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Board lessons

Junior chess players say game provides applicable concepts for their everyday life

If they’re called upon to talk about what they did on their summer vacation, now that they have returned to the classroom, four Bahamian teenagers can attest to having had amazing experiences, and of the valuable lessons learned from the board that they can apply to their everyday life, after an amazing trip to India.

Noah Albury, Daijah Johnson, Chika Pride and Jayla Cargill represented The Bahamas at the 44th Chess Olympiad in Chennai, India.

For Noah, a lesson and concept that he has learned from the board and chess that applies to everyday life is to use his time wisely.

“In chess, you cannot spend all of your time in one portion of the game. If you don’t manage your time well, you may lose the game. This is also true in life where managing your time wisely helps you to stay more organized and be more productive,” said the 16-year-old St. Augustine’s College 12th-grade student. “In chess, you also need to think before you move. In life, you need to think and evaluate your decisions before you make them.”

Daijah Johnson, 19, a junior at University of The Bahamas, who is pursuing a dual degree in mathematics and secondary mathematics education, said intense pressure and a busy schedule are nothing new to her as a full-time university student, a private mathematics tutor, and part-time mathematics teacher; that she readily accepted and adjusted to what was required of her while in India.

The benefit of playing chess for 11-year-old Chika Pride, and the concepts from the game that apply to her studies and life, she said, is that playing chess helped her learn to focus and think before moving.

“Decisions determine how much we win in life and chess is teaching me how to make the best decisions. Before moving a piece, I consider all the moves I could make and how my opponent will react. I always choose the move that I believe will help me win. I am learning that when I focus on my decisions in life and think carefully before I act, I get the best results,” said the seventh-grade Ignite Christian Academy (online/homeschool) student.

By visiting the South Asian country, they were all able to debunk any misconceptions they might have had.

“What surprised me most about India was how developed the country is,” said Noah. “As India is classified as a developing country, I expected India to have more poverty and buildings of lower quality, so I was surprised when I got there and saw that many of the buildings were similar to those in developed nations I have visited. Some of the largest companies in the world have offices in India including Amazon, PayPal and Microsoft. Another thing that surprised me is how similar the climate and vegetation of India is to The Bahamas. India has poinciana trees, yellow elder, sugar apple and dilly trees, just to name a few.”

Chennai, where they visited specifically, is on the Bay of Bengal in eastern India.

Having traveled internationally quite a number of times, Daijah said going in, she had already learned to do away with any preconceived notions on what she may think a country would be like, for the most part.

“However, one thing that I was looking forward to on the trip to India was the spicy food – simply because I love spicy food. However, the food that was prepared for us at our hotel was not as spicy as I would have imagined it to be,” she said.

While the group’s youngest member was surprised that she did not experience as much rain and mosquitoes as she had been anticipating, with the Olympiad having taken place during monsoon season.

“I was also concerned about not having access to clean water to drink and shower with,” said Chika. “Thankfully, there was little rain, I saw no mosquitoes and my hotel provided us with clean water.”

She was more surprised with the way Indians drove.

“In comparison to how Bahamians drive, it seemed like they drove recklessly. Surprisingly, I learned that it’s rare to have accidents in India.”

Noah said he also came away from the trip with the realization that hard work pays off.

“I practiced chess every day before my trip to India, and because of this, I was able to play well and exceed my chess goals and expectations.”

While Daijah said she came away with a greater sense of independence.

“Out of all of the international tournaments that I have participated in, to date, this tournament was the first tournament that I traveled to alone and by far the furthest that I have traveled without my parents.”

Chika said playing chess taught her to focus on the game in front of her.

“The Olympiad experience taught me the value of focus. Focusing on my game strategy and trying to win took my mind off everything else. During the game, it was just me against my opponent. I am used to facing opponents across the board; it’s exciting. Focus took away the distractions and helped me concentrate on playing my best game. I played against opponents and met people from many different countries and cultures. There were lots of differences in the way they looked, but when I faced them over the board, it was always the same – strategy: offense, defense and the desire to win. In the classroom, we learn about diversity and that we should respect it – Olympiad provided the opportunity for me to experience and demonstrate it.”

The Bahamians also took note of the cultural differences of the various nationalities they came in contact with.

“I noticed that the women in India wear more conservative clothing – most of the women wear saris,” said Noah. “I also noticed that there are many different types of religious buildings in India while most buildings of worship in The Bahamas are Christian denomination churches. In India, there are lots of temples, mosques and also churches.

While Chika took note of the clothing. “The girls usually wear colorful dresses, and the boys wear regular clothes. Some Indians eat with their hands and eat using banana leaves while Bahamians use plates and utensils.”

The Bahamians counted winning a game among their most memorable experience.

For Noah, it was his first game won in round three against CM Garry Forbes, a player from Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands, who is rated 600 points above him.

For Daijah, it was when the entire female team won their rounds against the Central African Republic.

“After such a great victory, my team and I were very ecstatic and celebrated accordingly,” she said.

Chika described the entire Olympiad experience as priceless, but that the most memorable experience for her was meeting and taking a picture with GM Fabiano Caruana, as she is a fan.

With all that said, the Bahamian chess players were treated like stars owing to the popularity of the sport. Chess is akin to football or basketball in the United States. When they walked out of the tournament hall after their rounds, they were bombarded by the public wanting to have their picture taken with them. It did not matter that they were not top 10. Simply because they were chess players playing in the Olympiad, they were viewed as stars.

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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