A thinking kid’s game

Barbara Lawlor – Nederland

Last Wednesday night, the first Nederland Youth Chess Club proved to be a popular program, with 11 fifth-grade students showing up to learn the basics: how to set up the pieces and how to move them. It’s a lot to take in, even for adults who are just learning, but the very act of trying to understand chess has many cognitive benefits.

Over the years, there have been a few chess clubs for adults in the mountain area, but seldom any for children. A couple months ago a parent who had seen that the Boulder Valley School District had held a chess tournament, asked in a NedMamas post whether there were any chess clubs available for kids. Barb Hardt of the Peak to Peak Healthy Communities Project decided to jump on the suggestion and engaged the sponsorship of Jill Dreves and the Wild Bear Mountain Ecology Center.

Dreves provided the space in their eco-art room for the club to meet on Wednesday evenings from 5:30 -7:00 p.m. There are no club fees, but donations to Wild Bear for the use of the space is welcomed. Students of all playing levels and ages are welcome to come and learn the basics and then move on to strategy; or just enjoy the complex and intriguing game.

At least 30 countries across the world incorporate chess into their scholastic curriculum, in much the same way that the United States requires athletic programs. Chess is a game that has beneficial effects in learning and development, especially when begun at an early age. Children in these schools show excellence in recognizing complex pattern which leads to them excelling in math and science.

The game of chess helps to develop analytical, synthetic, and decision-making skills that can be practiced in real life. As children grow proficient at the game, they engage in thorough study of the game, which can lead to confidence in academic research.

When young people begin to come up with board strategies, they develop  higher-order thinking skills—the ability to analyze actions and consequences and visualize future possibilities.

Research studies have shown that chess strengthens a child’s mental clarity, fortitude, stability, and overall health. It is an inexpensive and essential way of stimulating mental growth, and in this technologically driven world, chess helps in the synthesis and growth of areas in the brain where many children will benefit as they grow older.

“Chess is in many ways like life itself.” It’s all condensed in a playful manner in a game format and it’s extremely fascinating because, first of all, I’m in control of my own destiny, I’m in charge. You have to be responsible for your actions, you make a move, you had better think ahead about what’s going to happen, not after it happens, because then it’s too late. Chess teaches discipline from a very early age. It teaches you to have a plan and to plan ahead. If you do that, you’ll be rewarded; if you break the rules, you will get punished in life and in chess. You need to learn the rules to break the rules,” says Susan Polgar, four-time World Champion.

PPHCP will be pursuing grants to help supply boards and pieces, but right now there are four chessboards with pieces. Hardt encourages people who attend to bring their chessboards if they have them so everyone can play. The more young people that attend, the more likely the chances are to have tournaments and to invite other chess players in to share the fun.


Barbara is a reporter for The Mountain-Ear.

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