Recently I watched the mini-series ‘The Queen’s Gambit’, enjoyable to watch and it did make me reflect on a couple of concepts. One particular aspect and central to the film – the playing of a game of chess – immediately focused my attention.
My grandfather taught my father how to play chess, my father taught me how to play chess, and subsequently, my father taught his grandchildren. Dad would never alter his game to accommodate a win for us, but he would scaffold our success by taking away one of his pieces, typically, the queen, until he thought we were ready to match him with a full set of opposing pieces. He would also explain his win afterwards so we could learn from it. Regardless of how frustrated we might feel, he did not ‘let’ us just win, we had to earn a win. It was an incredibly good feeling when a win was eventually achieved!
As well as instructing us on the rudimentary rules of the game, he gave us principles of fair play, planning and vision. ‘Think and plan at least two moves ahead’, he would advise.
Chess was not the only game we played, and many were not as elevated as chess but, as well as being enjoyable, these games taught principles that help with socialising, learning and general life skills.
Competition, strategy setting and collaboration are all elements which are consciously or unconsciously engaged when playing a game with others. Soft skills, such as verbal and non-verbal communications, patience, emotional intelligence, active listening, etc. are activated alongside problem solving skills such as logic, observation, persistence, etc.
I could go on listing the benefits but one overarching benefit, for me as a mother, was that the game itself enabled me to spend time with my children when we laughed a lot and formed memories. Of course, there was also a fair share of tantrums and tears, but all part of the learning process and did set some memories we can laugh about now!
I have my fond memories of playing chess with my Dad and now I have fond memories of playing all sorts of board games with my children.
Particular memories range from playing Rummikub to Monopoly. A favourite though and one still played almost weekly in our house is Scrabble, though now it is more likely to be Upwords. There were many debates about whether a specific word was allowed – whether it was a word at all, whether Americanisms were to be considered, etc. Over the years, the rules were embellished a little but that was part of the negotiations and agreements that occurred, making it interesting when visitors joined a game!
The duration of a game varied but there were some late nights, time seems to fly when siblings are determined to take their time to secure a win; I remember many an ‘active discussion’!
We sometimes played in pairs which added another dimension – collaboration mixed with competition. Somehow, despite occasions of concentration laced with tension, there was a lot of laughter peppered with comments such as, ‘You can’t put the ‘u’ upside down and pretend it is an ‘n’. ‘Really, do you expect us to believe that is a word/ Never heard of it/ That is not a genuine definition’. ‘Wow, I did not see that coming’. ‘You are just a dictionary on legs’…
The test of a good game was whether it was played again and how soon after the first time. Scabble seems to have had staying power.
I am now looking forward to continuing the stream of memories with the next generation of family game players.