Meriden resident Bob Yurick started playing chess when he was 9 years old. Now a retired Platt High School biology teacher, he still plays the game whenever he can.
“It’s a fun, intellectual exercise that lets you forget everything else around you,” he said at a chess club meeting at the Meriden Public Library.
Although some people consider chess nerdy, the popularity of the 2,000-year-old game may be on the rise, local players said.
“I think there’s a steady growth rate nationally, because I also see more people at competitions,” said David Aldi, a chess instructor.
Aldi, of Southington, has made a living out of his passion, tutoring children through his business, Chess with Kids.
The chess instructor said he’s already received numerous requests this year from schools and parents in Fairfield, Greenwich, Norwalk and Stamford to help instruct students.
Jim Celone, president of the Connecticut State Chess Association and a professor at the University of New Haven, agrees that the game’s popularity is up.
In the 1970s, after American Bobby Fischer beat the Soviet Union’s Boris Spassky for the world championship in Iceland, children gained interest in the game; however, in the 1980s, interest began to wane, according to Celone.
Now, with studies confirming that chess benefits people intellectually, its popularity has risen.
“It definitely increases cognitive skills and students’ aptitude,” Celone said. “More schools are recognizing that the game is educationally advantageous.” And, on the Internet, “kids can play chess whenever they want. They don’t need to find a partner.”
In 2001 Celone, who was working toward his master’s degree in statistics at the time, wrote his thesis on the effects a chess program has on students.
In the study, students were administered a nonverbal intelligence test before they began playing chess and again after 20 hours of playing the game.
Celone said that, in comparing the two tests, he found a significant increase in their nonverbal intelligence level.
“I honestly didn’t think we’d find anything,” he said.
Celone, who has been an avid chess player since he was 8, said that along with developing critical thinking skills, chess also teaches younger players a host of social skills.
“It teaches them how to lose gracefully, sportsmanship and how to interact with other human beings,” he said.
Because of the impact chess has on people, Yurick started a chess club at Platt that’s been in operation ever since.
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