Can old dogs really learn new tricks? If they’re a few ticks past middle age, like I am, there’s hope! Over the years when my husband taught our children to play chess, I stayed in the background and didn’t get involved. After all, I was a tired mom who was busy with other responsibilities and who had decided that it would be too challenging for me to learn such an intricate game. We’ve all heard the stories about how chess is for brainiacs, right? By the time I’d birthed my sixth child, it was news to no one that I’d lost more than a smattering of brain cells. Give me Scrabble, Boggle, Bananagrams, or any other word game … but chess? Nope. That was not going to happen in this lifetime. I was too scared to give it a try. What if I couldn’t learn how the pieces move? I mean, this game has a knight, amirite? Forwards “L,” backwards “L,” right-side-up and upside-down “L” moves – what if I were even more spatially challenged than I thought? Patterns just aren’t my thing. (One time I tried to follow a pattern to sew a pair of shorts, and they fell apart in two panels the first time my daughter wore them). And don’t even get me started on castling, putting my opponent in check, or recognizing that I was the one in check! I had completely talked myself out of ever being able to learn this game. I was content to smile politely and nod at the appropriate times when other chess parents were discussing their child’s chess moves. When they exclaimed with excitement, “Did you see little Jimmy whip out the Ruy Lopez in that game? Wow, what a great opening!” I, having no idea what they were saying, heard “Living La Vida Loca” start to play in my head. The Sicilian defense? I was dreaming up delicious pasta dishes.
Running an elementary chess club alongside my husband, Mark, didn’t require any special skills from me other than behaving like the mom that I am. Kids are kids, and they need supervision, encouragement, and, on occasion, reining in. I could perform all three duties with aplomb. Even though I could set up a chess board at lightning speed and had learned to field questions about whether or not someone’s king was in check, I knew it was time for me to begin getting acquainted with this game. I was inspired by the enthusiasm that five and six year olds had for learning how the pieces move, so I started doing puzzles on ChessKid and found them to be all sorts of fun. Chess mom Beth C., who says she learned chess “by accident” when her daughter was new to chess club, agrees: “The children were encouraged to do lessons on ChessKid. At home, we used the lessons as a privilege that our daughter could have while eating dinner. Since electronics aren’t normally allowed at dinner, this served as a great motivator for her to do her ChessKid lessons.” Beth added that she got sucked in to those lessons and, before she knew it, ChessKid dinners had become a nightly ritual in her house. The enjoyment she experienced in learning the game surprised her, and she says she “certainly didn’t expect it to become such a source of bonding” with her daughter. She had so much fun that she had to stop herself from logging into her daughter’s ChessKid account to do the lessons while her daughter wasn’t home!
Beth went on to hone her new skills by teaching beginning chess to the youngest members of Hunter Elementary School’s Chess Club in Raleigh, NC.
Crystal W. concurs, explaining that her chess playing youngster urged her to learn the game after his coach, Mark Indermaur, challenged the children in the chess club to teach their parents to play. She also relied on ChessKid to learn how the pieces move and was soon sitting across the board from her son as his worthy opponent. Like Beth, Crystal found the most valuable part of learning the game the “added closeness” with her son. “When he wanted to test out new strategies, I was a willing victim. When he wanted to excitedly chatter about how a tournament game had gone, now I could follow along.”
Whether you want to keep your brain sharp, or connect with others, or even if you just want something to do to pass the time, why not give chess a try? These resources can get you started.
Remember, anyone can learn this game – even adults!