Chess is one of the oldest, still-played games in the world. Developed in northern India in the 500s A.D., chess has been internationally popular for centuries. Every day, chess players around the world match wits in this complex battle of strategy and tactics.
Chess is not just a game, however. It can also be a tool. Teaching your child how to play it can aid in his or her intellectual and personal development in several ways. Here are just a few of the lessons that chess can teach your child.
How to think logically and strategically
Most people have to think strategically in the course of their daily lives. That might involve choosing how to best handle a case or client you’ve been assigned at work, mapping out the best route to and from work in the case of bad weather or traffic, or what to buy at the grocery store in order to get the most products for your dollar. All of these situations, from the most urgent and important to the most mundane, require some level of strategic thinking: pinning down the facts and analyzing how to act on the basis of that information.
Children aren’t usually put into these kinds of situations, or at least not until they become old enough to be deemed ready for them. How will they develop the strategic minds they’ll need for the future? Many children’s games already feature quite a bit of strategy, but teaching them how to play chess certainly can’t hurt.
Chess was originally developed as a war game called chaturanga (“four divisions”) in Sanskrit. At the time, the pieces represented various kinds of military units, but even in its current form, the war connotations that chess holds are still obvious. Players must move their pieces around the board, attack and take enemy pieces, and defend their own pieces.
By learning how to play chess, children can better develop their strategic and analytical thinking skills. As they get more used to the game, they will learn which decisions are best to make in certain situations, and even how to predict their opponent’s thought processes and moves. Such developed skills make playing chess a valuable educational tool for your kids’ educational achievements as well as in their everyday life.
The importance of competition
Competition is an unquestionable fact of life. People compete over test scores, over college spots, over jobs, and over recognition. Children who understand the importance of competition and winning tend to be more successful in life than those who don’t. While putting too much pressure on your children to win or be the best at everything they do can have a negative effect, your child should still understand, for the sake of his or her future success that competition exists in life and that it’s important for him or her to do his/her absolute best and to improve himself/herself constantly.
Some children are naturally competitive, whether in academics or sports. If your child is not, however, teaching him or her how to play chess can help light that spark within him/her.
Competition is the most essential part of chess – the entire game is a mental battle between two opponents. When a child begins to learn chess and starts playing games, he’ll/she’ll probably lose a lot in the beginning (unless he/she is a prodigy). You should encourage him/her to keep trying. By playing on a regular basis, he/she might start winning and experiencing the rewards of being successfully competitive.
While a game of chess is usually very civil, competition lies at its core, and there’s hardly a better game out there to instill the competitive spirit in your child.
When to accept a loss and how to learn from it
Chess is a game of tactics, of strategy, and above all of reality. When your strategy fails and your opponent breaks through your defenses and your only remaining possible course of action involves taking your king and fleeing down the board to try to get out of multiple checks, you know you’re almost certainly beaten.
While there’s a lot to be said for the trait of persistence, it’s also important to know when you’ve been beaten. Everyone who’s lost a chess game has taken that truth to heart.
Most children haven’t been exposed to the realities of adulthood, and as such they are often infinitely optimistic, even in the face of insurmountable obstacles. However, they will eventually grow up and see the world for what it is, recognizing the fact that even despite their best efforts, things won’t always turn out the way they like. Losing at chess is a great way for children to learn this important lesson.
There is a brighter side to this depressing aspect of chess, however. Every loss at chess also teaches us how to improve upon our mistakes and achieve a better result the next time around. Once the chessboard is cleared off and the pieces are set back up, we can turn our losses to our advantage in the next game by using the lessons we’ve learned from them.
It’s just the same in life: every failure should be looked upon as a learning experience. Everybody fails at something and at some point in their lives; even kids who are great students and athletes aren’t guaranteed to continue winning forever. Children need to learn how to pick themselves up after a loss and, more importantly, how to learn from that loss, and chess is a good method to instill that lesson in them.
Teaching your children how to play this complex and challenging game is a great way to bond with them and help them sharpen their minds. However, don’t forget that chess is, after all, a game, and that above all else it should be fun for your kids.
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