Chess & Life

By Prerana Choudhury

Chess happens to be one of the most popular indoor games across the world. The appeal of the sport lies in its austerity, its character shaped by the gravity of the players’ moves.

In recent times, several individuals and institutions have resorted to chess to promote healthy competition among school kids, especially those from underprivileged backgrounds. Educators have found out that this game is an ideal way to improve concentration, logical and critical thinking, memory, analytical skills and sense of judgement. For example, Chess in the Schools, a New York-based non-profit educational organisation, aims to build academic performance by holding inter-city chess championships across public schools. Since 1986, it has positively affected the lives of more than 500,000 children in New York City alone. In India, we have a similar programme called Chess in Schools initiated by the Maharashtra Chess Association. It seeks to not only reinforce the cognitive capacities of children but also ‘to create future Grand Masters.’

Practitioners of the game have stood by the belief that the game can transform a child’s personality and life on the whole. Devanshi Rathi, a 16-year-old FIDE Arena International Master (AIM) from Delhi, launched Project Checkmate in April 2016 with the idea of taking chess to the grassroots. It has now expanded and taken chess to visually-impaired children as well. Such initiatives are helping students become more confident and enabling them to take greater interest in attending school. Besides improving their academic performances, modules like this shape the overall personality of a child.

Chess as a Learning Ground for Life Lessons

At a time when games are shifting to virtual platforms of the web, apps and smartphones, even sports communities are becoming increasingly fragmented. Intervention programmes bridge this gap because they help students take sports more seriously and enable authorities to spot those who have an inclination or talent towards particular forms of sport. There is also considerable lack of information about career opportunities in this field. By making sports a part of the curriculum, we are enabling our children to learn from professionals, thereby broadening their horizon about the scope of such work and possible future opportunities.

Geeta Dharmarajan, Founder Katha, has always wished to bring chess to ‘Katha Josh’, the sports department of Katha Lab School in Govindpuri. To give children a taste of the game, Katha recently organised a one-day chess camp in the school. The camp was named ‘Chess and Life’ and quite appropriately so. International Arbiter (IA) Biju Raj S, along with FIDE Arbiter (FA) and chess coach Rupesh Kumar (of Delhi Chess Association) arranged for a training session for the students and taught them the basics of the game.

Why Chess is different?

“Chess develops logical thinking, improves concentration, and promotes imagination and creativity… It encourages the player to search for the best moves and the best plan out of the endless possibilities,” said Biju Raj, while talking about the way this game teaches us many life skills and hence helps us grow as individuals.. The structure of the game becomes an obvious reflection of life itself. It was born at a time when human society lived through conquests and battlegrounds, after all. “It helps you to think independently, relying on your own judgement,” he concluded.

Rupesh Kumar talked about the more academic leanings of the game. He related it to various subjects/disciplines and how chess has the basic conceptual elements of each. It was quite interesting to hear him relate the two things. “Playing chess is like creating a scientific hypothesis — you explore new ideas, try to predict outcomes, and interpret the revelations. It involves infinite number of calculations. At the same time it is also an art; one must be able to imagine the endless number of possibilities.”

Following this beginners’ camp with a more long-term collaboration with Delhi Chess Association. the Katha Chess Club was finally launched on the 27th of April, 2017. Mr. S. Biju Raj and Mr. R. S. Tiwari were the chief guests of the day along with Geeta Dharmarajan. They talked briefly about the rules of the game after which all the students made teams and played several rounds of the game. The inauguration of this club has left the kids visibly excited; hopefully it will give the children a chance to pursue it as a hobby or take it further in their lives.

The writer is an Assistant Editor at Katha and is closely associated with the Katha Holistic Early Learning (KHEL) vertical.