Black versus white, a knight against the queen, and an immobile king shielded by pawns — the Age of Chess has come to Vanderhoof.
Though open to all ages, Vanderhoof’s new chess club looks to provide a brain-stimulating activity for kids in town, said its founder Dr. Jeff Obayashi, who had originally created the club with his two kids below the age of four in mind.
“There’s some community activities for child development, but not a ton,” Obayashi said. “So I was looking to see what I could create for Vanderhoof.”
When the club started in April this year, Obayashi had expected minimal interest, but the number of regular participants has grown to over a dozen within the last few months — with an average age of 10 to 12.
Through chess, he hopes to teach kids problem-solving skills in today’s rapidly-changing society.
“I find today children are in such a rapid society that everything is action reaction, so they only develop short term plans,” he said. “I’m hoping chess will slow them down in a way. Instead of just reacting, they can think the short-term immediate reaction is this, the better long-term action is that.”
With an emphasis on sportsmanship, as well as short versus long term planning, Obayashi hopes to teach principles that the chess players can apply to school and life.
“They have to approach life and chess as an opening game, middle game, end game,” he said. “So they develop a way of breaking a game down to its parts and understanding it better.”
Obayashi added that chess will touch on mathematical elements as well, in calculating risk versus benefit.
“A lot of the best chess players in history are scientists and mathematicians,” he said.
Coming across success stories of small startup chess clubs in American inner cities during his research on brain-stimulating activities for kids, Obayashi said that chess breaks barriers as it levels the playing field across social-economical status.
“Most people that played chess in the Medieval Ages had to have the luxury of time, so it would be upper echelons of society,” he said.
And for himself?
“The more important story is yet to be told,” Obayashi said, as he had only become more interested in the game three years ago. “For me to prevent dementia, keep my brain exercised, to work on calculation strategy.”
Hosted on Monday evenings at the NVSS library with Jeremy Hara as teacher sponsor, the club’s president is selected among interested participants through a game of chess.
For the current president Theo Clarke, 10, who had just started playing and had defeated vice-president by “luck”, it’s a hard game.
“It’s thinking about what you’re going to move next, and what would be the best move,” Clarke said. “You really need to think.”