Chess as a Child

Chess is an intimate sport for me. It reminds me of my childhood – of the days when I would wrestle minds with my dad in my attempts to outwit him whenever we play chess. He always gave me a hard time winning. He made me realize that my charms won’t work on him especially when in game mode.

Chess is said to be an art as much as it’s a science – a little bit of both I think. I only remember that it can make you look smart and that has what initially attracted me to the sport.

Recent studies conducted by the American Chess School are in support of this claim as this revealed that playing chess which is similar to working on computers or taking up creative writing is said to harness both creative and critical thinking skills in children. Kids who actively play chess have been found out to rank 13% higher in critical thinking and 35% higher in creative thinking as compared to those who are non-chess players.

The perks of playing chess are that it does not just make you look smart – it actually sharpens your cognitive skills and makes you brilliant. This is exactly what my dad told me. My mom would say I’m too young to be exposed to chess but my dad would say “now is the perfect time”.

The mind of a child, as young as 4 or up to 8 years of age, work virtually like a sponge; and that’s the best time for kids to learn because they absorb almost anything. My dad taught me chess at the age of 6. He taught me the moves of each piece. He said the King is the most important piece but paradoxically, this is also the weakest because of limited movement as it can only move one square. Once you capture the King – then the game is over.

The Queen, on the other hand, may be second in rank, but is regarded to be the most powerful piece because she can move in any straight direction. She would often tell me that is precisely how they (mom and dad) work together. They do not overpower each other because they each have specific roles to play. Instead, they aim to complement and bring out the best in each other.

My mom would fix us snacks while playing chess. I miss the smell of coffee that she prepares for dad and ice-cold orange juice for me. She would pair it up with our favorite sandwiches and join us in our chess tournament. She says “I can never beat your dad in this game”. My dad would quip “You can always beat me in the kitchen”. My mom is a fantastic cook by the way.

I have always been daddy’s little girl. I still play chess online but playing it with my dad on a real chessboard is a memory I hold on to frame by frame. My dad passed away 10 years ago but he has prepared me for life even in our quiet (or sometimes rough) playtime.

Playing chess with my dad taught me that decisions are crucial. You must weigh things before deciding on one thing. He also taught me the value of patience and teamwork. People are too much in a hurry nowadays that they don’t want to wait in line and resort to pushing or pulling and at times shoving people just to get ahead.

Think before you act. Chess is a mind game for the strategist. There are a whole lot of jargons around chess; but to me – chess is all about me and my dad. Every time he says “Checkmate!” it’s always about challenging me to be a better version.

He could always pretend to lose just so I win. But, he taught me that life offers no shortcuts. He taught me a lot more than just the rules of the game. He taught me that life has rules too – and that sometimes you win or lose the game but the most important thing is that you become a better person in the end.