13 February 2018

Teaching children how to play chess sets them up with essential skills for their future.How do you focus your brain? With mindfulness evolving from more than just a buzzword, brain-training games growing in popularity and apps aplenty to help improve productivity, is there a secret to staying focussed?

For me, it’s chess.

I play whenever I can. If you asked my wife, she’d tell you that I have played pretty much constantly for the past three months. I play online, sometimes watching previous championship-winning matches and sometimes playing against other people online. It’s a skill I’ve been honing for four years or so.

It’s an astonishingly good way of removing distractions and training your brain to focus on the task in hand. It is said that playing the game can also raise your IQ, prevent Alzheimer’s, increase creativity and boost memory.

So it was music to my ears to hear that chess popularity has spiked once again in schools, with around 300 primary schools in England adding chess to their curriculum over the past few years.

Why chess?

There’s no denying that the quick thinking, problem solving and ingenuity needed to learn and win in chess is going to stand this generation of children in good stead.

However, there is a downside to the increased popularity – there aren’t enough tutors. British international master Malcolm Pein, who founded the charity Chess in Schools, told Sky News that the game has become so popular that experienced teachers are being picked up by public schools or wealthy families that pay them more. There’s a risk that children in state schools will miss out on learning the skill.

It’s such a shame! Chess encourages patience and practice. Our constant need for on-demand information is fast degrading these qualities. Particularly coupled with the overwhelming choice of options to entertain ourselves. It’s almost becoming a rarity to commit to a hobby and hone those skills.

There are plenty of online tools to play on PCs or tablets. That being said, there’s really no replacement for sitting at a real chess board and challenging one another.

If you’re a chess enthusiast or tutor, I’d really encourage you to get out there – not only to the places that pay the most – and share your skills with the young people who want to learn them. You’re teaching invaluable skills to the future generation.

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