Wednesday, February 3, 2010


by Todd Thomas

CPS chess building mind power by Todd Thomas DEFENDER CONTRIBUTING WRITER The Chicago Public League chess championships were held last week and Whitney Young took home the title in 8-board, while Lane Tech placed first in 5-board competition. Many prep sports and activities help in a students overall development, but proponents of the game of chess believe it is unparalleled as far as improving the cognitive abilities that are crucial to academic achievement.
The critical thinking and strategizing it takes to win on the chessboard helps many students improve in the classroom as well. One prime example is at Marshall High School where students on the chess team generally perform at a much higher level than the general student body. “There is something in chess that helps them prepare better for their studies,” said Marshall chess coach Joseph Ocol. “Chess helps students develop their ability to analyze and develop critical thinking skills, and it improves focus and concentration.” Joshua Williams, a Marshall senior, has a 3.2 GPA and scored 22 on the ACT (eight points higher than the school average of 14.)
He attributes his score, at least in part, to things he learned from playing chess. “Chess helps you focus better in school. It gives you an edge, and you won’t have the problem of a short attention span because the point of the game is to think and focus,” Williams said. Williams also thinks his peers would benefit if they took up the game of chess. “I would recommend that other students play chess. Maybe if they would learn some of the tactics that we apply in chess to their schoolwork they would get better academically,” he said. “Chess definitely helps students with focus and concentration,” adds Hubbard coach Jerry Jackson.”
It’s about out-thinking your opponent so it helps in the classroom, and it improves analytical thinking.” Jackson played chess while attending DuSable High School and he says that it helped him become less introverted as well. “It helped me build up my confidence. I was a little shy about things and when I figured out I could do things and think on my feet it opened up a lot of doors,” Jackson said. High school sports manager Isaac Curtis hosted the city championships and he too is a firm believer that chess helps students academically, especially when it comes to taking tests. “Chess players probably have the best GPA’s in school. Chess helps them nurture their ability to think and analyze, and they are able to transfer that to an ACT or SAT test,” Curtis said.
The game of chess is also a very competitive sport. Cognitive abilities are developed and grades might improve, but it’s still the spirit of competition and winning that motivates a chess player to keep playing. I’m a competitor,” said Marshawn Richards, a Marshall Sophomore who also plays baseball and runs track. “It really drives me because I want to go above and beyond - I want to challenge myself.” “A lot of people don’t look at chess as a sport because there’s no physicality to it,” said Curtis. “But the mental part is just as tough as the physical.”


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