misconstrued as a highbrow game for geniuses, chess on the contrary has
versatile appeal. As social beings belonging to different disciplines in one
community, people are subjected to adopt institutions such as governments,
family, educational centre, corporate and so on. Hence a person from many
strata of the society can relate to the chessmen on the checkerboard depending
on the responsibility bestowed on the individual. If you still think chess is a
game solely for intellectuals, Ebenezer Joseph, first chess trainer certified
by the World Chess Federation, FIDE Trainer and Chief Consultant of Emmanuel
Chess Centre at The Russian Cultural Centre, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, encourages
Q. Tell us a
little more about how you became a chess trainer.
pioneered chess training and been playing chess for about forty years now.
There weren't many chess trainers certified by the World Chess Federation, so I
went to Germany to do my training. This included psychological training as
well. I was interested in that aspect also. We conduct training programmes for
people to learn chess, prepared a home study kit 'Winning Moves' DVD and at the
Russian Cultural Centre we have kids coming over to play chess.
would you recommend chess?
people take chess as a sport, most of them, but I don't. It's a science and a
tool for cognition development. I work on Comprehensive Cognitive Development.
I believe that chess enhances the intellectual quotient of a child. Chess can
be used as a tool to affect the conceptual thinking in a child, the reasoning
ability and perception. By perception I mean the ability of the child to look
at things, look at the world in the proper perspective.
Q. Have you had children where you've noticed the way
chess has impacted their behaviour?
for example some parents say that their children cannot cross the road, that's
a simple perception. After they play chess at the Centre, they have
multi-dimensional looking. I do brain mapping here, now I can understand the
different areas of a child's cognitive skills and areas where specific
challenges faced by the child need to be addressed. If a child is having a
problem with memory, not able to think, look clearly, issues with reasoning,
ADHD we will know it without the help of a psychologist. Not only identifying
it, we correct it. We have become a referral institute for some of the special
Q. How have you been successful with children with
Children with ADHD and Dyslexia have been here. Many times at a later date we
have realised we have been referred. Sometimes we have taken a dyslexic child
all the way to the National Championship level, to play for India in the
championship. We know it, but that doesn't affect the child. So we work on the
strengths of the child and we correct the areas. To me, chess is a research
where I'm trying to analyse how chess as an intervention helps the cognitive
growth of a child.
Q. Does a person have to be really smart to play chess?
have an Occupational Therapist and a psychologist to measure and to see the
influence of chess learning in a child. We believe every child can play chess.
Of course we are not talking about people with very low IQ level below 60. But
we have extraordinary geniuses also and we use chess to identify and challenge
geniuses. But we don't want to portray ourselves as a research institute for
chess; it's more a fun activity.
Q. Do you
think that if you project as a Centre with behavioural therapy included,
parents might have a mind block sending their kids here?
have dealt with more than 2000 kids so far. Every child is unique, every child
has got strengths and every child has got weaknesses. Is it a behavioural
problem? Is it a parental problem? Is it a single child problem, cognitive
level problem, confidence level problem, lack of confidence, the killer
instinct or unable to take a defeat? There are many issues that have never been
addressed. The point is you do not address the failure problem. It's a simple
problem of inability to take a defeat. The first Board exam he takes is the 10th
standard, he fails and he commits suicide, now all that is evident in a five
year old child. The child starts crying, unable to face defeat. We teach them
how to lose gracefully. We teach them how to win passionately without giving
up. When they play they should play with the killer instinct, we take them to
the heights of that and when they lose they have the dignity to congratulate
the opponent. That's the ethos here: do your best, the pursuit of excellence at
the same time you understand it's only a game.
Q. Right now
there are enthusiastic children at the Centre but how would you get an
unwilling child to involve in the game?
We have an Occupational Therapist to
encourage the child to play chess, bring back the child to play chess. We focus
on kids because behavioural therapy happens here. Each child is different,
fearfully and wonderfully made and each child is unique. So that's the rhythm,
cadre and ability of a trainer. We love the child, build rapport with the
child, understand the child and put the right trainer who can handle the
children. Each age is different and each personality is different. We have the
acumen and spend the mornings analysing the clustering. If I put one coach at
the wrong table, we won't see the child again. So the right coach has to be at
the right table. We put them in a cluster - teams of four and assign coaches
accordingly, even based on language. The peer group builds the child up, made
to feel accepted and relate.
Q. As a sport, how would chess ensure the well being and
health of a person?
conducting chess trainer workshops. Now I believe shortly chess trainers will
be in hospitals. Because if music can make a therapy so can chess. I know that
any child will have cognitive deficiency because of medication, radiation, etc.
We have a child who has TBD (Traumatic Brain Disorder), either because of
accident or by shock or by radiation the cognitive level of the child comes
down. Using chess we can accelerate the process of recovery. So the chess
trainer workshop has been designed especially for nurses, occupational
therapists and psychologists. One month training is more than enough. When a
child is in the hospital for a month without any mental activity, vitamins are
given but do they give any mental exercise? So nurses will be trained to teach
chess, play with the (normal) children and this helps their thinking level. As
for Occupational Therapists who aim at motor development, I would suggest they
use chess to improve the concentration in ADHD and Dyslexic children.
Q. In your experience how would chess serve in the best
interest of the society at large?
helps in the critical thinking, mathematical ability and decision-making skills
in children. Coming to the corporate sector, stress is the greatest problem. If
a team can get together and play a genuine game, it can be tremendous fun and
serve as a stress therapy. It's fully challenging, we are not talking about
tournaments, we are talking about an environment with music, coffee - a Chess
Café. As for the IT Sector, logic plays an important role and chess develops
logic. Law enforcement sector needs planning, strategy and tactics. Lawyers
need reasoning. People over the age of 50 should play chess to reduce chances
of dementia. Playing chess everyday keeps dementia away. Criminals have changed
because their logic had been affected.
Q. How does chess help in the domestic front?
mom should play chess. Two things, first she will develop the child better
second homemakers are so protected they don't perceive opportunities or
dangers. Chess helps to perceive things and people better. It is a domestic
game, because you don't need to go out, you don't need a court you just invite
someone over to play. The game makes introverted and passive women to
contribute suggestions and enables them to be active decision makers.
Anand, a Software Engineer brings his 5 year old son Daniel Joseph, a zealous
chess player to the Emmanuel Chess Centre. In fact, the child had his mother
and grand-mother learn chess just to play with him and even confessed to his
singing teacher he'd rather play chess. In Mr. Anand's opinion, chess at a
young age would encourage mental activity while most other sports are focussed
on physical activity. The game also promotes planning and decision making. And
yes apart from chess the boy loves cycling with his friends. When asked if Mr.
Anand is rooting on Daniel to make it to championship, his determined reply, 'I
just want my son to enjoy the game'.