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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sweet chess photos of Anchorage kids and a bit about how chess improves academic performance

Chess blog for latest chess news and chess trivia (c) Alexandra Kosteniuk, 2011

Hi everybody,

We found this nice article in the Courier Journal about how academic performance improves with chess and some really sweet photos. 

Joey Haufe, 7, and Nate Baugher, 9, sat at opposing ends of a chess board on a recent Friday at Anchorage Public School. Joey was winning and concentrating deeply on how to finish off the game. “He sacrificed his queen,” Joey said, explaining how he'd pulled ahead. The two are members of the school's chess club, which competes regularly in area tournaments and meets every Friday for practice.
 The club, now in its fourth year, has grown from a handful of students to about 30, and some are competing well at the state level. The club's kindergarten team recently took fourth in the Kentucky State Championships this March, and two first-graders placed third and fifth. Anchorage's club is reflective of a larger, resurging scholastic interest in chess, as research shows it can improve academic performance. Emir Sefo, of Old Dorsey Place, coaches Anchorage's chess club and similar clubs at other area schools through his business, Kentucky Scholastic Chess Center.

He said there are about 35 to 40 schools in Jefferson County that offer chess. Most, like Anchorage, offer the classic strategy board game as an extra-curricular activity or club. Jefferson County Public Schools has a chess course for credit at two schools — Carrithers Middle and Valley High. Sefo, who grew up playing chess in his native Bosnia, said it builds strategising and problem-solving skills, which translate well to subjects like math and geometry.

Studies have documented improved academic performance of students who play chess compared with their non-playing peers. Frequently cited is a study of elementary students in New York City's Bronx district, where most students were below the national average academically but chess players' reading skills improved dramatically.

“Also, you can compare it with life,” Sefo said. “Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose.” Joey's father, Rick Haufe, said chess is something his son enjoys that's good for him. “It's a healthy activity working with his strategic thinking,” he said. “I see it applying in other areas like his schoolwork.” Phillip Kash, who has three children in the Anchorage chess club, said he also thinks playing chess has benefits.

“There's the discipline it takes to concentrate on a game and to think ahead,” he said. Tanya Gupta, 11, said she first joined the chess club because her parents made her. “Now I'm enjoying it,” she said. She said she thinks it has helped sharpen her concentration. This is her first year, so she isn't as experienced as some of the other players, she said, but she likes the feeling of improving. “It makes me feel good about myself because I'm pretty good at something that I just started,” she said.

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