The stereotype around chess players has improved recently, but still, chess seems to be a pursuit of the intellectual. I would completely disagree.
In the heyday of my career in chess, I didn’t really pay attention to the benefits of playing chess. It was all about improving my game so that I could win more and increase my ranking. But now that I’m playing less chess, I’ve started to realise how vital chess was in shaping my character and who I am.
The Science Behind Chess
People who play chess well are smart and have a greater capacity for intelligence. This is because chess develops your brain – researchers found that young chess players were more able at maths, spatial analysis, and non-verbal reasoning. Through chess, you think in patterns and solve problems using both sides of the brain, which helps you to become more successful. There are many other benefits as well, as highlighted in this article by Mic.
It is never too late to start learning chess. Chess is a very satisfying hobby; even if your time is limited you can still play bullet chess from 5 minutes each down to 1 minute each. Chess.com is a great site where you can choose your time limit for Live Chess and there’s always someone online to play you because the site is so big! They also offer tactics training and tutorial videos, so it’s a great place for everyone from beginners to experts.
Watch this hectic video of my friend Michael streaming his bullet chess games!
My Career In Chess
I was lucky and I started playing chess young (I was 9), but not for the right reasons! I went to my school’s chess club because a boy went that I liked. I improved rapidly under the careful and patient eye of Father Paul, and soon he recommended me to go and play in the Megafinal, the first step of the UK chess challenge (now the Delancey UK Schools Chess Challenge). Since I was one of the very few girls there, I caught the eye of the Kent U11 Girl’s Team manager Tony Rao and my chess career took off from there.
Since then, I have gone on to play for England in several international tournaments, including the Gilbert Cup (several times – see my games here) and the World Youth Chess Championships in Al Ain, UAE in 2013. I had to stop last year (2015) because I was doing my GCSEs and my chess was winding down anyway. I will definitely pick up chess again once I’ve finished IB when I have more time!
Skills You Get From Chess
Chess has been very important in the development of who I am today. I owe at least a part of my logical thinking, problem-solving and pattern-spotting under timed conditions to chess, which has really helped me deal with exams. My time-management seems to be at a really high level compared to other people who seem to just sit at home and play on their computers/watch TV all day (how do they do that without getting bored?!). My quietly ambitious and competitive character has definitely developed through playing chess. (Personal statement gems right there… You’re welcome 😉 )
However, most importantly of all, playing in chess tournaments has taught me humility in victory and resilience in defeat – winning is great and should be celebrated, but it is essential not to let the win get to your head as this will make you underestimate your opponent, play too aggressively and open up holes, and make you too complacent to notice your opponent’s tactics. This is an important philosophy to take into life too: when you feel like you’re winning, make the most of it because it will likely not last; your wins must not get in the way of the bigger picture.
On the other hand, losing is not the be-all and end-all: it is important to recognise when you’ve had a bad game or even a bad day. A loss is always something to learn from, and even if you’re kicking yourself after you made a blunder, you must realise that everyone makes mistakes: instead of wasting your energy on self-denigration, you’re better off using that energy in bettering yourself.
Chess really opens up a lot of new doors – you meet amazing and passionate people, you develop useful skills and you will have an exciting new hobby!
Comment below if you’ve ever played chess, or if you have another hobby (like blogging!) that has also helped develop you into the person you are today.