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Learn to play
•An all-ages chess club meets at 11 a.m. Saturdays in the young adults’ services at the Allen County Public Library, 900 Library Plaza. A chess tournament will take place Saturday. Entry fee is $30.
Photos by Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Xavier Cervantes, 10, of Hammond, competes in the 2012 Indiana State K-12 Grade Chess Championships on Saturday at Canterbury High School. Canterbury has a chess club for its students starting in kindergarten.

Chess teaches kids valuable life skills, local players say

Second graders compete in the chess tournament Saturday. A tournament is scheduled this weekend at the Allen County Public Library.
Players say chess teaches reasoning and social skills.

Looking for a good board game as a holiday gift? Try chess.

Oh, we know what you’re thinking. But before you start ticking off those board game stereotypes, consider this: studies have shown that kids who learn to play chess show great improvement in their academic skills compared with those who don’t play chess.

Jim Dean of Fort Wayne says “it’s a bit of a shame” that chess is not taught in more schools.

Dean is the chess instructor at Canterbury Schools and teaches chess skills to the lower and middle school students. He also heads up the school’s chess club for kindergarten through high school students.

The school added chess as part of its curriculum nine years ago, Dean says.

He says chess teaches kids cognitive skills, reasoning and decision making, as well as social skills. In addition, it exposes a child to friendly competition early, and as a result, they learn “to lose gracefully.”

In addition, some children who suffer from learning problems, such as attention deficit disorder, see positive changes.

“Kids may not stick with chess forever,” but there are benefits, he says.

But over the years, chess has lost some favor among board games, especially in the United States.

Dean doesn’t believe children aren’t interested in learning chess, but that there is more competing for their attention. And with all the technology available now, kids can even download an electronic version of chess, but it doesn’t offer the same experience as playing the board game.

Ian McKinney, assistant manager of young adult services at the Allen County Public Library downtown, says he finds that chess is still popular among young and old.

McKinney works with the chess club that meets every Saturday at the library. He says when the chess boards are out, people will sit down and play.

The library is hosting a chess tournament this Saturday. There is a $30 entry fee and it is a rated tournament, McKinney, says, which means that players can get experience points for winning games.

Canterbury just hosted a statewide chess tournament Saturday.

Dean plays and competes in chess internationally. He is considered a chess professional and has played tournaments in such countries as Hungary and the Netherlands.

Dean, who is in his mid-30s, says chess is a universal game and is played in almost every country. He says that in the U.S., there is less interest in chess as compared with other countries.

The great thing about chess is that you can play at any age, he says. Dean has had students as young as 4 learn the basics of chess, he says.

“It can be difficult for young kids because they want to win,” he says of learning to play chess. But the important thing is to play often and to not be afraid of playing people better than you.

McKinney says people can learn to play by learning from someone else. And for beginner players, he suggests learning how the pieces move and the concept of check and checkmate.

McKinney says oftentimes kids will play the game by themselves because they believe the adults are better players. But he says playing the game is a good teacher.