NYT: The littlest chess champions

4/22/2016 – We do not often link to general articles on chess in the mainstream media. But this one is inspiring and describes a chess initiative in New York City that deserves emulation. In after-school programs kindergarten and first graders are shown a different way of using their brains. Often they go on to beat elite private school teams. Some are even trained by weathered characters in Washing Square Park. Don't miss this one.

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Benjamin Kwon does not look like a gladiator, but you should see him play the Fried Liver Attack, a wildly aggressive chess opening that wages an all-out assault on the opposing player’s king. The opening is not for the fainthearted. Benjamin Kwon is 6 years old.

Last month, Lower Lab’s team of kindergartners and first graders finished first in the state chess tournament, defeating elite private schools like Dalton and Avenues: The World School. Earlier in the school year, a Lower Lab team of first graders won the national championship for their grade. The next national tournament is in May.

Chess is enjoying a boom in New York, and much of it is because of schools like Lower Lab, which have brought the game to very young players, often as part of the regular curriculum. Educators cite research showing that chess helps students develop analytical thinking, set goals, concentrate for extended periods and learn to delay gratification.

“It gives them a different way of using their brain,” said Sandra Miller, the principal at Lower Lab, where every student gets 10 weeks of chess in kindergarten. “It’s an amazing opportunity for them to challenge themselves. With gifted and talented students, sometimes kids get bored with classes, because the work comes so easy for them.”

Davin Friedman and Abderrahim Rajahi, who teaches younger players,
in Washington Square Park. [Credit Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times]

Read the full long and inspiring New York Times article here



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