As you'll see below, I'm passionate about chess, and passionate about teaching chess.
However, teaching chess has become much more difficult over the past 20 years or so.
It became clear to me a long time ago that, at least in Richmond:
* Children were often starting chess too young.
* Children were learning chess too quickly.
* Children were being introduced to competititve chess too soon.
At Richmond we worked closely with two players, Luke McShane and Murugan Thiruchelvam, who, in their time,
broke many national and international age-group records, so I'm very well aware that some exceptional
children can benefit from starting very young, but, for most children, there are few advantages and many potential
disadvantages in starting before the age of 7 or 8.
As far as I'm concerned, chess is a serious game for older children and adults.
It's also an immensely powerful learning tool for providing cognitive acceleration for
younger children by teaching the game in a slow, structured way.
But promoting it as a fun game for young children is a wasted opportunity. While I'm all in favour of
young children playing fun games, there are plenty of other fun games they could play, some of which
are subsets of chess.
I was extremely fortunate to have grown up in an age when chess was something you did at secondary school,
not at primary school. If I'd learnt the moves at 7 and joined a primary school chess club like those I've
been running for many years, I would not have played as an adult. My life would have been immeasurably poorer
and you wouldn't be reading this now.
A LIFE IN CHESS
When I was ten years old I found a plastic pocket chess set on the Christmas Tree. Soon afterwards my father taught me the moves.
When I went to my new school the following September I started playing against the other boys. I still remember the thrill when, towards the end of my
first year there I beat a boy the year above me on the train to school.
From then on I was hooked. In my teens I read every chess book in every local library, and, when I was 14 I received an annual subscription to the British
as a Christmas present. The following year I joined Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club
and played in my first tournament,
the London Junior Championships
For a quiet boy with few friends chess was a lifeline for me. For the first time in my life I was selected to play in teams, taking part in league matches
against other clubs. Some of the friends I made then are still friends 40 years on.
I'm still passionate about chess today, although for many years I have only been playing occasional competitive chess. Most of my chess is now played
on the Internet - you can often find me online at the Internet Chess Club
Chess has beauty, violence and excitement way beyond any other game. A game can last two minutes or five years. It knows no boundaries of age,
colour or creed. It can be played by men, women and children, by the blind, the deaf and the physically handicapped.
But, more than that, what makes chess special for me is the game's extensive literature and colourful history.
For most of my life chess has provided me with intellectual stimulation, a sense of belonging, friendship, and, recently, the chance to earn a living doing something I enjoy.
I still hope to be able to pass some of my passion for chess onto the children I teach.