Chess In Schools: Making the Right Move

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Claimed to be the oldest game in the world, the ancient pastime of chess has a long, rich history. Debatably originating in India in the 6th century and spreading quickly through China, the Middle East, and eventually Europe, the ultimate game of strategy has thrived across the world for centuries – including in Hong Kong – which boasts an active chess community for school-aged children.

“Chess requires logical-mathematical and spatial thinking,” says Mr David Garceran Nieuwenburg, Managing Director of Caissa Hong Kong Chess Club, the city’s leading chess facilitator. “It helps with training skills around calculation, memory, critical, systematic and effective thinking, as well as linguistic capabilities. Also, anticipating cause and (immediate) effect trains restraint and thinking twice.”

With the chessboard’s cast of characters an allegory for the variety of fans it attracts, Mr Garceran Nieuwenburg also highlights the game’s accessibility and global reach. “Chess rules are relatively simple – the movements of the pieces can be learned in about one or two weeks, with two hours of instruction per day. Chess can also bridge gender, religion, age, social status and nationality. It is such a strong enabler of increased interpersonal skills and long-lasting friendships across the globe.”

Educators are also recognising chess as a tool for learning. Malvern College Hong Kong is among a growing number of educational institutions incorporating chess into school life via a rich co-curricular programme. “As chess is a game of prediction, calculation and pattern recognition, we are researching ways that we can use the game of chess to teach mathematical concepts and enhance our students’ planning, analysis and problem-solving – all critical thinking skills required in this 21st century,” said Dr Robin Lister, Founding Headmaster of Malvern School Hong Kong in an interview with Top Schools. “In addition, one of our play areas will include a giant chess board and chess pieces. This will promote the game during play and will certainly foster some ingenious creative play from our pupils.”

Dr Lister is excited about the research into the ways chess can benefit the individual’s capacity to thrive in a classroom setting. The intrinsic benefits of healthy competition and camaraderie appear to neatly complement the prospect of enhanced cognitive function. “It demands both inductive and deductive reasoning; requires students to look at a problem, break it down, and then put the whole thing back together; involves recall, analysis, judgment, and abstract reasoning; improves decision-making skills; increases players’ self-confidence; and improves organ