Match Point



With the wide array of sports and activities our kids have to choose from, a 1500-year-old board game may not rank at the top of their (or your) priority lists. But maybe it should! French mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal called chess the “gymnasium of the mind,” and research agrees. Brush off that dusty chess box from the back of the closet, because this is one game that’s just too good to pass up, and here are a few reasons why:

  1. Improved concentration- Tim Steiner, owner of Midwest Chess Academy (www.MidwestChess.com), says, “Chess can help kids immensely with concentration. I know we live in a digital world now and parents find that kids’ attention spans are shrinking and all over the map.  Chess can combat these symptoms.”
  2. Self-confidence- Steiner goes on to say, “Another skill is confidence. The beauty to chess is that if kids feel they can achieve understanding of this game, it will lend itself toward overall self-esteem and they can begin to conquer other topics because of the positive feelings they glean from chess.”
  3. Higher test scores- A large-scale study conducted on a chess program in New York City, which involved more than 100 schools and 3,000 children, revealed higher grades in both English and math for the chess playing students.
  4. Longevity- Ken Fee, executive director of the Kansas City Chess Club (www.KansasCityChessClub.com), points out, "Chess improves concentration, test scores and mental discipline in kids. Chess is a game that can be played during an entire lifetime." Not to mention that research indicates people over the age of 75 who play chess have lower dementia rates. Chess is a game that just keeps on giving. Consider it an acquired skill that can be passed on from generation to generation.
  5. Fun- Chess is problem-solving, creative thinking, competition and visual memorization made into a game and it’s fun! Even young children can begin learning the basic rules of the game, and for families with older children, it’s a fun, competitive family activity. But shhh…don’t mention it’s good for them. Why not play to see who gets dinner cleanup duty?

Ready to get started? Check your local school and library. Olathe Public Library offers a family chess night twice per month and is open to all ages. Go online and check their event listings for more information (www.OlatheLibrary.org). Schools all over the greater Kansas City area are catching on to the benefits of chess and offering chess clubs that provide training and play opportunities. If your school doesn’t have one established, Steiner recommends contacting the principal to set one up or involving professionals to host the club. “I strongly recommend involving an amateur player or professional chess teacher to your environment,” Steiner says. “It will save you incredible time and effort from spinning your wheels and really give the kids meaningful direction.” Setting aside time for your children to train their brains in the “gymnasium of the mind” might be your most strategic parenting move yet…checkmate!

Jena Meyerpeter writes from her home in Lenexa where board games consume an entire closet.

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