"The game of chess is not merely an idle amusement. Several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by chess, so as to become habits, ready on all occasions."
Again, I was at an important crossroad in my life: should I search for a new job and tie my fate to the wellbeing of someone else's enterprise or should I start a venture of my own?
While I was weighing my options, various chess endeavors poked at my mind. During the next few weeks I did extensive research and found numerous studies, conducted in the U.S. and abroad, about the benefits of studying chess. It did not surprise me that young chess-players demonstrated significantly better performance in math and science; yet chess players' superior performance in English was a new discovery for me.
Also, I knew that IQ is something that we inherit from our parents and Mother Nature, yet studies showed noticeable improvements in IQ for elementary school children who learned to play chess. Girls are able to compete with boys, they routinely demonstrate, on the board, that females are as smart as males; what such an experience could do for girls' self-esteem!
Then, I read about Fortune 500 companies hiring chess masters to share their experience in decision-making with top executives. Yet, another article was about "mental aerobics" and how chess exercises can help fight against memory loss.
In the end, I was convinced that chess has something for everyone and the chess enterprise has a future. As a result, Vivacity, Chess School for Children and Adults, was born.
Among Vivacity's first group of students was a four-year old boy. My general policy is not to accept children under the age of five into my program; therefore, I did my best to talk his parents out of the "experiment." The parents politely listened to all that I had to say, yet asked me to allow the boy to try the program. To the amazement of everyone, the little boy became the Ohio Kindergarten Champion.
Yet, even more vivid was the transformation of the child. After a second year in the program, a shy almost-six-year old player went to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh to take part in the Tri-State Championship.
Later his grandfather told the following story: the boy had a conflict-situation on the board and his grandfather, who was observing the game, offered help. Yet, the boy told his grandfather that he is not a tournament administrator and that it is not his job to resolve tournament disputes. Instead, the young player called the tournament director, explained the problem and convinced the administrator that he was right.
The boy's grandfather and parents were proud of his third place finish yet they were even more proud about the child's ability to address a conflicting situation and to support his argument.
Stories like the one above provide vivid evidence that chess, like a magic wand, does miracles for the human mind. Just like polishing a diamond increases its value tremendously, by polishing the mind, chess unleashes more of the mind's hidden potential.
For me, as the founder of Vivacity Chess School and a chess coach, witnessing students' steady intellectual development has become a never-ending source of joy and satisfaction.
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