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By Alexander Gustafsson

One of the most frequently asked questions I get from students and parents is: “Why do we have chess class at Waterford?” Although much can be said to answer the question, I focus on how learning and playing this game can fulfill Waterford’s vision for its students, and how chess is very much part of a liberal arts education. When I have the opportunity and privilege to teach chess to students, I keep a poster of Waterford’s vision, mission and core values on my white board, and often refer to it, not only for application in chess, but also in life.

Waterford’s vision is to inspire individuals to pursue a life of meaning and purpose. Purpose just happens to be the school theme of this year, and when I think of this word, one synonym that comes to mind is intention. We have a rule in chess called the “touch move rule,” and it simply means that if you intentionally or deliberately touch or grab one of your own pieces, you are obligated to move it. Students are therefore taught and encouraged to think about their actions and decisions before touching or making moves. Is this not the direct application of intention? The pattern of knowing and understanding your goals, plans, desires, and how to implement and accomplish them? Don’t we want students to use this pattern in their own lives: in their continued education, future careers, relationships and personal beliefs? Yes, we want them to use this pattern, and students quickly discover that if they do not think, plan, make goals or have an understanding of values and principles, they will quickly be defeated. Thus, we can see that learning this pattern in chess can be used in their own lives, which is perfectly aligned with Waterford’s vision.

But what about chess as part of the liberal arts? Chess easily fits into the liberal arts. One could simply meander through the Humanities Building at Waterford and see the studies of the humanities being taught: language, writing, history, culture, geography, and philosophy. All these subjects can be found in the study of chess. I am often asked questions such as, “Who invented chess and where did it come from? Who is the greatest female chess player of all time? Where was she born, and how did she get so good? Why are there so many foreign words in chess? Is there a best way to play chess? Should I play the strongest and most accurate moves according to a computer, or should I play the player and learn their weaknesses and tendencies?” These excellent questions and this short article only scratch the surface of the depth and breadth of this fantastic game. I am grateful to be part of this community, to have the privilege of sharing this game with Waterford students, to fulfill Waterford’s vision and to help provide a world-class liberal arts education.

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