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Mind games: Teens enjoy 'unplugged' chess
Some teens are hooked on video games, but a group of local teens enjoy the classic, low-tech game of chess.
They play chess every Monday afternoon at Yuma Main Library.
These teens will tell you that even if this game is “unplugged,” there's still plenty of action to keep them entertained.
“It's pretty much like a video game, except on a board. It's like a medieval war, you have a knight, a queen and a king,” explained Milap Patel, a 16-year-old Kofa High School student.
Chess experts have compared the game to a battle between two players, both commanding their own 16-person armies.
The website library.advanced.org compares a chess player to an army general: “You alone decide the destiny of your soldiers. You can sacrifice them, trade them, pin them, fork them, lose them, defend them, or order them to break through any barriers and surround the enemy king. You've got the power!”
Some teens even think the 1,600-year-old game is more interactive than video games.
“You're not just there, pressing buttons. You're actually thinking about your next move,” said Alejandra Becerra, a 17-year-old Gila Ridge High School student.
Becerra volunteers at the library, helping kids with their homework. But if no one shows up for help, she heads to the Teen Room on the second floor for a game of chess.
Becerra learned the game when she 7 years old, taught by her brothers. “It was easy to learn, they taught me well.”
Why does she like the game? “You need to strategize to win and think about which moves to make. You've got to make the right move or basically you're dead.”
It's no wonder the game is popular among the military. According to websites, it helps soldiers come up with strategic approaches.
Becerra and her fellow players believe chess, which is often associated with old men for players, actually sharpens young players' minds as they use their mathematical skills in the battle for victory.
“If you're good at math, you're good at chess. There's a lot of math involved,” Becerra said.
Math-haters might be groaning, but note another reason Becerra plays the game: “It's fun,” she said.
Patel agreed. “It's fun and strategic. You have to think about it.”
He learned to play the game a couple of years ago, taught by his cousins. He said he found it difficult at first, but now he looks forward to the challenge.
Although patrons are welcome to use the chessboards at the library anytime they wish, or bring their own, the boards are brought out especially for young people ages 12-19 every Monday from 2 to 4 p.m.
“We set it up, and kids passing by see it, stop and play, then they might wander off,” said Bryan Summers, library manager of teen services.
“Chess is a great activity. It's a good way to use strategy and use your mind.”
The library is located at 2951 S. 21st Drive. For more information, call the library at 782-1871.
Mara Knaub can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6856.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF PLAYING CHESS?
According to library.advanced.org:
• Chess is a game for people of all ages. You can learn to play at any age and unlike in many other sports, you don't ever have to retire. Age is also not a factor when you're looking for an opponent — young can play old and old can play young.
• Chess develops memory. The chess theory is complicated and many players memorize different opening variations. You will also learn to recognize various patterns and remember lengthy variations.
• Chess improves concentration. During the game you are focused on only one main goal: to checkmate and become the victor.
• Chess develops logical thinking. Chess requires some understanding of logical strategy. For example, you will know that it is important to keep your king safe at all times and not to blunder your pieces away for free.
• Chess promotes imagination and creativity. It encourages you to be inventive. There are an indefinite amount of combinations yet to be constructed.
• Chess teaches independence. You are forced to make important decisions influenced only by your own judgment.
• Chess shows that success rewards hard work. The more you practice, the better you'll become. You should be ready to lose and learn from your mistakes.
• Chess and mathematics. Chess involves an infinite number of calculations, anything from counting the number of attackers and defenders in the event of a simple exchange to calculating lengthy continuations.
• Chess and art. Your imagination will run wild with endless possibilities on the 64 squares. You will paint pictures in your mind of ideal positions and perfect outposts for your soldiers.
• Chess and psychology. Chess is a test of patience, nerves, willpower and concentration. It enhances your ability to interact with other people. It tests your sportsmanship in a competitive environment.
• Chess improves schoolwork and grades. Numerous studies have proven that kids obtain a higher reading level, math level and a greater learning ability overall as a result of playing chess.
• Chess is cheap. You don't need big fancy equipment to play chess. In fact, all you may need is your computer or a home set.
• Chess is fun. This isn't just another one of those board games. No chess game ever repeats itself, which means you create more and more new ideas each game. It never gets boring.