Youth learn to focus, have patience from playing chess

Jeffrey Canfiel, 11, of Downingtown, takes on Alex Cruz, 12 (digitial first media)

Jeffrey Canfiel, 11, of Downingtown, takes on Alex Cruz, 12 (digitial first media)

Event organizers of chess clubs and participants described chess as a game of focus, determination and patience, to help them in other aspects of life.

Kenneth Fennal, program director at Greater Norristown Police Athletics League, said he teaches youths that when they move a chess piece, they have to realize that their move will either gain or lose a piece. They can learn to think ahead of what could happen.

“The game of chess applies to life,” Fennal said.

He encourages people to visualize moving the chess pieces before making the move. He said that applies to thinking about consequences for their actions. By taking longer to move a piece, he said it allows players to evaluate the disadvantages and advantages of a move, and its potential repercussions. It becomes a part of a person’s thought process, he said, they can see the right move when they think clearly without emotion.

The Downingtown Regional Chess Affiliate hosted the 20th instructional tournament on Oct. 29, a three-hour tournament held at the Lions Share Diner. This is an official United States Chess Federation tournament for children ages 5-16.

Paul Monsour’s dad taught him how to play chess when he was 6 years old. Now 10, Monsour said he has learned more about the game by playing.

“If you win or lose, you’re getting the same amount of experience,” Monsour said. “The more you play, the better you are.”

He said playing chess can be challenging because “sometimes your opponent can be making a lot of moves … really the object is to get checkmate.” He said he learns more by playing different opponents because “you never know what you’re going to do.”

“You have to think five steps ahead to win,” Monsour said, “and sometimes you have to think of 14 moves ahead to actually win in a tournament like this.”

The tournament drew 48 participants from Chester, Bucks, Berks and Lancaster counties.

Annie Lind, 10 , of Downingtown (digitial first media)

Annie Lind, 10 , of Downingtown (digitial first media)

Event organizers said the tournament was held in a quad format where each player played three games against students with a “like ability.”

Organizers said the club has a purpose to “develop the social and emotional skills essential in later life.”

“We wish to increase higher level thinking, planning, and organizational skills within an environment conducive to learning,” event organizer and chess instructor Mark Wood said, of the Downingtown Regional Chess Affiliate. “While learning chess is important, the cognitive and affective skills learned throughout the process of playing this intriguing intellectual game is the real purpose.”

Adam Giovanetti, 15, began playing chess six years ago during a lunch break while he attended Springton Manor Elementary School of the Downingtown Area School District. “It was hard to learn,” Giovanetti said.

Giovanetti said that he learned the game from Wood, who was a teacher at the school. They played for fun.

“But now I can beat Mr. Wood,” Giovanetti said. “Mr. Wood is a big motivator. He taught me a lot.”

Giovanetti said he mostly plays for fun, but does compete in tournaments. “Chess is basically a focus and determination game,” Giovanetti said.

He said that learning the rules and the maneuvers of the game pieces helped him to focus in school and be a more patient person.

Fennal said that chess helps people academically, especially with algebra and geometry because of how chess pieces move, players can predict moves.

He said players have to think ahead of their moves, because one move can capture one piece, but it could give up a piece that is of more value in the long term. For example, he says that the pawn is penny and the bishop is quarter. He also teaches players that the queen is the most powerful piece, he said it’s the “nuclear bomb” because of how the Queen moves in all directions and in multiple spaces across the board. But the king is most important because it’s your leader, like the president, he said, “your leader must always be protected.”

PAL offers chess club on Wednesdays from 6-8 p.m., with general membership of $10 which includes other programs.

The West Chester Public Library hosts a kids’ chess club on Saturdays at 10 a.m. Volunteer Chuck Shaw and others have worked with youth since the club began in 2006 to provide the program.

Victoria Dow, library director, said that Shaw wanted to share his passion for chess by teaching kids about the game she described as being good for logical thinking and reasoning skills. She said it is a fun activity with a different kind of skill than athletics.

She said that Shaw is “able to get his point across” to the youths, especially by asking them to think before they act upon their next move. She said he helps them think about what their next strategic moves will be and to consider if it’s a good chess move.

The Downingtown club is open to all levels from beginner to expert. The club, run by a certified teacher, meets Wednesdays from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Lions Share Diner. There are also two certified United States Chess Federation coaches present at club meetings. Event organizers said students pay $5 an hour for club instruction and they have an opportunity for private tutoring.

Ginger Rae Dunbar


About Tsogo Sun Moves for Life

Education through Chess. A proven intervention to unlock the potential of SA's children. Moves for Life unlocks the cognitive potential of South African children by structured implementation of chess education where essential aspects of the game are actively linked with math, science and lifeskill concepts. Learning fundamental concepts are made fun and exciting for the child.
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