It’s your move.
Created in India back in the 16th century, chess, it goes without saying, is an enormously complicated game. This chess world saying sums up the conundrum: Chess is such a complex game that you can play for years and never master it – but it’s not the game’s fault that life is so short!
"Chess has been around so long it’s like a puzzle that’s never been solved. That’s what keeps people coming back to it," says Glenn Bady, national chess master and co-organizer of a full day of free chess activities, including a workshop for parents focusing on the benefits of chess for children, at the Princeton Public Library on Saturday, July 9.
Sponsored by the library and Corner House, a counseling service on Witherspoon Street, Chess Day will feature chess activities for all ages, including an introductory lesson for beginners; a workshop to illustrate tips and tactics, based on the famous game played between Albert Einstein and Robet Oppenheimer in Princeton in 1933; simultaneous chess events for experienced players; and pick-up chess matches for all levels.
In his parents workshop, Bady, owner of Challenging Heads Chess in Glenside, Pennsylvania, will discuss the benefits of chess on the holistic development of children. Bady will be joined by Russell F. Floyd, a clinician and school counselor at Corner House and a chess aficionado who is passionate about the game, to illustrate how chess relates to math and logic and can improve a child’s confidence and problem-solving abilities.
Floyd believes that chess teaches kids social skills that they can transfer to other parts of the lives. "In all my years of doing counseling, and I started back in 1975, I have had a low percent of chess players in therapy. I even use it as a therapeutic tool, to help make children think, to make logical decisions, and to teach them how to problem-solve.
"I believe that kids should be exposed to as much as possible," says Floyd. "One thing I tell parents is just have a chess set out in the house somewhere. Kids may start out just moving the pieces around. Schools are beginning to sneak it into the curriculum. Kids come up to me in book stores when I’m presenting and ask, ‘Can I play you?’ Mothers look surprised when this happens because they didn’t know their child even knew the game. But they learn it in school, and they learn it from their friends."
Floyd and his wife, Denise, live in Princeton and have two sons at home, as well as a grown daughter. Floyd grew up in Philadelphia and earned a bachelors in history from LeMoyne-Owen College, in Memphis, Tennessee in 1972, a masters in counseling from Antioch University, and doctorate in education in commerce from Texas A&M.
His father, David, worked in the Philadelphia Navy Yard on the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk. His mother, Laura, was a homemaker who was active in community service. She coordinated the recruiting and management of 40 area volunteers annually for the March of Dimes, back when people actually went out and "marched for dimes." As he gets older, Floyd says he sees a connection between his father and him that wasn’t apparent in earlier years. "He was a checker player. He was the best in the neighborhood. Checkers is an extremely tactical game, it takes a very agile mind to play checkers. I see now that that’s where I got my chess abilities. My father was a natural chess player."
Floyd started playing chess at the age of eight. He played a little in college but there was no formal team on campus. In the 1980s and ’90s he says he found it hard to find people to play with and only played a game here and there. But when his son, Alex, was five years old he asked Floyd to teach him the game. "Like an addict in relapse, I woke up to my need for chess," Floyd says. In 2000 he joined the U.S. Chess Federation and started playing in formal tournaments.
Bady says kids can start chess as early as age four or five. "I like to get kids around kindergarten-age," says Bady. "Most are ready by then and have an attention span of around 10 minutes. We can do a lot with 10 minutes because they catch on quickly. They can learn how the pieces move in one sitting. At that age, they don’t have bad habits yet from being taught chess incorrectly by someone who doesn’t know the legal, or right way to play. It’s hard to break bad habits once they’re learned."
Bady, who has taught private lessons at his chess school for the past six years, also teaches chess in public and charter schools. A West Philadelphia native, he lives there still and has a 20-year-old son and an 18-year-old daughter. According to Bady, he learned chess very late – at 13. "I was taught by friends on the block. The first couple of games I played, I was beating everybody. In seventh grade chess club I was beating the teacher. I didn’t have any formal training at that point. I was in love with it – it made sense to me. I related to those objects. Those chess pieces were involved in psychological warfare, and I was involved in it, too. Plus, the hours I spent playing chess kept me out of trouble."
