A game of strategy and skill, chess is played the world over by young and old alike. Fans in the US have a chance to celebrate their love for the pastime on American Chess Day, held on September 1. To play, two opponents face off across a checkers-style board, and take turns using their pieces of kings, queens, rooks, knights, bishops, and pawns to move along the 64-square board. Game times vary — great players can knock out their opponents very quickly or can spend hours strategizing their every move. To win, a player must use his pieces to capture those of the other player, with the ultimate goal of taking over the other player’s king. Checkmate! Often called “The Game of Kings,” you can play chess the good old-fashioned way with another player in person, or on the computer with opponents from all over the world.
Why We Love American Chess Day
A. It’s an excuse to show off our skills
Chess is not just your average board game. Anyone can play checkers. Chutes and Ladders? No problem. But chess is on a whole other level. You must simultaneously think about your immediate next step, and all the steps after that. You also have to anticipate your opponent’s next steps. It’s an incredible game of strategy and mental prowess.
B. Because President Gerald Ford said so
After many years of lobbying, the United States Chess Federation gained the attention of President Ford, who officially recognized the game as one that that “generates challenge, intellectual stimulation, and enjoyment for citizens of all ages.” And President Ford wasn’t the only famous chess supporter: Woody Allen, Madonna, former Vice President Al Gore, and Queen Elizabeth II of England are all said to be fans of the game.
C. Chess helps the brain
A Venezuelan study found an increase in IQ scores of its participants after four months of learning and playing chess. Another study found that games that require participants to use their brains, especially players older in age, help those participants to be less likely to develop dementia. It also enhances problem-solving skills, as players have to maneuver and manage the game and their opponent.
How to Celebrate American Chess Day
1. Host your own chess tournament
Have a bunch of friends who like chess as much as you do? Gather them all up and then pair everyone off for games. Set up a tournament bracket, and advance the winners through to the championship game. Make it official with chess clocks, and give the winner a trophy!
2. Visit the “Chess District” in New York City
Immerse yourself in an entire neighborhood that treats every day like American Chess Day. Play a game on one of the famed outdoor tables in Washington Square Park. Check out the Village Chess Shop, where you can buy chess sets from all over the world. Or, take a walk to the Marshall Chess Club, one of the oldest chess clubs in the United States (established in 1915), and a frequent site of the US Chess Championship.
3. Teach a new player
Every game or sport needs the next generation of enthusiasts. Use the day as an opportunity to share the game with someone who has never played. First, start by getting the new player acclimated to the board and all its pieces. Teach them how each piece ranks and how each piece can move across the board. After you go through all the rules, play practice games to get the player used to different moves and strategies. With each turn, go through each of their potential options, and discuss the outcomes of each. They’ll start to understand all the creativity and consideration that goes into each game, and will be in love!
American Chess Day - Key Moments
Alan Turing writes the first chess computer program
Birth of the Modern Game
Rules for the game as we play it today are developed
Early Muslim chess masters, as-Suli and al-Lajlaj write about the technique of chess
The first recorded reference to chess shows up in a Persian manuscript