My father taught me to play when I was 9 years old. I was fascinated by the boards set up all around the living room, each displaying a different position. I was so eager to learn. My father loved something called postal chess, where he would play people from far away exotic lands through the mail. Most of his opponents lived in Russia, so it took months for each move to arrive. It was always an exciting day when that postcard arrived with its intriguing stamps. It held the mysterious code known only to chess players, informing my father of the next move.
I quickly fell in love with the game and when I beat my father for the first time I quickly made the decision to try out tournaments. Although Dad was more interested in postal chess than over the board play, he joined me in my first tournament, so that I wouldn’t be alone. Now the first thing I noticed, in that small Connecticut tournament, was that I was the only girl and the only child. A little intimidating, but Dad was there, so it was okay. I soon became engrossed in my games, throwing myself into the battle, eager to conquer my opponent, forgetting that the odds were stacked against me. I’m not sure who was more surprised and excited, my father or I, when I won second place.
As an adult I spent a year traveling around the country playing in tournaments. When I attended the NY Open, Dad came up on the train from Connecticut to watch me play. After each game we would talk about the high and low points, analyzing my play, sometimes disagreeing about my strategies (especially when I chose to sacrifice a piece for a dubious attack).
Throughout my life chess has aided me in real life situations. The skill set I learned from getting good at the game gave me true advantages in life. Not only did I learn how to think logically, but I discovered I could create successful long-term strategies and short-term tactical plans, which would give me many victories on and off the board. To this day I see any challenge in life as simply a king on the board ready to be checkmated.
Of course most people do not get into competition play, but chess is still an amazingly adventure and wonderful bonding experience for any family. Whether you take a set on family camping trips or out to the beach or just stay home enjoying family-time after dinner there is nothing like chess for bringing a family together.
In this day and age with television and video games, wouldn’t it be wonderful to see families playing chess with one another? And just imagine for a moment what heights our children can reach if they gain the self confidence and strategic prowess that a sound knowledge of chess offers.
I am publishing this series of posts about Chess & Education with cooperation with Laura Sherman. Laura Sherman founded Your Chess Coach with her husband, Dan Sherman. Together they teach children to play chess through various schools in Pinellas County, Florida, as well as privately in students’ homes and online.