Thinking of getting into chess? Here’s what you need to know

Photo: Singapore Sports Hub
Photo: Singapore Sports Hub

Chess has been enjoying a spirited revival as of late. Following the worldwide success of the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit, young and old have been trying their hand at this ancient duel of minds.

Ask any fan of the show and they’ll tell you about protagonist Beth’s thrilling matches with janitor Mr Shaibel, her triumph over her school’s entire chess team, her speed chess games against Benny Watts and many other compelling scenes that reeled viewers in and draw their attention to the intricate beauty of chess.

A brief history of chess

The earliest records of chess can be traced back to 7th century India. Some claim that chess was invented in China, while others believe that chess first came about in Persia even before its rise in India. After growing fond of chess, the Arabs spread this strategy game across the Middle East and Africa, and the Moorish people brought chess to Europe around the 15th century. The name “chess” is likely to have derived from the Persian exclamation for “checkmate”, shah mat, which directly translates to “the king is dead”.

The first World Chess Championship was held in 1886 and sparked global interest in chess theory. After a hundred years of development of chess theory, supercomputer Deep Blue defeated chess world champion Garry Kasparov in 1988. Today, computer analysis of chess, at a level that far surpasses Deep Blue’s intellect, is accessible to the public.

Let’s get started

Every chess game is unique. In fact, chess has 1 x 10120 possible unique outcomes. Furthermore, people around the world love chess because it proffers an array of benefits. Besides encouraging creativity, honing foresight and nurturing planning skills, chess helps its players develop focus and different perspectives.

Newbies to this game of antiquity might have difficulty remembering moves while developing new strategies, which is an intellectual challenge proven to thwart dementia. In fact, scientists have observed that chess stimulates both the left and the right hemispheres of the brain, as players exercise their creativity, try to read their opponents, and promptly come up with solutions to new problems. In many documented medical cases, chess has even bolstered the recovery of patients who had suffered a stroke or other mental impairments.

Most importantly, this gregarious game brings people together. You can learn more about the finer points of chess and play chess on websites like Chess.com, Lichess, Chessable and ICC. You can also join online and physical chess meetups posted on the Facebook groups of societies like the Bishan Chess Club and Singapore Social Chess Meetup, and share your chess-related content and discussions there.

Variations of the international game are still played around the world today — xiangqi in China, shogi in Japan, shatranj in the Middle East, shatar in Mongolia, makruk in Thailand, the list goes on.

At the Singapore Sports Hub, chess is enjoyed at a larger-than-life scale. Come and have a go at it if you haven’t tried! Trying to keep track of all chess pieces across this humongous board is a fun challenge and you might work up a sweat moving these foot-tall figures.

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