Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

July 15, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

Chess Camp


  • Visit the 2009 Summer Chess Academy in Tempe where all the kids are winners.
Guests:
  • Dr. Norm Saba - Banner Children's Hospital
Category: Education

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
For the last two weeks, the summer chess academy in Tempe has been teaching kids all the right moves. David Majure has more.

David Majure:
It's an age-old competition.

Kid 1:
I'd say chess is sort of like an art of war or something like that. I'm sure if it had more violence, more people would be playing it.

David Majure:
While not exactly a contact sport, chess keeps winning over new generations of fans.

Kid 2:
I just like playing chess.

David Majure:
Even in this whiz-bang world of high technology, where kids can choose video games or chess.

Kid 3 “Dylan”:
Video games or chess? I like them both a lot.

Teacher 1:
We have iPods, we have D.V.D.s, video games, and the nice thing about chess is, it helps kids to slow down and think.

Kid 4:
Actually lately I've been having random times where chess moves go in my head.

Kid 2:
Every time I play a game, I always get so excited to play another and learn more things.

Kid 3 “Dylan”:
I'm pretty sure I'll never get to grandmaster or anything like that, but I can at least try, and maybe I will.

David Majure:
Maybe they all will. The nearly 100 kids who show up each morning and spend all day at the summer chess academy in Tempe.

Teacher 2:
Well, I'll tell you what. Dylan's very active in soccer, and he's been very active in chess. Since he's been probably about 6. So it's a good combination between using your brain and the physical activity.

Kid 4:
I feel like I'm going to get better, and I might be able to beat my dad finally.

Kid 2:
I've been here three years, and, yeah, I've gotten better each year.

David Majure:
That's why Dwayne Schmidt enrolled his 8-year-old in the two-week academy.

Dwayne Schmidt:
To learn more chess, obviously, to excel at what he's learning, and the ability to interact with grandmas terse, international masters, including the American champion, is kind of a really exciting event for these guys.

Teacher 3:
What do you do here?

David Majure:
The kids learn from some of the nation's top talent. Like the 2008 U.S. champion grand master Uri Shulman, Grandmaster Gregory Kidenoff, and International Master Ben Fiengold.

Ben Fiengold:
More likely you live it in check.

Teacher 1:
Most of the great players started young, like a lot of the kids at this camp.

Kid 4:
I like chess, but I also like PE too.

David Majure:
Not a problem. Several times a day, kids leave their chess boards behind, and they take part in physical activities led by a certified P.E. teacher. In fact, the camp's administrative staff are all certified educators. They make sure it runs smoothly, and the kids get everything they need.

Kid 2:
I go to gym, I play, and we get drinks. We go to the bathroom.

David Majure:
Even the most basic needs are covered, all for $420 a child. But thanks to corporate sponsors and individual donations, half the kids attend for free, or at a reduced rate.

Allen Anderson:
This is Friday, day five of the summer chess academy.

David Majure:
Making the nonprofit chess academy accessible to everyone is a goal for its organizer, Allen Anderson.

Allen Anderson:
The idea is that a child whose parents might object food stamps can go to a national caliber chess camp for two weeks, get exercise, have a great time and they develop a lifelong hobby and they also develop their critical thinking skills. It's a great investment in the next generation of children.

Teacher 1:
We want the kids to have fun. My goal personally, after the camp the kids want to play in more competition and go to more camps and get better at the game.

David Majure:
The kids say they are get can better, and they're learning a lot.

Kid 2:
There's a couple defenses that I never even heard of. And now I can easily do them.

Kid 5:
I've learned a few tricks, a silent game and what was the other thing called? I learned quite a bit so far. I just can't remember the name.

David Majure:
The names aren't nearly as important as the knowledge. And no matter how much you think you know, you'll never know it all.

Teacher 1:
You never get too good. You just keep playing. There's so many possible games of chess, you could play a different chess game every one second of your life and you'd never play the same game twice.

Kid 3 “Dylan”:
It can change in one move. The game could turn around in one move.

David Majure:
And that is a lot like life.

Allen Anderson:
In life, it's very important to think through before you actually act and understand that once you do act, there are going to be consequences. I hope for that, chess will be a training exercise for real life.

David Majure:
So back to real life. Which one will it be? Video games or chess?

Kid 2:
I'd have to say both.

Kid 4:
Chess.

Kid 6:
I'd like to play a chess video game.

Kid 7:
Video game.

