hiding within you to come out. Your imagination will run wild with endless possibilities on the 64 squares. You will paint pictures in your mind of ideal positions and perfect outposts for your soldiers. As a chess artist you will have an original style and personality.

§ Chess and Psychology. Chess is a test of patience, nerves, will power and concentration. It enhances your ability to interact with other people. It tests your sportsmanship in a competitive environment.

§ Chess improves schoolwork and grades. Numerous studies have proven that kids obtain a higher reading level, math level and a greater learning ability overall as a result of playing chess. For all those reasons mentioned above and more, chess playing kids do better at school and therefore have a better chance to succeed in life.

§ Chess opens up the world for you. You don't need to be a high ranked player to enter big important competitions. Even tournaments such as the US Open and the World Open welcome players of all strengths. Chess provides you with plenty of opportunities to travel not only all around the country but also around the world. Chess is a universal language and you can communicate with anyone over the checkered plain.

§ Chess enables you to meet many interesting people. You will make life-long friendships with people you meet through chess.

§ Chess is cheap. You don't need big fancy equipment to play chess. In fact, all you may need is your computer! (And we really hope you have one of those, or else something fishy is going on here.) It is also good to have a chess set at home to practice with family members, to take to a friend's house or even to your local neighborhood park to get everyone interested in the game.

§ CHESS IS FUN! Dude, this isn't just another one of those board games. No chess game ever repeats itself, which means you create more and more new ideas each game. It never gets boring. You always have so much to look forward to. Every game you are the general of an army and you alone decide the destiny of your soldiers. You can sacrifice them, trade them, pin them, fork them, lose them, defend them, or order them to break through any barriers and surround the enemy king. You've got the power! To summarize everything in three little words-Chess is Everything!

GM A. Kogan

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Why chess deserves a place in schools

Artwork by Mike Magnan

Why chess deserves a place in schools
In Armenia all six-year-olds study chess; in UK schools it 'fell off a cliff' in the 1980s. But its educational benefits are plentiful
Jonathan Calder, Tuesday 7 February 2012 13.30 EST

Primary school children in Armenia have more to contend with than just the three Rs. From the age of six, they all study chess as a separate subject for two hours a week. Chess is important to the very identity of this landlocked little country. Armenia suffered massacres and repression in the 20th century and has recently experienced an economic collapse. Yet in the 1960s, it provided the Soviet Union with one of its succession of world champions in the shape of Tigran Petrosian. A master of defence, his relentless grinding down of opponents made him the Geoffrey Boycott of the chessboard. And today, Armenia – with a population of just 3 million – holds the men's world team title.

So it was no surprise when an official of the Armenian education ministry told the Associated Foreign Press that teaching chess in schools would "create a solid basis for the country to become a chess superpower". But there is more to it than that: Armenia is one of a growing number of nations hoping to see wider educational benefits from encouraging chess in schools. India, Turkey and Norway have all made similar moves recently, and a summary of research produced by the Quad Cities Chess Club in America talks of enhanced mental abilities and an improvement in conventional schoolwork.

This is not a new idea. The Soviet dominance of the game was rooted in the new regime's embrace of chess immediately after the revolution. The game was seen as a cheap way to bring culture to the masses and display the new state's superiority to the decadent capitalist west. "We must organise shock brigades of chess players and begin the immediate realisation of a Five-Year Plan for chess," declared Nikolai Krylenko, the father of Soviet chess – some years before Stalin had him arrested and shot.

The international master and chess journalist Malcolm Pein, a gentler soul, is one of those who want to see the game flourish again in British schools. "There is no other activity that costs so little to organise and that cuts across so many barriers," he says. "Age, sex, race, religion … they mean nothing in chess. Anyone can enjoy it. Around 500 million people in 167 countries play the game and only football can rival that. Yet it has long been in decline in our schools."

Two years ago, Pein's organisation, Chess in Schools and Communities, launched a pilot programme involving 60 primary schools and 6,000 children. By 2015 it aims to have introduced the game to 17,000 schools and to have a million children playing. It is an ambitious target, but so far they are on track. Chess is still played by many British children, and Pein praises the Delancey UK Schools Chess Challenge. However, his impression is that many of the 2,000 schools that take part come from the private sector.

Does this mean British chess has always been confined to a social elite? Pein suggests not. Talking about the match held by radio between Great Britain and the Soviet Union in 1946, he says: "Yes, the British team were all Oxbridge types – probably because everyone else was too busy earning a living. But if you look at photographs of the audience, they don't look particularly middle class." My own experience as a member of the feared Market Harborough team of the 1980s bears this out. When we won a trophy, it would be engraved with the names of all its previous holders. Until the 1960s these were overwhelmingly works or company teams: after that they barely featured. Looking at those trophies was like discovering a lost culture.

Chess held on for longer in state schools. Pein dates its decline – "it fell off a cliff" – to the 1980s, a decade that saw the narrowing of the curriculum and a subsequent disaffection among teachers. But it may not be too late to reverse that decline, because the memory of the benefits and pleasures of chess lingers. "When I talk to headteachers," says Pein, "they often say: 'We always had a chess club when I was at school. Why haven't we got one now?'"


