It increases concentration, improves patience and even helps fetch good grades — chess is one “addiction” teachers and parents alike are eager to encourage in children.
And why not, when none other than five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand is all for popularising the game in schools to help develop young minds. “It has been proven that the game of chess has made significant contribution in education as it improves concentration and makes children more alert,” Anand said during a recent visit to the city.
Agrees Grandmaster Dibyendu Barua, who runs Dibyendu Barua Chess Academy in Ballygunge. “Chess is a mind game where the player has to strategise and plan. It is an intellectual game and involves concentration, calculation, imagination, logical thinking. One also needs to foresee moves. Sometimes, one might even have to foresee eight to 20 moves of the opponent. These things not only help build an academic career but also personal skills,” Barua vouched.
Diptayan Ghosh, a Class X student at South Point High School, earned his first Grandmaster norm at the 15th Dubai Open Chess Championship, where he managed to equal the score of with Grandmaster Surya Shekhar Ganguly. “He is one of the most promising players from Bengal and I am really very proud of him,” said Grandmaster Ganguly of Diptayan, who broke into the chess circuit after becoming the under-10 Asian champion at the World Youth Chess Championship 2008.
The winner of The Telegraph Schools’ Chess championship 2013 boasts a Fide rating of 2444. “I play for four to five hours a day but take a break during exams. My school, parents and friends are my lifeline as they help me a lot when I can’t attend classes during a tournament. My teachers give me special attention while my friends share their notes generously,” said Diptayan, who has been playing chess since he was just about four.
South Point girl Sohini Ganguly too has played at the national and state levels. “I am passionate about my game. I’ll continue playing chess all my life,” said the Class XII student who wants to study medicine. Her brother Ritabrata Ganguly, a student of Class VII in the same school, also plays chess.
“The chess team at South Point is very strong. Both girls and boys show a lot of promise and I’m sure they’ll have thriving chess careers,” said Rajendra Singh, chess coach at South Point.
It’s as much their love for the game as its benefits that draw students to chess. “I have been playing chess since I was in Class I and it helped improve my concentration, taught me patience and also fetched me more marks in mathematics,” shared Sayan Bose, a Class XI student at National High School for Boys (NHS) and one of 10 kids who had the opportunity to play chess with Anand recently at the launch of the city branch of Mind Champions’ Academy, an initiative supported by Anand that has introduced 1.5 million kids across 16,600 schools in India to chess. A keen follower of the moves of Russian Grandmaster Vladimir Kramnik, Sayan also likes to play cricket and listen to music when he is not plotting his next move on the chessboard.
Kaushal Kumar Jha and Pravin Shaw, both Class X students at NHS, also swear by the benefits of the game. “It has improved my attention span,” said Kaushal, who started playing when he was eight.
“My grades improved remarkably since I got into chess. I have always got an A in mathematics and my science scores have improved,” said Arka Sengupta, a Class VI student at Calcutta International School who trains at Goodricke National Chess Academy run by Alekhine Chess Club at Gorky Sadan.
The earlier you start, the better it is, says a young chess enthusiast from Calcutta Boys’ School. “I started playing from Class IV but to excel, one should start at the age of three or four,” said Aradhya Sekhar, a Class XI student and the chess captain at CBS.
Jagriti Agarwal not only began early but showed a natural affinity for the game. The Nursery student at Lakshmipat Singhania Academy is one of the youngest players in the Under-6 category. “She has participated in four rated tournaments and managed to impress. She loves the game so much that she doesn’t mind playing three matches a day when a tournament is on. My son Devansh has also been playing chess since he was two and a half years old. As a parent I feel chess goes a long way in developing qualities such as patience and the ability to plan ahead,” said her mother Navita Agarwal.
“Chess not only tests your mental ability but also requires physical strength. Bobby Fischer used to run for an hour on the beach before his tournaments,” said Aradhya, who finds the game “addictive”. He couldn’t have been more correct as Grandmaster Barua too dispelled the notion that chess requires no physical fitness. “Be it an indoor or outdoor game, physical fitness is always a priority. Yoga and meditation are a must for all athletes, especially budding chess players. Grandmaster Garry Kasparov runs 11km a day while Viswanathan Anand cycles and swims regularly. My advice to parents is to concentrate on the health regime of their children, for only in a healthy body does a healthy mind reside.”
For Sayantan Das, a Class XII student at Scottish Church Collegiate School, inspiration began at home. “He saw me play chess and got hooked. As his interest grew, he would invite anyone who visited our house to a game and beat them. That is when his mother and I decided to get him trained,” said Supravas Das, who accompanies his son to all tournaments in India and abroad. Sayantan is set to participate in tournaments in Guwahati, Bhubaneswar, Iran and China after the National U-17 Junior Chess Championship in Dibrugarh, Assam. “I love the game and make it a point to practise for seven to eight hours every day,” Sayantan said.
Another city boy who has qualified for the nationals is Aubhroprotim Manna, a Class XI student at Don Bosco, Park Circus. The Alexander Sergeyevich Morozevich fan got his first break at the Bhiwani Open, where he beat International Master R. Balasubramanian.
Teachers too are all for the game. Educationist Malini Bhagat believes chess is a wonderful game involving little expense. “It helps enhance concentration as students need to focus and plan their moves. They develop the skill of silence. While planning something, if you talk a lot, you tend to waste energy and lose focus. Through this game, the mind learns to concentrate at a minute level,” she said. “Children are often hyperactive and chess is a wonderful way of restraining them.”
One Calcutta school where more than 80 of the 230 students play chess is Future Hope. “Young kids are full of raw energy and this game helps channelise it. Teachers say students have improved in studies and become more disciplined after playing chess,” said Sayan Mukerji, director (finance and administration) at Future Hope and one of the founders of Alekhine Chess Club at Gorky Sadan. Future Hope students have chess classes thrice a week where a coach from Dibyendu Barua Chess Academy trains them.
Anusree Ghose, principal, DPS Ruby Park, said chess helped students think logically and systematically. “Qualities like focus, concentration, strategies and planning are beneficial for academics.”