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Chess has many educational benefits

Posted: October 15, 2012 - 6:19pm
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The chess club at North Augusta Middle School was started this year after pupil Sophie Ryan wrote Principal Wendy Jacobs asking for it to be formed.
The chess club at North Augusta Middle School was started this year after pupil Sophie Ryan wrote Principal Wendy Jacobs asking for it to be formed.

National Chess Day was celebrated Saturday and local chess enthusiast David Whatley set out to share the game with others at Creighton Park.

Though turnout was lower than expected, he still shared his knowledge about the game with the few people who did attend, and emphasized its educational benefits.

Whatley, who coaches the Merriwether Mavericks Scholastic Chess Club, which includes pupils at Merriwether Elementary and Merriwether Middle schools, said that chess teaches methodology, and that can be applied to anything.

“It’s been shown to increase math scores,” he said.

His daughter, Tori, who has won four state scholastic tournaments, improved her grades after learning the game, Whatley said.

“I’ve heard her tell others before that it has helped her concentrate a little better,” he said.

Chess teaches that every action has a reaction, Whatley said, and that bad decisions are met with consequences.

“If you make a bad move, you are going to get punished quickly, usually within a move or two,” he said.

The game teaches pattern recognition, much like football players learning an opposing team’s strengths, he said. It also teaches flexibility, because lineups can change.

Sophie Ryan, a seventh grader at North Augusta Middle, agrees that chess is creative and requires thinking strategically.

Sophie wrote a letter to Principal Wendy Jacobs asking for a chess club to be started at North Augusta Middle this year.

“I told her I enjoy chess and I wanted to let others enjoy chess,” Sophie said.

It had been about three years since the school had a chess club, said teacher Kim Hodges, who oversees the NAMS Chess Club.

Kevin Cunningham, 12, also a member of the NAMS Chess Club, said his dad taught him to play two years ago and he’s excited that the school started the club.

Hodges agrees with Whatley about the game’s place in education.

“It builds creativity, teaches logical thinking and strategy and you need all of that to be successful in whatever you do in life,” she said.

It’s also an activity that can lead to a college scholarship, Whatley said. Schools that offer scholarships are listed with The United States Chess Federation at www.uschess.org.

Whatley said he would like to help other schools in the North Augusta area start chess clubs. E-mail whatleydavid@bellsouth.net or call (803) 442-9060.

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