Young chess players compete at Seaport Museum

    More than 200 children from 23 Philadelphia schools compete in a chess tournament at the Independence Seaport Museum.

    The game of chess teaches children important skills, says Ben Cooper, director of chess programs for the non-profit After School Activities Partnerships (ASAP). While they’re playing, children learn critical thinking, geospatial skills, and the ability to consider multiple options before making a decision.

    In fact, said Cooper, a study has shown that chess-playing children improve in reading and math on PSSA tests, when compared with their non-playing peers.

    Nevertheless, of the 200 children assembled at Independence Seaport Museum for a tournament organized by the ASAP, a significant percentage said they played chess because it was fun.

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    “I enjoy it a lot,” said fifth grader Robyn Bruce, as she waited for her opponent to realize he was mated. Her father taught her to play chess about a year and a half ago and she is now a member of two teams, the Paul Robeson Chess Club and her Blankenburg School team. She recently competed in a national competition in Texas, she said.

    The Seaport Museum event is informal, their are no trophies, no medals, and wins and losses are not tracked. It is an opportunity for chess clubs to face off against players from other schools, a sort of introduction to tournament chess, said Cooper.

    The children, ranging in age from pre-school through high school, wear color coded tags: green for novice; blue for intermediate, and yellow for advanced. The goal is to find a player from another school wearing the same color tag, play a game and move on to the next. Play continues for 90 minutes, during which most children will get in four or five games.

    There are no tears or celebrations. Every game begins and ends with a handshake.


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