At the National Scholastic Chess Foundation, our belief is that the benefits of teaching chess to children go far beyond their time spent in front of a chessboard. Through chess, students hone their critical thinking, deductive reasoning, and strategic planning aptitudes. Chess improves focus and teaches children to stay on task. But we recognize that not all children are instantly enamored with the game. “Great Moves: Learning Chess Through History” is a new book that attempts to appeal to both the casual player and the enthusiast.
The idea behind Great Moves is cross-curricular or multi-disciplinary learning. A growing discussion in education is focused on promoting “deeper learning” for students. Most students are taught by sampling bits of information (a little math, a little history, some vocabulary). As education author Ben Johnson puts it: “Deep learning is like taking a long draught from a well of knowledge as opposed to only sipping from many different wells.” With cross-curricular learning, the blending of concepts builds and reinforces stronger connections between them.
For students who are only casually interested, we hope that Great Moves will encourage a developing appreciation for the game as they learn about the many famous people who played chess. Our storytelling provides context and adds “stickiness” to the lessons.
For the student who already enjoys chess, our goal is to motivate applying that passion to other disciplines, be it math and science or literature and the arts. We engage these students by sharing how studying the history of chess can help improve their playing ability. As we quote in the beginning of the book, Grandmaster and former world champion Dr. Max Euwe once shared that, “The history of chess (under its present rules) is the study of growth and gradual change of the strategic ideas of leading players of succeeding generations. Taking note of this evolution and thoroughly grasping it is the very thing which makes for better judgment and an increase in playing strength. The development of a chess player runs parallel with chess itself, a study of the history of playing methods therefore has great practical value.”
For all students, the most important subject to master is the ability to read and comprehend. They can then teach themselves whatever subjects they might become interested in throughout their lives. Great Moves was designed with both comprehension questions and chess exercises making it a useful tool for self-directed study with some occasional help from a coach or parent, as well as a classroom resource.
“Great Moves: Learning Chess Through History” by Sunil Weeramantry, Alan Abrams and Robert McLellan is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or by making a donation to the National Scholastic Chess Foundation.