Weekend Diversion: Kings and Queens and so much more…

“On the chess-board lies and hypocrisy do not survive long.” –Emanuel Lasker

Along with art, music, math, and sports, it’s well known that the game of Chess is one of the best activities a child can engage in to develop their mind. I can think of no better song than Kings and Queens by Loudon Wainwright III to lead you through this article, so here’s a great little live version of it:

Kings and Queens
As someone who learned chess at age 5 and continues to play as an adult, I am positive that chess offers some things that almost no other competition does.

First off, chess is always a completely fair competition. Everyone starts with the same pieces, and at the outset of a game, even the most amateur player starts out equally with a World Champion Grandmaster. A peasant is equal to a president, a child to an adult, and a pauper the equal of a king. Your physical strength and size will not help you, but to succeed at chess there are some fundamental skills you must master.

Strategy and the importance of position, both objectively and relative to your opponent. The ability to decide when to take a risk and when to play it safe. When to attack and when to defend. When to push forward and when to retreat. And the skill of accurately evaluating a difficult position, and deciding on what move offers you the best chances of victory. All of these, as well as many others, are a fundamental part of the game of chess.

Which is why I’m so pleased about the success of programs such as Chess-in-the-schools.

Because, in addition to the game-playing skills, chess can teach you important skills for life as well. How to be a gracious winner, how to accept your losses (and trust me, no matter how good you are, you will often find yourself on the losing side at chess), and to realize that, at the end of the game, everyone is equal again.

But it’s one thing to talk about it, and another to actively be involved in making it happen. Which is why this weekend I want to give a huge shout-out to my friend Thomas in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who’s helping make this happen:

It’s as straightforward as teaching kids and adults the rules, giving them boards, pieces, a chess clock, and a place to play, and Freedom Chess Academy is doing just that! In public libraries, in schools, and by organizing local (and state) chess tournaments, chess is one of the best ways to help children (and even adults) develop many of the skills necessary for academic and life success.

Which isn’t to say that you shouldn’t also have fun with it! (After all, even on a good day, I’m only at the level of a Class B player.) But I wanted to point out a lot of good work going on, thank everyone who’s involved with it, and to congratulate Thomas and everyone else on hosting the 2010 Alabama State Championship this weekend! You’re all awesome for making it happen!