I am not going to get into the debate about whether it is worth the effort to learn chess with the objective to become a good player. It seems to me that only the individual himself(herself) can make this judgement. Much more general, however, is the subject about introducing chess in schools, either as a subject or as an extra-curricular activity.
No doubt chess helps develop focus and discipline in the child’s thinking process, but is it right to introduce chess as a ‘fun’ thing to do? Thinking is important; ‘fun’ has nothing to do with it. And as Qiyu Zhou’s mother wrote on her daughter’s blog (remember Qiyu won the U14 world title earlier this week in Durban), Qiyu told her that had she known , when she was first intrduced to the game, of all the tremendous amount of work necessary to be a good player, then she would have stopped. For Qiyu, the ‘fun’ had long gone out of the game, and her mother wrote very eloquently of the pain and frustrations Qiyu went thru…fortunately for us, Qiyu stuck with the game and became a wonderful, inspirational example to all of us. But Qiyu is the exception, not the rule.
Below is a related quotation from an article written by one of America’s most widely read chess-bloggers. Bear in mind that 99% of all children who learn the game in schools stop playing after 3 years. Clearly something must be escaping us with the current ‘fun’ approach.
‘What is Chess?
The Legendary Georgia Ironman once remarked, “Chess is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” The new people who have entered the chess world because of the scholastic craze do not seem to understand this simple fact. Their ignorance is masked by new slogans and “vision statements.”
The USCF has put all its eggs in the one basket of scholastic chess. Chess has become a game for children. Chess has become a “learning tool.” For example, the new Executive Director of the USCF, Jean Hoffman, writes in the August 2014 issue of Chess Life that one of the USCF goals is to, “Educate children, parents, teachers and school administrators on the benefits of chess as a part of a school curriculum and as an extra-curricular activity.” Thus far this new century has been devoted to transforming the Royal game into a frilly fun game for children in hopes it will give them a warm fuzzy feeling.
Chess is anything but warm and fuzzy. The children learn chess at a young age. As they start to mature they realize what chess is in actuality and stop playing. Children are much smarter than some adults give them credit for, and are astute enough to know when adults are selling them a bill of goods.
Chess is a difficult game to learn and even more difficult to play.”–Michael Bacon