Not for nothing is chess known as the game of kings.
An increasing body of research shows that playing chess can help to improve creativity and problem solving skills, as well as memory, in children of all ages and backgrounds. Studies from such diverse school systems as Germany and the USA show that playing chess can help to not only improve grades and achievement in maths, but can also contribute towards improved reading. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that the thinking skills required in tabletop board games such as chess are almost identical to the elements of computational thinking found in Computer Science. It is with this in mind that, since September 2013, we have been teaching chess to our entire Year 7 cohort, as part of their Mathematics curriculum. Many of our students have had some experience of chess at primary school, but for some this has been their first experience and they have taken to it with great enthusiasm.
Chess lessons are scheduled roughly once every four weeks; for students who wish to practise more or get further advice and tactical tips, there is a Chess Club which runs for all year groups in the LRC every Friday lunchtime. There are opportunities for competition throughout the year, which are further detailed below.
We were also fortunate enough in October 2015 to be invited by the Tunbridge Wells Chess Club to send three of our students to participate in a simultaneous chess match with 30 students from other local schools, all pitting their wits against the noted Grandmaster John Emms. Although they were all defeated, our three student representatives all acquitted themselves admirably
The story was repeated again in October 2016, this time with three new students. All played valiantly in eventual defeats, although this time one gave the Grandmaster enough of a headache to be deemed worthy of a prize!
The Winter Chess Tournament
The inaugural Winter Chess Tournament in January 2016, open to both students and staff, saw Mr Finnegan of the English department defeat Mr Osborne of the Maths department in what turned out to be a fairly one-sided final. The top-placed students were Jamie Threadgold and Joshua Bolland from Year 12, who both bowed out in the semi-final stage.
End of Year Tournaments
At the end of each year, students in both Year 7 and 8 take part in a large-scale two-hour tournament involving around 50 students at a time – a chance for them to put into practice what they have learnt during the year. Prizes are awarded to the top three students in each tournament, and there are invariably some tense and tight games each time.
2015 Year 7 winners: Joseph Wells, Nicholas Littlejohn, Oliver Ballard, Sean Thewlis
2016 Year 7 winners: Megan Partridge, Daniel Mattheopoulos, Richard Petrick, Tawana Chikopa
2016 Year 8 winners: Harry Sheehan, Matilda White, George Botsialas, Elliot Haselden
Please do encourage your children to take up and enjoy playing chess – it’s a game that stays with you for life.