Growing chess in Guam: Federation chief wants sport in schools

Apr. 18, 2014 1:09 AM 

Geoffrey Borg, chief executive officer of FIDE, more commonly known as the World Chess Federation, is in Guam this week in an effort to grow the sport on the island.

Brog championed the benefits of playing chess — developing problem-solving skills, strategy, memory and other mental gains. He said he believes the best place to start is by getting chess into Guam’s public and private elementary schools.

“The main focus is to aim for elementary schools, because that’s where the primary benefit is,” Borg said. “We don’t aim to make grandmasters out of kids, we are trying to get better citizens.”

Borg met with Gov. Eddie Calvo, representatives from the Guam Department of Education, Guam Echecs, a private high school and other officials during a presentation at the Ricardo J. Bordallo Governor’s Complex yesterday.

“With the sport developing on Guam, it will lead to a healthier society, both mentally and physically,” Calvo said. “Because (chess) tests the mind and it exercises the mind, it’s something this island can expand. … It’s not whether you have physical gifts or not, it’s how you use your mind.”

Calvo said he played chess in high school before giving up the sport as he entered adulthood.

In echecs, the French and international word for chess, grandmaster is the highest title a chess player can attain.

Borg said introducing a child to chess between the ages of 7 and 12 is most beneficial because that’s when the brain still is developing connections and growing in its capacity for learning.

“It gives the children confidence in developing their own personalities,” Borg said. “I haven’t found one principal who hasn’t been happy with chess in schools.”

Borg has represented FIDE in numerous countries in an effort to grow the sport all over the world.

Growing in Guam

While the sport has been popular in other countries for a long time, chess has only recently started to grow on Guam.

Guam Echecs, also called the Guam Island Chess Club, was formed in 2010.

Leon Ryan, president of Guam Echecs, said his group is attempting to grow the sport with a grassroots effort.

“Right now, we’re doing the little things, but I think it will make a bigger impact later,” Ryan said. “We started late, but we’re also moving very fast. … Our ultimate goal really is to bring chess to schools. It has to be (there) to sustain (it) and the only way is for the Guam youth to be interested.”

School club started

One of those young players is Jed Caluag, a student at Father Duenas Memorial School who started the chess club there.

Caluag started playing when he was 5 years old and created the club recently to find more opponents.

“Chess helps me focus, plan and gain concentration,” Caluag said.

Caluag will be a part of the Guam Echecs team that travels to Tromso, Norway, in August for the 41st World Chess Olympiad.

Borg said FIDE, which is already recognized by the International Olympic Committee, also is working to become a sport at the Winter Olympics.

Seminars offered

While the process to grow any sport is time-consuming, FIDE has begun taking the first steps on Guam.

Borg will conduct seminars today and tomorrow at the University of Guam. He will discuss the benefits of chess and include information from various studies about its import.

The seminar also will include training for chess coaches to become recognized by FIDE and make the sport in Guam more prestigious in the eyes of international players and organizations.

There are different levels of certification, but Borg said he hopes to have at least two teachers in every elementary school on Guam certified by FIDE standards.

Because chess still is growing on Guam, concerns at yesterday’s presentation included a lack of funding, interest and respect for the sport. Borg said that perception is common, but not universal.

In time, Guam residents may grow to respect chess as they do any of the more popular sports.

“A lot of people don’t think of chess as a sport, but chess is actually as competitive and as demanding of all other sports,” Borg said. “In the Philippines, chess is a priority sport. They have 10 priority sports and chess is one of them.

“In Russia, chess is a religion.”


Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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