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Lessons for Life in 64 Squares

Lessons for Life in 64 Squares
Beloved in Armenia, chess becomes a mandatory part of the country’s curriculum.
by Sona Kocharyan

18 January 2012

YEREVAN | Arbi Khachatouryan teaches chess for a living, not an unusual job in a country where chess masters are treated like sports stars.

Khachatouryan, 30, works at the state-run Chess Academy of Armenia, but in September he began giving lessons twice a week at a primary school in Yerevan. He says he enjoys seeing second-graders’ relish for checkmating their classmates.

Not only their classmates. Grigor Gevorgyan, one of Khachatouryan’s students, revels in his newfound skill, boasting, “My grandfather is the best chess player in the world and I once mated him.”

But it is a class, after all, and there’s more to it than the thrill of conquest, Khachatouryan says. “Every day we start by going over the rules taught during the previous lesson. The children are eager to start their games, but revision is very important, too.”

Khachatouryan is not the only chess player teaching in Armenian public schools. In fact, since September more than 1,000 expert players and chess-savvy schoolteachers have been instilling the rules of the ancient game to 7-year-olds.

Armenia became the world’s first country to teach chess in every primary school and to include it in the national curriculum, Education and Science Minister Armen Ashotyan said in August, just before the new school year began and chess became a compulsory subject for second-graders.

“In the past Armenia often drew on the experiences of leading countries when making education reforms. Because of this innovation, the situation has changed. Now the eyes of the global educational community are on us,” Ashotyan said.

In 2010, the government tasked the Chess Academy with setting up a course. The Education Ministry experimented with teaching chess in two Yerevan schools in spring 2011 before recommending the program be expanded nationwide at a cost of 600 million drams ($1.5 million) in the 2011-2012 school year. The academy is responsible for writing textbooks and manuals and training chess teachers.

The academy even produced a psychology handbook to help chess teachers better understand how young children think and learn.

All 1,287 Armenian primary schools where second-grade classes are offered are taking part in the chess program, according to the Education Ministry. There are about 35,000 second-graders this year, all taking twice-weekly chess lessons. One lesson is an addition to their normal program and one replaces a physical education session.

Most of the new chess teachers are chess experts, and they are joined by teachers of math, informatics, and physical education, according to program organizer Varsine Manandyan of the Chess Academy.

After going through training sessions and seminars, aspiring chess teachers had to take an exam before 1,150 of them were hired for terms ranging from one to three years.

Chess experts do not expect every Armenian youngster to become a lifelong player, but they say the subject can help children in other areas of school and life.

“Six or seven is the best age for children to start learning chess,” says Tigran Petrosian, a 27-year-old grandmaster, no relation to the Tigran Petrosian who was world chess champion in the 1960s. “I also took my first steps into the field at the age of 6.”

Some chess instructors think the game will help children better understand subjects such as algebra, geometry, and logic.

“This game develops other values. The child learns to think, to make decisions, to play an honest game, to win and lose,” Chess Academy director Smbat Lputian says.

Armenians have an enviable record in the annals of modern chess. The country’s latest honor came last summer when the Armenian team led by Levon Aronian, the world's second-ranked player, won the world team chess championship. The Armenian team was heavily weighted with players who had won two consecutive world Chess Olympiads, in 2006 and 2008.

Chess has been among the country’s most popular pastimes since the original Tigran Petrosian became world champion in 1963 by beating one of the greatest Soviet players, Mikhail Botvinnik. Petrosian successfully defended his title in 1966 against Boris Spassky, finally losing it to Spassky in 1969.

“I was a little boy of 8, living in the small city of Meghri” at the time, writer Mesrop Harutyunyan says, recalling how Petrosian’s achievements set off a chess boom in Armenia. “I remember that everyone in town followed his matches and discussed every single move he made. It was like that not just in my city, but the whole country.”

Memories of past glory help explain why the government’s decision to teach chess in schools met with wide support. Another is that the country’s powerful president, Serzh Sargsyan, is also the chairman of the Armenian Chess Federation and liked the idea when Lputian, the federation’s vice president, suggested it.

The program has also been praised by educators, teachers, and parents, and Lputian says countries such as Russia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia have expressed interest in adopting it.

“My daughter takes painting classes twice a week. She’s also studying piano in a music school. So she wouldn’t have time to start learning chess if the school didn’t make it possible for her,” says Lilit Hakobyan of Yerevan, the mother of a second-grade student.

Gayane Saroukhanyan, a primary school principal in Yerevan, says the program is popular with her students’ parents. “The parents of third- and fourth-graders wish their children were also learning the subject, but in my opinion, this should be a gradually developing process,” she said.

And it will be. Compulsory chess lessons will be extended to the third grade next year and to the fourth grade in the 2013-2014 school year, according to Education Minister Ashotyan.

Article and photos by Sona Kocharyan, a journalist in Yerevan.