But Bady was not a passive I-only-play-chess kind of kid. He also played basketball, wallball, and slap boxing on his neighborhood block. Chess, however, took over in high school. "I knew how the pieces moved but I didn’t have the terminology. I didn’t know there were combinations of moves. I just felt a spark when I put two things together. I didn’t even know about chess books." He was a quick learner and started playing tournaments and, eventually, won state and national titles in high school.
Bady’s father worked for the U.S. Government, and at times, performed mintenance and security work to put food on the table. His mother was a homemaker who raised nine children. After graduating from West Philadelphia High School, Floyd went to Penn State for two years. "Penn State had a chess club, but I was the best one there, and I didn’t have the money to travel to tournaments. Chess was calling me. When I got invited to play for the Air Force chess team, I joined up. I traveled all over the world for nine-and-a-half years and made money doing it. When I got out, I worked for my brother’s construction company, until I started my own. But chess called to me again, so I started teaching classes.
"I am fortunate. You don’t make a lot of money doing this, but I’d rather do this than construction, and I loved construction. It’s a family thing, my father came from a family of builders; it’s in my blood. It just couldn’t compare to chess." Now, Bady teaches and plays in chess tournaments full-time. He is a Lifetime National Master, a title he received in 1987. He studies chess eight hours a day.
During the summer, he teaches chess to 700 campers at Spring Farm Day Camp in Ambler, Pennsylvania, a camp that has been in existence for 60 years. Says Bady: "Chess is one of the most sought after activities at the camp. It does something magical to children. They understand the pieces: the horse, the queen. The Harry Potter movie also turned kids on to chess. Children like to think."
In the intermediate players session, Bady will illustrate tips and tactics, using as a model the famous game played between Einstein and Oppenheimer in Princeton in 1933. "Einstein was very intuitive," Bady says. "In that game with Oppenheimer, he played an opening move that was found in a book hundreds of years before he was around. You wouldn’t know those moves unless you studied the game. He knew the rules but more important he knew theory. They both knew theory. I don’t know that much about Einstein, so I found this interesting. And – it was a good match, too."
According to Floyd, chess has the power to break down social barriers. "It doesn’t matter if you are tall, short, white, black, poor, or rich. Chess players, as a collective, get around. People from every country in the world play chess. You can thoroughly thrash someone in a match, and then say, ‘Let’s go over the game together.’ Chess players shake hands before and after the match.
"Chess breaks down stereotypes," Floyd continues. "It’s just the spirit of the game – players help each other. Chess is a universal event." Sometimes, Floyd says, he wishes he had a camera at some of the tournaments. "There was a man, no younger than 80, who was playing a kid that was no older than six. The kid could barely keep from sliding off the chair. It would have been the picture of the year. Both were highly ranked players. Playing chess keeps your mind active."
Chess at the Library, Saturday, July 9, 9:30 a.m., Princeton Public Library, 65 Witherspoon Street. Day of chess for all ages. 609-924-9529.
9:30 to 10:45 a.m. Lecture for parents on the benefits of chess addressing the benefits of chess on the holistic development of the child. Community Room.
11 a.m. to noon. Intermediate Players’ Session: Tips and Tactics features strategies from the famous game played between Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer in Princeton, 1933. Community Room.
11 a.m. to noon. Beginner’s Chess Lesson offers an introduction to chess to beginners with little or no experience. Second floor conference room. Register.
2 p.m. Simultaneous chess event with Glenn Bady for experienced players. Maximum 20 opponents; must be experienced. Also, simultaneous chess event with Russell Floyd for experienced players. Maximum five opponents. Community Room. Registration is required in advance for both events by calling 609-924-9529, ext. 240. Library cardholders will be given registration priority; others will be wait-listed.
2 to 5 p.m. Chess boards provided throughout the afternoon for people to share pick-up matches.