Friday, February 13, 2009

Eating my words and Chess in Schools program

MORE than three years ago, I wrote “The future of Philippine chess is as dim as the moons of Pluto. Like a schoolboy who refuses to go to school, there is practically no hope in the horizon.”

I continued with, “Today there are no world-class Pinoys…the just-concluded Southeast Asian Games clearly showed that we have lost our dominant position in the Asean region to Vietnam.”

“The much-heralded 12-year-old Wesley So is not as gifted as the child prodigies Sergey Karjakin, Hikaru Nakamura and Magnus Carlsen.”

“The only way we could regain our position in the chess world is to institute a Chess in Schools program. China, Europe and even the United States have such a program, where chess is part of the curriculum.”

At that time, I did not count on a dynamic man named Prospero “Butch” Pichay, who took over the presidency of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines. Now, I stand corrected.

In a span of just two years, we have produced four grandmasters including Wesley. The others are Jayson Gonzales, John Paul Gomes and Darwin Laylo. Wesley is now a world-class player and should make the Top 100 list before the year ends or maybe even earlier.

We also have up-and-coming players Kimkim Yap, Rolando Nolte, Richard Bitoon and Joseph Sanchez, who make us look ahead in the future.

The ladies are not far behind. Chardine Cheradee Camacho is one of the top female young talents, who had an impressive result during the Olympiad in Dresden scoring 8.0/10 that gave her a WIM norm. At only 15, she has the potential of becoming a Woman GM, the first in the Philippines.

The Chess in Schools program will now be part of the curriculum starting next school year. In a short span of time, we will have thousands of gifted children like the Balbona kids of Cebu.

Why should my child play chess? The short and very important answer to that is chess gives children the skills needed to excel in the world today.

Christine Palm, after a study of the New York chess program, wrote that “Chess instills in young players a sense of self-confidence and self-worth; dramatically improves a child’s ability to think rationally; builds a sense of team spirit while emphasizing the ability of the individual; teaches the value of hard work, concentration and commitment; makes a child
realize he or she is responsible for his or her own actions and must accept their consequences.”

“Additionally, chess teaches children to try their best to win while accepting defeat with grace; allows girls to compare with boys on a non-threatening socially- acceptable plane; through competition, gives kids a palpable sign of their accomplishment; provides children with a concrete, inexpensive and compelling way to rise above the deprivation and self-doubt which are so much a part of their lives.”

Dr. Peter Dauvergne of the University of Sydney, upon surveys of various case studies on the psychological and educational effects of chess on children, said that chess as a learning tool can:

Raise intelligence quotient (IQ) scores; enhance reading, memory, language, and mathematical abilities; foster critical, creative, and original thinking; provide practice at making accurate and fast decisions under time pressure, a skill that can help improve exam scores; challenge gifted children while potentially helping underachieving gifted students learn how to study and strive for excellence; teach how to think logically and efficiently, learning to select the “best” choice from a large number of options; demonstrate the importance of flexible planning, concentration, and the consequences of decisions.

The question, therefore, should not be why should my child play chess?, but rather, why isn’t my child playing chess?

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