Chess, time and again, has proved to be an ideal educational tool for children to develop skills that are useful in real life in more than one ways. The recent impetus that the concept of 'Chess in Schools' has gained is ensuring that chess spreads at the grassroots level. Indeed, it is a valuable education tool for school children. But what about underprivileged kids? Delhi's Devanshi Rathi took it upon herself to teach chess at an NGO.
The ten-year-old boy sat at the chessboard lost in thought, pondering his next move. He noticed his opponent's eyes oscillating between the chess board and his own face. This young boy was already thinking about the future and was sensing the environment around his position, and was even observing his adversary — all the skills one needs to possess, not only on the chess board but in life as well. Curiously, he didn't even know the rules of chess a month back.
Chess, time and again, has proved to be an ideal educational tool for children to develop skills that are useful in real life in more than one ways. The recent impetus that the concept of 'Chess in Schools' has gained is ensuring that chess spreads at the grassroots level. Indeed, it is a valuable education tool for school children. But what about underprivileged kids?
To fill this gap, I approached the NGO International Society of Human Welfare and Rehabilitation, short for ISHWAR, in Delhi and started teaching the children the basics of chess. I christened it 'Project Checkmate'.
Project Checkmate was launched in April 2016 and the aim is to spread the game of chess to the underprivileged children. I teach a group of around 20 students who learn the game enthusiastically. Of course, since they had no idea about the rules of chess, I had to start from the scratch. Eventually, I also taught them the basic openings and their names. They also learnt about chess history and evolution of the modern chess game. The classes are held at the ISHWAR NGO in New Delhi and is conducted twice a week for two hours each. After I was convinced that the children were sufficiently ready with the rules and the basics, I decided that it was time to taste some competition. Out of these children, six students went for the Delhi State Rapid Chess Tournament in May 2016.
The chess kit consisted of a notebook, a pen, simple tips written by me, and a chess board with pieces. Each child got this kit which was sponsored by the pocket money that I had collected for this good purpose. The children also took with them the bags and bottles that I had given them earlier. They were extremely excited to play in their first tournament and that too a state level one. The entire car ride to the venue was an eventful one. I gave the children some tips for the tournament and how they should play to their best capacity.
It was a moment of pride for me when I saw the students play in the tournament. Each one of them was anxious before their first games as it was the first time that they were playing with a clock and against stiff opposition. However, they managed to play their best and it gave me immense satisfaction and joy.
In the next session, since the children had just returned from a tournament two days back, I wanted to discuss with them all that they had learnt from it and their experiences. I showed them one of Mikhail Tal's masterpieces and asked them their ideas about the game. I talked about strategy and planning and how to win a game. In this class, new students joined as they were inspired by the ones who had played the tournament. I was now teaching five more children as well! It is amazing to see how these kids can concentrate and focus so hard. Now, I realized that playing games is the best way for these kids to learn, and they need more tournaments.
The work I was doing was noticed by IM Tania Sachdev, who is putting in her own efforts in her 'Chess for Children'. The project was taken up by ‘Chess for Children’, who sponsored the certificates for the 1st ISHWAR NGO Tournament. I was extremely excited and looked forward to organising a tournament for the very first time in my life. I was amazed to see how excited the kids were to play with the clocks and participate in the tournament. The tournament was a single round robin event and was played with the latest FIDE rules and the latest chess clocks. Each player played with the others in the tournament once.
It has been an eventful two months for this programme and we hope to take it to further heights. We want to help these children achieve their goals in their lives in whatever small way possible. Even by teaching them chess in such few classes, they have enjoyed so much that they want to keep going. They practice with the chess kits given to them. The children have also started learning chess on the computer by the new online chess learning program started at the NGO. We have also made a board games club and a library at the NGO with the donations collected. Chess books are also available in the newly created library and they are enjoying each moment.
The biggest lesson of this programme is that nothing in life can come easily. It has to be achieved with hard work and dedication. Even though one may not have the means, one can achieve his/her dreams provided they have a passion and work towards it. Chess is a great tool to shape our minds and if we have a positive approach we can improve our game a lot.
Project Checkmate not only helps to spread the game of chess to these children but also teaches them things which can’t be learnt through a normal life in their school. The tournament experience was one to be cherished by the children. They also managed to make a few friends and learnt about what it actually takes to play and win in a tournament. We now look forward to some more bright and eventful sessions with the children at the NGO.
Devanshi is a 17-year-old rated chess player. She has been playing chess for the past nine years and has competed in many international, national and state level tournaments. She is passionate about sports and writing and is a dedicated blogger. She also swims, reads and is a fitness enthusiast. She loves to write about all kinds of sports and follows them on television regularly.
Facebook page of Project Checkmate