Chess: New Benefits for a Classic Game

Gil Luna (back) celebrates latest victory with chess team.

In a world of video games, television, smart phones, and I-everything, kids are rediscovering a classical way to not only have fun, but also to develop essential critical thinking skills.

Chess programs in South Florida schools are growing with many players starting as young as kindergarten age. Parents and teachers find participating children benefit in many different ways.

As in any endeavor that requires strategy, chess increases the ability to focus and concentrate. Critical thinking skills are subsequently developed. Students must calculate and analyze possible results of each move.

In a world of instantaneous gratification, chess fosters the ability to temper initial impulses with thoughtfulness and reasoning. This also aids in developing good time management skills.

The competitive aspect of the game also provides a means for children to build self-esteem and develop good sportsmanship. Individuals are pitted against one another. Winning the match gives the victor an earned sense of accomplishment. Conversely, losing provides the unsuccessful player an opportunity to be gracious and learn from their mistakes. In organized tournaments, players are matched according to both age and ability. New players have the opportunity to learn and grow.

The game also allows more skilled players to test their knowledge and challenge themselves by constantly working into higher skill levels. Besides competing as individuals, schools also compete as teams. So while classmates are sometimes opponents, they are more often building strong relationships in which they encourage each other and strategize together as teammates. And (not to forget) playing the game is fun! It’s this element of enjoyment and healthy competition that holds student interest. Teachers and administrators have also noticed that these skills directly translate into higher grades, better test scores, and fewer behavior problems. For this reason, many schools continue to expand their extracurricular chess programs.

Some, like Divine Savior Academy in Doral, have begun to offer chess classes as critical thinking electives. For the past eight years, Divine Savior has been cultivating its young players, and has made its mark by not only winning the State of Florida All-Star 2011-2012 competition, but by also ranking nationally over the last two years.

Gil Luna, DSA chess coach, is recognized as a worldwide competitive chess expert (top 1%), as Florida State’s 2011- 2012 Chess Coach of the Year, and as a two time national championship team member. He brings 17 years of training experience and a string of local, state, and national awards to DSA.

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