Monday, April 13, 2009

Chess & Mind

Chess, the game of queens and kings, is a truly royal game. Playing chess requires great focus of mind. The player needs to consider defensive and offensive moves simultaneously. She/he must be able to imagine the development of the game many steps in advance. Mind games like chess are quite similar to physical sports. You have to keep at it persistently in order to progress and learn from friends more experienced than you. Chess is a great after-school activity for children. It may result in crushed egos. Crushed bones need not be feared.

Two weekends ago, my son attended the Fourth SuperNational K-6 Chess Championship convention held here in Nashville at the Opryland Hotel. Dylan Loeb McClain covered the event for The New York Times in his post dated Apr. 11, 2009. Several thousand children from all over the nation with their parents descended on Nashville to play two days and a half-worth of chess. It was our first time.

I attended many professional conventions in my life. None I experienced like this. Commonly, people convene to exchange information verbally. As a result, the convention floor is filled with the chatter and hum of many voices. Attendees present posters. Potential customers talk about business at exhibitors' booths. Orders are accepted. Deals are struck. Talks are given at symposia,  sessions and workshops. Luminaries present evening lectures amplified and broadcast to thousands of listeners in the audience.

By contrast, the SuperNationals are conducted in absolute silence. The huge hall is filled with thousands of conventioneers, but no one is uttering a single word. The players communicate through their moves on the board.The only noise consists of the plops of the pieces on the board and the taps on the timers.

Fourth SuperNational K-6 Chess Championship, Nashville, TN, 2009.
The experience may be extraordinary to spectators, resembling an out-of-body experience. To the players, it is extremely taxing. While I enjoyed the splendid variety of beautiful orchids around the waterfalls in the tropical rain forest bubble of the hotel, my son played five rounds. His longest round took three hours and a half. He won. When it was over, his opponent gave him a small present. We must take some tokens of appreciation for the others next time.

My son won most of his games, finished 78th, and qualified for a trophy. His school, Meigs Magnet Middle School, ranked 12th in the final standing. We returned home in high spirits. I hope the royal game will continue to provide him with a fulfilling past time in the future, strengthening his mind's focus.

  • Hopefully this research study will affirm that playing chess helps stave off dementia as we age (12/09/10):
  • Look at these beautifully carved medieval ivory chessmen discussed in Ken Johnson's The New York Times art review with the title "Medieval Foes With Whimsy" published online yesterday (11/18/2011):

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