In today’s high-tech schools, with their Wi-Fi networks and electronic registration systems, it would be easy to dismiss the ancient art of chess as, well – just that… ancient! Admittedly, the origins of chess can be traced back at least 1500 years but this eloquent metaphor for life is certainly not, nor is ever likely to be, past its sell-by date. In fact, in a world which can often spin hopelessly out of control at a moment’s notice, chess offers an enticing alternative – a world that can be controlled … but only if you are sufficiently adept. Perhaps this is what accounts for chess’s enduring appeal.
Of course, thanks to the Internet, chess has evolved and now has its own high-tech platform on websites such as:
On Chess.com, there are usually 10,000 or more active participants at any one time and so it is possible to play 24/7 with members from right across the globe. As a result of the Elo rating system, you will always be matched with a suitable adversary for your ability level. Even more amazing, there is no admission fee!
Websites like Chess.com provide all the thrills and spills of many other, much more perilous web-based entertainment services. Personally, I imagine on-line chess to be rather like on-line gambling but, unlike the latter, no matter how bruised and battered you might feel at the end of a disastrous campaign, all you have staked is your Elo, and all you have lost is your pride!
Undoubtedly, the benefits to schools are many. Playing chess may well raise IQ scores, enhance problem solving skills, improve concentration and memory, and encourage lateral thinking. It is also a pastime which transcends the barriers of age, class, religion, nationality, language and culture. In Armenia, chess has actually become part of the curriculum. This small country of some three million, which has had its fair share of warfare and tragedy in recent years, now encourages its children to experience the thrill of combat without any of the carnage.
Furthermore, chess is an incredibly inexpensive activity to run. With an enthusiastic instructor at the helm, one who is able to pass on the flame by igniting young imaginations with a true sense of the wonder of this timeless pursuit, chess club might never be the same again!
Peter Morrisson is a teacher, author and director of animated films. He currently lectures at the Isle of Man College of Further and Higher Education.