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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Chess Anyone?

Shelly S describes children's involvement with the game of chess. Originally published in Currents April/May 2006, Children's Corner Column.

Chess is one of the oldest strategic games ever invented. It was originally played in China, India and Persia many centuries ago. There are various opinions from the scholars on the actual origins of the game. It is necessary to have an understanding of the development of ancient board games in order to make sense of these scholarly opinions. In about the eighth century, the Moors invaded Persia where they learned the game of chess. When the Moors invaded Spain, the game quickly spread through Europe.

This year I witnessed the Hamburg Schools Chess Tournament at the CCH (Congress Centrum Hamburg), where the right side of the Alster competed against the left side. It was amazing to see 2,672 students from 143 schools eager to play a game which I always thought would be difficult to learn. The youngest child represented was a five year old girl from the Lutterothstrasse School and the oldest ones were the teenagers from various schools who played a more difficult version of chess with a clock.

This tournament has quite a long history behind it. In 1958 a mathematician named Franz Buroh created this tournament which has continued on as the annual "Alsterufer" since 1978. This year the left side of the Alster won (97 to 71). What is nice about this tournament is that children can win on different levels. For example: A school team consists of eight children. My son Adrian's team was from the Tornquiststrasse School. They each had to play against someone who was on their same level. Adrian won his game, which made him happy, and six out of eight of his team members also won their games. Therefore, his school won a number of games, but, of course, they did not win in the overall tournament since the school is on the right side of the Alster.

This is a game that anyone can learn to play. It helps children to concentrate and develop skills of strategy. It is also a game where language is not important. Once you know the rules, you can play against anyone in the world. The most difficult part of the game for children is not learning all the individual figures and rules of the game but being able to lose a game even if it is against someone older than they are. This is naturally an important lesson to learn for them, and this is where parents need to have patience. There are various chess groups at several of the schools where children can get involved if they want to, and it is not expensive. For information on a chess club near you here in Hamburg see the website: www.hsjb.de.

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