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C is for chess

Who plays it?

About half the country's primary schools, in one way or another, ranging from a few enthusiasts with broken sets where the bishops' heads are completed with old biro tops to the 10 per cent or so who compete in local leagues. About a quarter of all secondary schools, usually running tournaments in lunch hours.

Time needed in school to develop skills

A group of four children aged six and up can be taught to play well enough to enjoy themselves within an hour. After that, timetabled sessions should last about 45 minutes, to give enough time to introduce a new aspect of the game and allow for play.

Extra-curricular time

An hour a week after school or in lunch time.

Physical benefits

Learning to sit still: an old-fashioned virtue but a useful one. Highly suitable for children with physical disabilities. Blind children are able to play with a peg-board set, colour coded with symbols. Blind players are allowed to feel the board.

Physical risks

None: you never hear of chess elbow do you?

Intellectual benefits

Learning logical thought; developing spatial awareness; strategy and tactics. Part of the history of the past 500 years.

Social benefits

Concentration and attention to another's moves. Learning to lose gracefully. Learning to win gracefully (actually even harder). Learning to be responsible for your own actions (Damn! How could I be so stupid!). Developing inner resources so that you can amuse yourself for hours either playing out openings, playing from books or playing against a computer. Fun of visiting other schools and playing against them, especially at primary level.

Social disadvantages

Consider Bobby Fischer, world chess champion, infant prodigy, all-time grouch and nerd par excellence who said, "Chess is about the destruction of the other person's ego". He later became a Mormon but never had a girlfriend. Put another way, there is a bit of an image problem. To counteract this, limit chess and encourage physical sports too.




Board and pieces can be acquired for about Pounds 6 a set. Don't bother with clocks, at more than Pounds 30 - they are merely a distraction for amateurs. Size of pieces can range from giant playground statues to tiny pocket sets.


Contact the British Chess Federation.


A well-lit room, in school or out.


Not necessary.

They love it because

It's fantastic when you win - and half are always going to win.

They hate it because

It's a blow to lose - see above.

Investment for schools?

Definitely. Cost-effective or what?

British Chess Federation, 9a Grand Parade, St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex, TN38 ODD. Tel: 01424 442500

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