“Chess is engaging, challenging and it stimulates [the] brain,” associate professor of counseling Scott Wickman said. “In addition to that, chess is a parallel to life.”
Chess is more than a game – it is a valuable tool that can be used in life, which is why it should be a mandatory class taught throughout school.
Chess is both elegantly simple and mind-bendingly complex. The number of possible moves in a game of chess was calculated by mathematician Claude Shannon to be greater than the number of observable atoms in the universe, according to a June 2016 Curiosity article.
The vast number of choices demand the use of chess theory, logic and pattern recognition by players. These are principles that can accelerate the development of the minds of the youth.
Chess is defined by theory. It was invented in India around the sixth century as a four-player game called “chaturanga,” according to an Oct. 2015 Chess.com article. Over 1500 years of games have resulted in a vast collection of knowledge and theory about how the game should be played. Mastering chess theory gives one a significant advantage over their opponent.
The pursuit of knowledge in life is a key aspect to individual growth and gives a distinct advantage over others. Knowledge acquisition leads to individual success, and children who are learning every day can progress faster in their development.
Since theory is the first step needed to grasp a concept, gaining the knowledge about a subject can give young students the confidence to put theory into practice. Imagine a student learning the theory behind cars in an autoshop class. The student learns how an internal combustion engine operates and uses this knowledge to take apart an inline four-cylinder engine. This is theory in action.
Chess requires logical decision-making skills. With this comes the necessity to strategize and plan for the future.
“Logic [is a] component of chess which involves planning and making informed decisions,” Wickman said. “A lot of what happens in life is how to make critical decisions at critical points in life. What’s the best path forward? That’s the essential question of chess.”
Strategy and planning are embedded within chess. The ability to formulate a plan while anticipating the opponent’s moves are key to winning. Additionally, the ability to adapt to the evolution of the game is needed to overcome the opponent. These elements require focus and patience.
“I think [chess] promotes delayed gratification because you can’t just go for the queen,” Wickman said. “At the beginning of the game it’s about setting yourself up in the best position. It’s not about going for the jugular right away.”
Like chess, life is full of unexpected events and obstacles, and those who don’t plan for obstacles will find it difficult to navigate through them. Imagine a student learning about the different cloud types in school. The following morning, the student notices that nimbostratus clouds are forming in the sky. The student brings an umbrella to school and proudly uses it during recess when the clouds begin to pour rain. This is planning in action.
Pattern recognition is an integral part of chess. Recognizing chess patterns allows the player to quickly plan and adjust accordingly.
“Great chess players can look at a given chess board and see the whole thing,” Wickman said. “They can take in the whole image at once without having to individually analyze every move the same way every time.”
Pattern recognition allows individuals to take advantage of opportunities and avoid mistakes. This is important for establishing a habit that will lead to future success in life. Imagine a student who notices when their friends at school are happy, sad, angry, and surprised. Soon, the student recognizes more complex and nuanced emotions without much effort. These developed skills are honed by the student as they pursue a career in psychology. This is pattern recognition in action.
Chess has many benefits and young students can gain many advantages throughout life by learning the theory, logic and patterns found in the game. Any student can learn these three principles with relative ease. I can say this with confidence because the imagined student scenarios crafted in this article are examples from my life.