Yes, your first-time-chess-club-going-beginner-level kindergartner will be ready for tournaments much sooner than you think. Not only do these little tykes play in tournaments, they win! So why should you bother going to chess tournaments anyway?
To experience failure.
Of course, that doesn’t sound very encouraging and only a handful of kids at each tournament win a trophy. But hear me out…
Our observations, compiled data, and experiences show that even the kids who have a “bad” day usually want to go back and play chess again. We’ve seen kids who get put on academic probation and have chess taken away only to see those kids raise their grade because they want to play chess again.
We even looked at a large sample size of students from across 75+ schools and determined that the more tournaments a player goes to, and especially if that player travels to tournaments that are further away, the more likely they are to make it onto the 4-player team at the State Team Championship at the end of the year.
In Phoenix, Arizona during the 2015 US Open, then US Chess president Ruth Herring gave a presentation that stated “Winning = Fun” in chess. She did a year long study analyzing why kids leave chess, among other things, and determined that winning plays huge part in why kids stick around. Therefore, if you want your kids to benefit in chess, they must learn to lose before they can learn to win.
But it all starts with going to your first chess tournament.
Understand that failing doesn’t need to be a horrible endeavor and chess is a safe way to teach this lesson. It teaches us how to lose, figure out what we did wrong, and come back more prepared next time. As parents, you have an opportunity to take this failure and improve your child’s outlook on life.
Of course, if they stick with it and keep trying, eventually they will see the value of their effort. Chess is a vehicle through which anyone can learn to be humble, understand their strengths, and work of their weaknesses. One of the best feelings can be wondering what to do with all the trophies you’ve accumulated over time.
Still not convinced?
There are some valuable life skills that are taught at chess tournaments beyond how to handle failure. Self-reliance and team work are other skills chess can teach even the youngest if people. Did you know that in a chess tournament, we don’t have umpires or referees? We have what is called a tournament director (TD). But unlike a sports official, the TD will not intervene in the game when something goes wrong. Instead, if something is wrong, it is up to the player to raise their hand, make a claim to the TD, and the TD will then evaluate or work through the claim with that player. This concept of self-reliance is very key to a child’s success at a tournament and it is a lesson that every kid learns within their first three or four tournaments.
There is also the idea of team work. A lot of people don’t realize it but, at the scholastic level, chess is every bit an individual mind-sport as it is a team sport. For most people, they attend tournaments alongside other players from their school. Those players then form a team and play against the other teams. Therefore, the good decisions your child makes at the chess board translate into helping the team towards their goal: a big beautiful trophy that will be shown off at their school.