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Brainy game: Benefits of learning chess from childhood
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Brainy game: Benefits of learning chess from childhood

Playing chess benefits in improving a child’s memory, IQ, cognitive skills and thinking capacity. It can be started as early as five years of age
Playing chess helps in the formation of new neural connections in the brain and strengthens them.
Introducing games like chess at a young and learning age helps them think, strategize, decide, and act which increases the brain power.

When the world was watching 18-year-old Indian chess Prodigy R Praggnanandhaa calmly playing in the FIDE chess world cup final on August 23, he had aspired dreams among many parents who want to see their children taking up Chess. Introducing chess as a hobby has a number of benefits which include improving cognitive skills, logical thinking, and many more. Initially it was an acquired hobby for Praggnaanandhaa and his sister R Vaishali, now an international master, that has made the siblings the Chess icons globally

Chess was one of the several games introduced to Daakshin Arun (13) from Chennai when he was six-years-old. Daakshin is currently the number one player in his age category in India. “I used to play chess with him on a regular basis and when I realized that he had developed his interest in the game I put him under a coach for professional guidance,” says his father Arun who left his job as a professor to support his son and take him to tournaments across the world.

Picking up chess early

Keeping a child’s brain engaged and active is crucial for a child’s development. Introducing games like chess at a young and learning age helps them think, strategize, decide, and act which increases the brain power, says Dr Sameer Sadawarte, HOD of pediatrics and neonatology, Fortis Hospital, Mulund, Mumbai. “The game makes them think about their opponent’s next move and foresee all the possibilities to act on which needs a lot of concentration and patience. This helps in the formation of new neural connections in the brain and strengthens them. This is an important part of the growth and development of a child. The younger they are, the better they adapt,” he says.

Grand Master M S Thejkumar says that parents can introduce chess to their children as young as four to five years and it helps them to improve their memory. “When someone plays a game of chess, they need to remember a lot of variations and strategize accordingly. This helps in building their mind,” he says. Thejkumar introduced chess to his son last year when he was five years old and regularly plays with him.

Chess and IQ

Chess is a tool to improve one’s imagination, aesthetic judgment, Intelligence Quotient, memory, and calculation power, says Aruna Dinakara, a Bengaluru-based freelance chess coach. He says that playing chess improves confidence as they get to battle with minds, and when they win, their confidence level and self-esteem increase.

Chess is one of the complex games and requires complex thinking skills. Winning and losing games teach the players sportsmanship. To play chess, it’s very important to have logical and strategic thinking. “When children play games such as chess which need long-term thinking, long-range planning, and tactics, their problem-solving ability improves. Playing it on a regular basis will help in improving brain and eye coordination,” said Dinakara who quit his job at an IT company to pursue his passion for teaching chess.

Benefits of chess for students

Arun says that playing chess helped his son Daakshin to improve grasping power. “We noticed a lot of change when it came to his academics compared to other children of his age. He would take less time to read and understand the subjects,” he said.

The thinking capacity required in chess is similar to that used in mathematics and people who play chess tend to do better in that subject and find it easy, says Dr Sadawarte.

Children who play chess regularly tend to be smarter than kids of their own age. Reading something once is enough to remember for a long time for those who play chess, says Thejkumar. “Many chess players tend to be toppers in their class. Playing chess has a huge positive impact on academics,” he says.

Parents must not force their children to play the game and need to let them play without expecting any results, said Thejkumar. “One must love and enjoy playing it without expectations. The results will show in their thinking and acting in the long-term,” he said.

Playing chess is not only for children but also for adults. “We recommend adults, especially elderly to play games like chess to improve their memory,” said Dr Sadawarte.

Play chess but not virtually

Parents must take time to play games with their children if not every day, but at least on weekends, says Dr Sadawarte. “Playing on a physical chessboard builds connection and bonding. Playing the same on digital space can have adverse effects on children from affecting their eyes to behavioural changes and can even lead to gadget addiction,” he said. He further suggested that one can always pick up a chessboard to give to a child and teach them how to play.

According to Arun, playing chess has kept his children away from all the distractions and unnecessary activities. “They don’t watch television, play on mobile phones, or video games. Daakshin plays a lot of other games but he prefers and enjoys playing chess,” he said.

Dinakara says that playing chess is a healthy distraction and that anything done in excess is not good. “When parents notice that their child is really addicted to a game, they need to seek professional guidance to help them walk on the right path,” he said.

Takeaways

Introducing chess as a hobby at a young age helps in the growth and development of a child. Playing chess benefits children in improving cognitive skills, concentration, and memory and builds self-confidence and self-esteem. It’s a healthy distraction from digital space.

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