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article imageOp-Ed: Should chess be part of the school curriculum?

By Alexander Baron     May 10, 2011 in World
Should chess be taught in British schools? This question has been raised recently, and was asked again recently on BBC TV’s Breakfast news programme.
Should chess be taught in British schools? This question has been raised recently, and was asked again on BBC TV’s Breakfast news programme, this morning. The obvious answer is why not? Although dwarfed by the former Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries, Britain has always been a strong chess playing nation, and for the past two decades, junior chess in particular has been thriving. The first, albeit unofficial world chess championship was played at the Westminster Chess Club, London, in 1834 between the Frenchman, Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais and the Irish-born English domicile Alexander McDonnell.
The great Hastings Tournament of 1895, probably the strongest tournament ever held up until then, was won by the young American Harry Pilsbury. This paved the way for the annual Hastings Chess Congress, one of the biggest and most prestigious annual congresses in the world.
Although chess flourished in Britain throughout the Twentieth Century, there were two events in the past thirty years which have led to veritable explosions in the game; the first was the capture of the World Championship in 1972 by the American Robert Fischer, which raised the profile of the game throughout the West; the second was the 1993 World Championship match in London between Garry Kasparov – widely regarded as the strongest player of all time – and Britain’s Nigel Short. Although Kasparov won the match by a wide margin, Short’s valiant challenge boosted chess especially amongst the young.
Three years later, Londoner and International Master Mike Basman founded the UK Chess Challenge for juniors. In 1997, Basman’s UK Schools’ Chess Challenge for individuals was held at the Mind Sports Olympiad, and according to Grandmaster, chess columnist and author Ray Keene writing in 1999 ”this year the youngsters competing for the highest prizes have fought through from a record initial entry of 35,000 schoolchildren. This makes the ‘Basman tournament’ the largest chess tournament in the world.”
London and the Home Counties are particularly well represented in the junior chess stakes; Richmond Juniors is a dedicated chess club run in cooperation with local schools. Mike Basman’s UK Chess Challenge is still very much alive; this years finals will be held in August. Many chess clubs, particularly Coulsdon, have large junior memberships, so the question that should have been posed on BBC’s Breakfast programme should perhaps have been why shouldn’t chess be taught as part of the school curriculum?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Chess, Schools, Children, school curriculum, Mso
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