The Politically Incorrect Reason I Want My Children to Learn Chess

By: Richard Stooker


Yes, sure chess is good for developing the ability to think, to reason, to ponder, to calculate and analyze. Sure it develops the ability to read and remember. To look and think ahead, to carefully reason out and foresee the consequences of actions and to make the optimum move.

All that's fine and dandy. And I guess I wouldn't object if I had a chess prodigy child who'd grow up to be a world champion and rake in big bucks. Though, to tell the truth, if I wanted to make money off my children they'd make more money as successful models/actors or tennis players.

(And given the strange psychological relationships between some famous chess prodigies and their parents -- such as Bobby Fischer and his mother, Gata Kamsky and his father -- I'm not sure I'd want to be the parent of a chess prodigy.)

To tell the politically incorrect truth, I want my children to learn chess because despite political correctness it is still what it started out as -- a nonviolent form of war.

Peaceniks want to gloss over the history of chess, but there's no doubt that it began as a pastime for rajahs in India who had to be prepared to fight to defend their territory and developed as a evening activity for kings in Europe who had to be prepared to fight to defend their territory.

I'm not in favor of war, but it's obvious that the world is still full of violent people and if you're not prepared to defend your family and your country, you'll lose them.

On a lesser scale, this is just as true of everyday life. It's too much of a cliche to compare chess to life -- but whether you're a businessperson strategizing a new marketing tactic or an engineer designing a car that runs on hydrogen . . . you need the skills and attitude of chess.

Yes, sometimes your "war" may be against a technical problem rather than another person. Fine, you still need the attitude that there's an optimum move you can make to take advantage of the properties of the metal you're working with.

The great thing about chess is that it's all out in the open. Your opponent sees the same board you see. Unlike another great game -- poker -- nothing is hidden. Unlike poker and life itself, chance plays no role in chess.

Your advantage is only between your ears. It's your ability to think more clearly and farther than your opponent. To some extent face to face chess is like poker in that it can help to "read" your opponent's body language. Do they appear confident because they're "bluffing" -- or just because don't want you to know that they just made a bad move?

Chess is a great game, but it's a game.

Beyond the game is something called "real life." You win in real life to the degree that you can shape your world to make you happy.

This often calls for intellectual thinking and knowledge, but you must know how to go beyond that. You must know how to compete for the money and career goals you desire. You must be willing to defend your home, your family, your job -- yourself.

Hopefully violence won't be necessary -- but an attitude of competition is.

An attitude that says that learning every variation of Ruy Lopez is important not as an intellectual exercise but because it increases your chances of checkmating your opponent's king.

Those old time rajahs and kings understood.

Chess was an entertaining way to practice warfare when you weren't actively chopping off heads.

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c 2006 by Richard Stooker Read more about the world's greatest game at Richard's Chess Theory PDF blog

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