Extra-Curricular Activities: Chess

Despite my best efforts to insist that Aristotle continue with Monster Tennis and Art as part of his character development in persistence, he has taken a sabbatical. Okay, who am I kidding? I call it a sabbatical to give myself the illusion that all is not over but lets just face it, Aristole won this round again.

In some strange twisted way he has probaby demonstrated greater persistence through his refusal to conform. By ignoring instruction and making himself generally insufferable to all, his teachers were all but begging me to take him out. I’m sure that was a surrepticious look of relief I spied on their faces when they saw the back of him – and who could blame them? Even I, his own mother, felt like drop kicking him into the next neighbourhood out of frustration because he was the one who begged me to let him have Tennis and Art lessons. Now that they are no longer the flavour of the month, he wants to quit.

So I’ve decided that we are going to work on something new at home. I was inspired by Larry Sanger to revisit chess. I’ve written about the academic benefits of chess before and talked about teaching the game to Aristotle, but we have yet to make any real progress on it. Okay, so chess is a geeky game, but given Aristotle’s penchant for analytical thinking, this might be an activity that plays to his strengths. Larry uses Chess Master with his son which is a program I am familiar with. When I was a child, I played Chess Master 2000 on the Apple (yes it was called the Apple back then). Imagine that they are now up to Chess Master XI?

But I’m digressing… the interesting thing about Chess Master XI is that it was packaged with a chess tutorial from Josh Waitzkin’s book, “The Art of Learning – a Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence“. Not being a follower of chess, this was the first time I’d ever heard of Josh Waitzkin. Just briefly, he is an international chess master and Tai Chi Chuan Push Hands Champion – for more details, just click his name to read his bio. He not only developed excellence in chess, but he also excelled in Tai Chi Chuan. In his book, “The Art of Learning”, Waitzkin shares his biography and methodology for attaining excellence in anything you do in life. With a subject like that, how could I pass it up? I bought the Kobo version and have added it to my reading list so more about it in another post once I’ve read it.

So I was going to get Chess Master XI when I stumbled on “Dinosaur Chess“. Intended for children, Dinosaur Chess teaches children how to play chess. It is a much older program compared to Chess Master XI, but they now have the Dinosaur Chess for the iPhone and iPad.

Personally, I think Chessmaster XI is a more complete program, but as far as appeal goes, Dinosaur Chess has a unique feature that Chessmaster XI does not have – dinosaurs. If there is anything that will draw Aristotle, it’s going to be the dinosaur aspect. So it looks like we might start with Dinosaur Chess and progress to Chessmaster XI if we can get Aristotle hooked on the game.

Other articles on the benefits of chess:

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

6 thoughts on “Extra-Curricular Activities: Chess

  1. Hi Shenli,

    Have you bought any chess games so far ? May you share some feedback if you have done so, like you did to your piano program.

    I am thinking either to buy books for her to read herself or to buy a soft copy for her to learn from there.


    1. FZ – I originally bought Chessmaster XI but made the mistake of buying the PSP version! So now I cannot use it. I’m looking around but tempted to get the dinosaur chess app just because Aristotle is mad about dinosaurs. I’m still looking to get the Chessmaster XI version though but looking to see where I can find it. Another chess program is called Chess Fritz – it is supposed to be pretty good, too.


  2. Thanks. I am indecisive, whether to let her learn and practice from a chess guru and all friends in a class-room set up or to let her learn through computer apps.


    1. To be honest, FZ, if I would love for Aristotle to witness a chess club and learn from a chess guru but for two reasons. The first is because I don’t know of any chess clubs around here. The second is because my recent experiences with Aristotle and extra curricular activities has been rather negative so I think private tuition at home would be best for the time being for him. If he were open to it, I would definitely rather he learned from a chess guru in a class-room set up with augmentation at home from computer apps.


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