One of the most classical forms of problem solving in puzzle gaming is Chess.
Chess is competitive problem solving: both you and your opponent have the same goal in mind - place the opponent’s King in check - and you have the same resources to do so. It's an exercise of infinite possibilities of the mind, one which develops mental abilities used throughout life: concentration, critical thinking, abstract reasoning, problem solving, pattern recognition, strategic planning, creativity, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, to name a few. (Edutech)
Tania Sachdev, the Indian chess master and woman grandmaster, played her first match at 7 and won her first international title when she was just 8. In 2007, she won the Asian Women's Championship in Iran. We caught up with Sachdev, to learn more about how chess challenges her mind skills.
What happens in your mind when you play chess?
In chess, the action is internal. It’s all about the mind, psychology and nerves. A classical game of chess can last up to 6 hours; stamina is key for the mind to stay focused and work well after the first 2 hours. One slip and its often “game over“. One big challenge during a game is to keep all thoughts and distractions out of your mind. When you come to the board and start a game, the world melts away! Its like hitting a disconnect button. Sometimes it’s harder to concentrate and then you have to make that extra effort to keep the focus. While playing, the mind often wants to wander and you have to control that.
How is your mind challenged when you play chess?
Chess is not about physical strength but about calculating better and faster, tricky ideas and moves, having control over nerves when the clock ticks down to seconds.
It‘s completely calm and silent on the outside but internally it‘s the absolute opposite!
- “It’s like a circus in the mind.” –
One has to plan and strategize, calculate the moves ahead, solve problems, fight and try to save the worse positions, it's almost like a brain battle. The mind is constantly being challenged to come up with new resources.
What are the fundamental skills every chess player needs?
For being good at chess, you need to develop different skills and the only way to achieve this is through practice and experience. Memory is a big aspect of modern chess. The key is to remember the opening preparations, recall past games, ideas and patterns while playing. Creativity and Logic are crucial. One has to come up with tricky creative ideas to outplay the opponent but chess also demands to be pragmatic and practical. It's important not to get carried away in trying to find and calculate long beautiful variations, as that’s when we mostly miss the simple ideas and refutations. Think logically and you can often find good moves. A strong visual sense is important as well.
- “A strong player quickly sees the ideas and patterns on the board.”-
What skills does chess teach you for your every day life?
Chess is a great exercise of the mind. It develops many skills that are useful for life in general. It improves one‘s ability to make decisions and conclude logically, as well as concentration and memory. Sports in general make you a fighter, chess teaches resourcefulness.
How can you improve the skills you need for playing chess ?
Training and working constantly on the game is the only way to improve one's playing skills. Tournament experience, analysing where one is going wrong, studying the games of top players and working on your calculation skills makes one better at the game. Besides pure chess training it’s also crucial to be in good physical shape. For the mind to work at its best for so many hours during a game, the body has to be fit. Stamina plays a big role as most mistakes happen during the later stages of the game. Exercise should be part of your game training, yoga works for me personally.
What could schools do to help push mind skills development from a young age?
School and university years are key in developing our thought processes, outlook and general personality. It would be amazing if our minds could be challenged and exercised from a young age. This is impossible with just pure textbook education. The education system is realizing this and slowly evolving. Games, such as Chess, are a great tool to exercise the mind. Even if not taken professionally, it develops many different skills. Schools around the world are making chess part of the curriculum.
About TANIA SACHDEV
Tania is an Indian chess player, who holds the titles of International Master and Woman's Grandmaster. Tania was introduced to the game by her mother Anju at the age of six. She won her first international title two years after.