Sunday, January 27, 2008

A game that's fit for Kings and Kids

Chess is a game that's fit for kings and kids
Experts say it builds strong minds

By Chad Brooks Daily Herald Staff
Published: 1/27/2008 12:21 AM

In this day and age, when businesses will spend millions to develop the next hot video game, one simple board game endures.

Chess, considered the oldest skill game in the world, seems to be as popular as ever, especially among the younger generation.

To capitalize on that, Barrington's Yury Shulman Chess School recently hosted an exhibition match featuring three grandmasters from across the world.

Nearly 60 players -- more than half of whom were children -- got to take on three grandmasters: Shulman, Alexander Onischuk and Susan Polgar -- for a rare glimpse at how the minds of the greatest chess players work.

"You are lucky if you get one grandmaster and here you get three," Polgar said. "So that is very special."

Grandmaster, a lifetime honor, is the highest title a chess player can attain.

Barrington's Kiran Frey, one of the event organizers, said she's seen interest in the game among children grow by leaps and bounds in the past decade.

"It has come a real long way," Frey said.

She became involved in chess after her son, Rishi Sethi, started playing while attending Barrington's Grove Elementary in 1998.

At first, he was the only one in his school playing chess, Frey said.

After speaking with the principal, a chess club was started, and it became the first of many in Barrington Area Unit District 220. Today, there are programs in each of the district's 11 schools.

"It has been really, really amazing to see (the clubs) develop," Frey said.

Sevan Muradian, president of the Glenview-based North American Chess Association, said he too has definitely seen a resurgence in the game in today's youth.

"There are more and more programs in elementary and middle schools," Muradian said. "It is another great outlet for a child's creativity."

Besides seeing their kids have fun, Muradian said there's a host of reasons parents keep their kids playing.

"I think parents are realizing it is a very good mental stimulus for the child," he said. "They are able to use critical thinking skills while playing."

Edward McDougal of Northfield believes chess has had a big, positive impact on his 7-year-old's development.

"We could start to see it was shaping his brain and making him more disciplined with his schoolwork," McDougal said.

His son Eddie, along with four other children from the Kings and Queens chess school in Glenview -- including Palatine's Gurveer Singh -- took first place in the annual National Youth Action Chess tournament in St. Louis last November.

"It just gave him a boost of confidence to know that all his hard work has paid off," McDougal said.

Polgar, a four-time world champion and chess coach at Texas Tech University, travels the country and loves to see kids getting involved.

"Chess is a wonderful educational tool," Polgar said.

Here is the full story.
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