24 November, 2007
THE AUSTRALIAN 24/11/07: Schools make the move to chess. By Justine Ferrari
NO longer the secret, dusty passion of nerdy types that live in the school library, chess is now the fastest growing sport in the nation's schools.
Even members of the footy team play chess these days.
The national school chess competition has grown exponentially over the past five years, by 40 to 50 per cent every year, with some competitors as young as five.
Other schools are taking chess out of the lunch hour and integrating it into their maths classes for the strategic thinking and problem-solving skills the game fosters.
Brighton Grammar School in Melbourne prides itself on being a chess school, and is currently leading the national competition with players like nine-year-old Isaac Ng.
Chess has been part of the school for about 15 years and sets are provided to encourage the students to play it at lunchtime or after school, including an outdoor set with large pieces.
Director of community education John Phillips said chess had shed its nerdy image at the school, with boys of all interests playing it, including the sporting types.
"Partly that's due to the success the school has had in chess competitions in the past few years," Mr Phillips said.
In the Castlemaine area in central Victoria, a program integrating chess into maths lessons for Year 6 students has been running for the past two years and is taught in about 12 local primary schools and Castlemaine Secondary College. Co-creator Steve Carroll said it was teaching students a way of thinking mathematically and confidence to approach tricky problems rather than actual mathematical knowledge.
"Many of the teachers have been surprised because they assumed the kids who were smart would be good at chess but the kids excelling in chess are different to the ones excelling in maths.
"It's creating success for low-achieving kids and having a profound effect on their attitudes to school and maths," Mr Carroll said.
The National Interschool Chess Championships, to be held next month, are organised by Chess Kids, a company that markets recreational and educational chess programs to school.
It was started about 10 years ago by chess enthusiast David Cordover, who said school chess had exploded in the past four or five years, which he attributed to the greater value placed on intelligence in the community.
"People see all these internet billionaires and think being a computer geek isn't so bad after all," he said.
"People know that we're in a knowledge economy and kids have to do well at school."