There’s no luck when it comes to playing chess – it’s a game of logical thinking, forward planning, and long-term tactics. At Wah Yan College Kowloon (WYK), chess is seen as a great way to teach English, too, and a way of bringing together students from different backgrounds. The WYK chess team has, since May, been holding interschool chess training sessions on their campus every other Saturday.
“Some local schools might not have the resources to train students interested in chess,” said WYK’s chess team founder Andrew Leung Ho-yan. “That’s why we invite other local students to learn chess with us.”
Leung, a former student of the school, set up the team 10 years ago. He, along with other WYK alumni, take it in turns to lead the bi-monthly interschool sessions, while the current team do the teaching. The team has already made ties with eight local schools.
“We practise chess with them and give them lessons to boost their knowledge,” said Thomas Kwan, 17 and the current captain of the chess team. “We also provide teaching materials for them, so that they can pass on their knowledge and skills to their peers who may not be able to attend the sessions.”
More recently, though, the 16-member team has been working on an even more ambitious project. They have, since late last month, been providing free chess lessons to underprivileged primary school students every Saturday. The programme was set up with other students from local schools and the Principal Chan Free Tutorial World – a non-profit which offers free learning support. The intention is not to train students up to be chess-playing professionals – though that would be something of a bonus. The initiative, which will run until November 24, is aimed at helping younger students further their English comprehension and social skills.
Po Leung Kuk Choi Kai Yau School student Marcus Chan is one of the volunteers in the programme. Marcus, 16, said he joined the initiative to give back to society. He admitted that it was tough, sometimes, to capture and maintain the attention of so many young students.
“We have to think of ways to get their attention and also to teach them in a way that they can understand,” he said.
Still, he said, he was happy to be able to put his chess skills to more use than just playing the game. Thomas agreed.
“Every time a student cheers after they win a game or solve a chess puzzle, I’m delighted,” said Thomas. The team captain added that chess is also a very low-cost way of bringing people together, and a great way of improving a person’s concentration and strategical thinking skills. “That’s why I want to teach them to play.”
The chess team want to extend their programme to ethnic minorities and students with disabilities, too.
“Chess is a game in which everyone, able-bodied or not, can compete on the same level,” said Leung. “We want to use chess as a social tool, to train students’ thinking skills, to expand their social circles, and to help people with physical disabilities and students from disadvantaged backgrounds.”
To achieve this, though, the team will need more volunteers and resources, said Thomas. In particular, they’d like to invest in a chess set specifically designed for the visually impaired. By reaching out to other schools and to non-governmental organisations, the team said they are hoping to hold more interschool contests and open competitions in the near future. They’d also like to have representatives from each of their partnering schools to help spread word about the initiative. Like any good chess player, they’re in it for the long game.