The Nkandla community in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa, had a great day when SA President Jacob Zuma arrived to take part in a chess tournament between surrounding schools. Nonkulueko Sithole was thrilled to play President Zuma, even though the President checkmated her in fewer than 10 moves. “This is the best day of my life. I never thought I would ever sit this close to the President and play a game of chess with him,” said the 14 year old.
In an interview after the game with City Press, Zuma said, “Chess is very important as it makes you a better and knowledgeable human being. I like games like chess and bridge because they stretch your brain to the limit. They make you think strategically”. President Zuma also challenged local businesses to support the sport financially. “Next year we must host a fundraising dinner party for chess right in the hall,” he said.
Kwazulu Chess Association President Sandile Xulu, one of the tournament organisers, said chess gave “young people the opportunity to compete, regardless of race or social standing”. “It provides a field of ideas, concepts and strategy for young growing minds,” he said. In an interview with ChessCube Community Manager, Sean, Xulu said that KwaZulu Chess’ aim is to take chess into all schools, as well as to introduce it as a sport. Future plans would then involve working with the Department of Education to consider it as a subject in school in Kwazulu-Natal and particularly rural areas and all of South Africa. “This is exactly what President Zuma and I shared and want to see happen.” said Xulu. Speaking of President Zumas’ desire to have all children take part in chess tournaments, Xulu noted, “This (the Nkandla tournament) was our “OPENING MOVE”, which we hope will get supported and start rolling”.
ChessCube supports President Zuma’s vision, and will be launching an online schools chess initiative in South Africa and other countries from early 2010. The South African government, a number of NGOs and large corporations are doing a great deal to improve Internet and computer services in schools. ChessCube will be working with all providers to ensure that schools in South Africa can connect to ChessCube’s classroom service.
“ChessCube will provide facilities for children to play chess online and to receive online video training”, explained Mark Levitt, ChessCube CEO. “The basic service will be free to all schools in South Africa, and we will be working with big business to sponsor additional opportunities for South African youth.”
ChessCube’s classroom service will be at the forefront of a modern trend to popularise chess. Along with Venezuela, which has recently included chess in it’s official school curriculum, ChessCube considers the personal and societal benefits of chess to be of immense value. What are these benefits precisely? David MacEnulty, a famed chess teacher (the subject of a movie “The Knights of the South Bronx”) had this to say in a recent exclusive interview with ChessCube:
“One of the things you learn from playing chess is how to control yourself. You learn to have delayed gratification. You learn tremendous discipline and above all you learn to trust your own judgment. Once a child learns that he or she is smart enough to play chess, there’s not going to be any holding them back from anything else.”
“The biggest benefits come when children actually sit down and play tournament chess. Once you’ve played tournament chess for a couple of years, major transformations take place in a child. The question of relying on your own judgment really comes out.”
“When the children on my chess team in the Bronx went to junior high school they were much better prepared than many of their peers. In fact, the Principal of the junior high school once told me that the chess kids seemed to be a different breed altogether. You can tell the chess kids from the way they walk down the hall – there’s just more confidence in the way they walk. There’s more confidence in the way they interact with the teachers in the classroom. They don’t get into trouble because one of things that chess teaches us is to see danger ahead of time.
“One of the things that’s overlooked frequently is the social component of being on a chess team or just learning to play chess. When children work together on a team, even though chess is one person against one person, whatever is good for anybody on the team is good for everybody on the team.”
“Now when one of the kids from a place such as where I taught in the South Bronx wins a game against a very privileged child, that changes everybody’s attitudes. The recognition, that there, on the other side of the board, is my intellectual equal, that’s an amazing transformation that happens on both sides of the board. I think that’s a really critical thing that we should introduce to society everywhere, not just South Africa.”
Times Live (Article)
City Press, 27 December 2009