Twenty years ago the mass media portrayed geeks as wearing glasses and pocket protectors, and they played chess, which was so not cool. Growing up, I never understood the last part because I played chess and was cool. Right?
Chess is more than a strategy game; it’s the perfect game. You can play alone – as the Pixar’s Geri’s Game shows us – or you can play with your best friend, child, or significant other. It requires no luck (unless you count the other player’s screw up as luck), and you have to consider your next move. It’s not mindlessly stacking blocks or mining, you’re not just shooting people or beating them up, and you’re not throwing down chips on a table hoping to out bluff four-plus other people.
Chess challenges you. It’s good for your brain, and there are dozens of studies that explain the mental benefits of playing, such as improving your memory, preventing Alzheimer’s, and increasing your IQ. And who out there doesn’t need a little brain boost?
Chess Brings Us Closer
Brain benefits aside, my favorite part of playing chess is the intimacy of the game. I remember my dad teaching me to play when I was 9 years old. I remember teaching my son to play when he was only 4. Ten years later, I’m proud to say he can beat me, sometimes in less than 10 moves.
Another cool thing about chess is the types of chess sets available. In a quick search, I found Street Fighter chess sets, literary-themed sets, sports, aliens, etc. And sure, some are a little pricey, but when you consider how much you spend on movies, apps, and video games in a year, the price is affordable. If well cared for, the set can provides hundreds of hours of gameplay, and you can pass it down to future generations without it freezing or becoming outdated. How many apps and video games can do that?
They also make great gifts as they can accent a room and start a conversation. Chess sets are versatile, and you can play anywhere. I’ve even played in a parking lot after work out of the trunk of a car!
When talking to others, I hear “I’ve never played, it’s too hard,” or “I wouldn’t be any good at it.” Bull stuffings. I guarantee these people have never tried to play. Each game piece has a rule and moves accordingly. It’s not hard to learn – in fact, it’s probably one of the easier games to learn – but it can be hard to win. However, it’s not about winning; it’s about having fun, learning, and bonding with your opponent.
According to Parents magazine, in 1990 more than 3,000 kids ages 14 and under played chess for school. Today, more than 35,000 adolescents play. That’s a huge leap, which tells us parents of my generation and just above me get it. They see the importance and encourage their kids to play, no matter how nerdy the world tries to portray it.
So, get a chess set, whether it’s a $5 board at Target or a custom $250 set, or dig out the one in the closet and play a game. It’s family-friendly fun but can also be very romantic. It’s up to you!
Check out some of my favorite sets: