Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Saving Kids From Chess

Would teach your kids how to play chess? I ask because I know of at least 2 parents who said no point blank. And these guys are chess players!

During last year's Australian Chess Championships I recall a particular Melbournite saying that he doesn't want to teach his young son how to play chess because the game is just too (I think he used the word) "tragic". We can all probably understand what he meant by that. Chess is demanding! Not only to the wallet, to your time - but to your spirits, most of all. While the wins can bring about joyous heights, those losses, too, can exact a pretty heavy toll - like nights of tossing and turning thinking about where you went wrong. I've had a few of them.

But another player has an entirely pragmatic reason. He wants his kid to take up tennis, make millions, and then take care of mom and dad when the appropriate time arrives. He fears, however, that it may be too late. With so many chess pieces lying around the house, the toddler has had ample exposure to the game. Before long she'll be beating grandmasters left right and centre.

So, would you teach your kids the game?

6 comments:

SonofPearl said...

If I had a son or daughter, I'd definitely teach them to play chess. My father taught me to play when I was 5 years old and that simple act has given me years of enjoyment - the best present I've ever had.

Of course, frustration at one's own deficiencies as a player, and one's bad losses can cast a brief shadow over the enjoyment, but I can't imagine the barrenness of my life without the Sicilian Defence, kingside attacks, pins, forks, doubled pawns, rook endings, replaying the games of Capablanca...

Being a professional sportsman in ANY sport is statistically very unlikely, so you have to go with what you get the most pleasure from...

Tom Chivers said...

I will leave it up to them to decide if they learn, or not.

Anonymous said...

Chess is great for kids! It improves their problem solving and concentration, and it really is fun too (you can't deny it)!

Of course, like with anything else, it can be stressful if you become a super-serious player and play lots of high pressure games, but I've found that most kids will only reach this level if they really love chess, in which case the joy they gain from it is worth the little ups and downs.

Anyone looking to get their kids into chess in NSW should check out these websites:
www.nswjcl.org.au
www.sydneyacademyofchess.com.au

ejh said...

Another question is - if you would teach them, how early in life would you be prepared to do so?

I've not got kids (and never will) but the question does come up with kids of friends and relatives. I'm really unsure about it because I do think that in some people, chess may encourage introversion and obsession, and of course this is most likely to be true in the kids who are likely to be best at it.

I'll give you a specific example. My fiancée's brother has a son who, at the age four (I think, certainly no later) strapped into his chair in his father's car, suddenly surprised his father by saying "Toyota....Ford....Seat" as cars passed coming the other way. Turned out he'd learned, without the slightest encouragement, to memorise and identify the badges of different car manufacturers.

Now as soon as I heard that story, I thought two things. One was that any kid who did that would more than likely make a very, very good chessplayer. The other was that it might well be better for them if they never saw a chess set.

Trouble is, I've already taught his sister...

James Stripes said...

When my son was four, he set up the chess pieces and asked me to teach him to play. I taught him, and we started playing often. For a long time, he played that whatever piece I moved, he could capture with any piece that met his fancy. But, when I tried to play the way he did, he explained that I must play by the rules I had taught him. This game continued for a year or more, and one day I insisted that we both play by the same rules.

When he was in third grade, he played in his first chess tournament. His results over the next few years were mixed. Chess tournaments became social occasions where he played Yu-Gi-Oh! and other such games between chess rounds. I do regret that he ever learned those worthless games, but not that he learned chess.

He is nearing eighteen and only plays chess occasionally, but his experience with the game has been predominantly positive. Since he started competing, I have been involved in scholastic chess, and I now spend several hours every week during the school year teaching other parents' kids the game.

Ashish Sheth said...

I think the question should be How would you teach chess to your children.