When considering extracurricular activities for a child, the game of chess is vastly under appreciated, especially if you consider the potential cognitive impact it can have on your child’s development. Many parents, instead, opt for their children to take up more commonplace activities like organized sports, music lessons, or art classes. And although these activities all have their merits, few activities, if any, come close to what chess can provide.
What makes chess such a beneficial game for children? Well, it’s one of the few activities that encourages children to utilize both their logical reasoning skills and spatial visualization ability. According to Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, both logical and visual intelligence are key “modalities” that compose a child’s overall intelligence. Moreover, the game of chess provides many other auxiliary benefits for children; such as fostering patience, improving one’s concentration-ability, and instilling a sense of sportsmanship.
I believe, however, that the strongest case for chess lies in empirical research that shows a positive correlation between children who play chess and higher levels of academic achievement. For example, one important study, carried out by Dr. Stuart Margulies, showed that elementary students who played chess scored significantly higher than their peers in reading comprehension tests. Another study, conducted by Dr. Yee Wang Fung at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, concluded that chess players showed a 15 percent improvement in math and science related tests.
Chess, simply put, is a constructive game that will definitely have a positive impact on your child’s overall development. The real question is: how can I get my child involved? Below are three uniquely Beijing options for getting your child to learn the game of chess:
Chinese Chess Academy (Chess Ivy):
There’s a reason why China’s National Chess teams dominate in international competitions, and that’s in no small part due to dedicated chess schools across China. Chess Ivy is one such school, and it has strong ties to the Chinese Chess Association. In fact, the last amateur tournament in Beijing, held less than two weeks ago, was co-sponsored by the Chess Ivy, and saw competitors as young as 8 years-old. One of the most beautiful aspects of the game is that there really is no age limit – players both young and old can compete at a very high-level.
Chess Ivy has five distinct locations in Beijing, with classes available for children as young as 3 years-old. Classes are taught in both Mandarin and English. For more information visit: www.chessivy.org
Russian Cultural Center (RCC):
Another great venue for getting your child to learn chess is at the Russian Cultural Center (located in Dongzhimen). The RCC holds weekend classes for children (with ages ranging from 8-14), its current medium of instruction is in Russian, however its instructors are willing to take on English-speaking kids as well. The RCC also plays host to several chess-centric events throughout the year; earlier this year it held a simultaneous exhibition with Chinese Grandmaster Yu Yangyi. To inquire about chess lessons at the RCC contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Another method for getting your child to learn chess is through individual instruction, which gives a child the freedom to learn at his/her own pace much like any other form of private tutoring. Individual lessons, however, tend to be less rigid than group-based chess classes, which in turn provides more leeway for children to explore the nuances of the game such as more elaborate openings. The best place to find a suitable English-speaking chess instructor is through the only expat chess club in Beijing. Many members of the group, including myself, have had prior experience teaching children the game of chess, and are probably eager to find some extra work. For private tutors contact: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos: Ksenia Koroleva and the Kazakhstan Students Association in China