Ted Simons:
Friday is the final day of the chess camp. I recently spoke with a pediatrician about the positive effects of chess on kids. Dr. Norm Saba chairs the department of pediatrics for banner children's hospital. He's given his support and endorsement to the summer chess academy. Thanks for joining us tonight on "Horizon."

Norm Saba:
Thank you.

Ted Simons:
The positive impact of chess on kids, talk to us about it.

Norm Saba:
Thank you for inviting me. It's a great opportunity to showcase our summer chess academy, which is in its third year. I've been involved as a pediatrician, one of my goals is to get children to focus, concentrate, sit still, think, and not being constant motion all the time. In this day and age of video games and things, it's hard to get kids to try to just use their own thought processes and calculate. There are a lot of studies that show chess is an actual positive in the classroom. Many countries have chess as a course. It's part of the curriculum. And they are -- there are studies that have shown that kids who apply themselves, learn chess, and learn the benefits of chess foe discussing, concentration, logical thinking, that the logical consequences, if you make a bad move, this is what happens. Now you learn and you pick it up and try again next time. Those things apply to all aspects of learning. Math, science, reading. And scores of kids who do learn how to play chess actually are much higher when they do testing.

Ted Simons:
And even things like creativity, imagination, intuition, those sorts of things, they're at play as well.

Norm Saba:
Yes. And they can take a game of chess and they can create a work of art in the way they move the pieces, and make a beautiful combination. And it gives a lot of pleasure, and it's a thrill to see that interaction. It's geometric, it's mathematical. It appeals to a lot of people. But the main focus to get kids to sit for a while and think, they're not moving anything, pieces are not moving around, it's not a constant motion type game. All the motion is going on inside their brain. And they're thinking about processes, and having to remember. It's an excellent memory tool. Because you have to remember what positions you just analyzed, and now what's going to happen next. So it does have a lot of spin-offs. And we usually like to see kids start anywhere from ages 6, 7, 8, through middle school, and it can make -- if they get start and they're learning chess, it can make an impact in their studies, and their ability to focus.

Ted Simons:
Compare and contrast the skills needed for chess. And what goes on with video games. I'm sure the fight with the younger mind and the video game, the dynamic there.

Norm Saba:
Video games are fun, obviously. My kids grew up playing video games, and they enjoy them. I have tried them, rhyme just not as good. They're just too quick these days. But the problem that I see with that is a lot of that motion is constant. When the video game is over, they're still in that constant mode. Whereas in a board game, whether it's building a puzzle, or checkers, or something like chess there's not that constant motion going on. There are versions of chess where if you need that constant motion you can put a clock on the game and you, set each person's clock for one minute. And then you'll see a very high speed version of chess. Which appeals to a lot of people as well.

Ted Simons:
But if you play against the computer as well, which I'm sure a lot of kids do, you lose some of that social aspect which seems like it might be, you have to show consideration, have you to be quiet, you have to meet someone you may not be familiar with. That's all there too.

Norm Saba:
And that's an excellent point. One of my favorite stories about chess and a positive benefit it can give to children and society is there was a school in New York in Harlem, and the teacher there basically felt his role was more of a police officer, keeping his classroom from the kids beating each other up all day. He actually was pretty much frustrated and one day came to work, he loved chess, so he sat at his desk playing chess. And the kids commented, what's going on? He's playing a game. So they came up and they wanted to know what it was. At first he figured, yeah, right. You can't read and you can't do anything, you're going to learn chess? They actually became very interested in the game. He described it as a war game, which caught their interest, a Battle Ground, which they enjoyed. And they focused, and they actually wanted to learn how to read so they could learn how to read the chess books, which would make them better. These kids went on to learn how to play chess, and actually competed as a team. They were called the royal knights. It's an excellent story, and it's all true. They went on to compete, win tournaments, and some of those kids not only graduated high school, but went on to college. To this day they would tell you that's the number one biggest benefit in their life was their teacher introducing them to chess, and the changes it made in their life. They traveled to Russia, they traveled around playing other people, and the other aspect like you mentioned, they became gentlemen of the chess board. They learned how when the game is over, you shake your opponent's hands, say "great game" and go on and look forward to the next game. It's a game. You have to put it in perspective. The other thing we try to guard against is people get doing serious about anything. You don't want them to be all consuming so all you do is sit in front of the chess board. You have to have children be well-rounded. As the aspect of having them create positive thought processes and learn how to think creatively and logically and apply themselves is where you get the benefits.

Ted Simons:
The academy looks like a hoot. And it obviously is doing a lot of kids a lot of good. Thank you so much for what you're doing and thanks for joining us on "Horizon."

Norm Saba:
Thank you for having me.

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