Chess, Fair Play And The Young

I felt one of those proud fatherhood moments yesterday during an air hockey match with my son. The first table we chose was not working quite as it should and we agreed at 5-5 that this game wouldn’t count. I happened to win it and then we moved to another table. Yet after thinking about it for a while Sam decided that he wasn’t happy with this lost game being voided and he INSISTED that we count it instead.

Not all 9 year olds would do that but I think it augurs well for him being a trustworthy person throughout his life. Is it his chess interest that’s responsible?

The answer may be ‘yes’, but a qualified one. Chess is often recommended as a means of teaching fair play yet I’ve witnessed all manner of sharp practice on the chess scene, especially by juniors and/or their parents/coaches. Players give/accept ‘advice’, take moves back, move the pieces around whilst participating in simultaneous displays, pretend they haven’t touched a piece and BLATANTLY attempt to disturb an opponent’s concentration via distraction or intimidation. Everything for the ‘win’, because that’s what it’s all about, right?

My own take is that for ‘fair play’ to exist, conditions should be optimized towards the results that reflect the relative CHESS SKILL of the players rather than a testing ground for various sorts of sharp practice. And that includes the kind of sharp practice that feigns interest in the ‘rules’ whilst actually using this to distract or harrass the opposition.

So I’d like to think that Sam’s attitude towards our air hockey game comes from chess, but the side that promotes a respect for the integrity of the game rather than putting empty glory before everything. And I should add that he also showed good character in fighting back from going 2-0 down at air hockey to making it a 2-2 draw.


Author: NigelD

Nigel Davies is an International Chess Grandmaster living in St. Helens in the UK. The winner of 15 international tournaments he is also a former British U21 and British Open Quickplay Champion and has represented both England and Wales on several occasions. These days Nigel teaches chess through his chess training web site, Tiger Chess, which has articles, recommendations, a monthly clinic, videos and courses. His students include his 15 year old son Sam who is making rapid progress with his game. Nigel has written a number of chess books that are available at Amazon: