Shaun Tracey has a dream – to see chess become part of the curriculum in schools on the island.
At George Town Primary School on Monday, students began to learn about the game. Principal Marie Martin said, “Who knows? The next great chess player from Cayman may just very well be out of this first group from George Town Primary.” At the school’s library, Year 3 students were the first to be involved in the pilot program in Cayman government schools.
“If all goes well, we will look to getting someone in full-time to do it and roll it out more widely,” said Mr. Tracey, who is involved with the Cayman Islands Chess Association.
“We are working with George Town and West Bay Primary in the government sector and some private school chess clubs,” he added.
Year 3 student Jetson Bennett said he had never played chess before.
“I want to see if it is fun,” he said.
The noise and energy levels in the library would be what you might have expected from kids on recess or having a classroom party – but it was a chess game for students learning the moves for the first time.
An hour earlier, students did not even know the rules of chess. But as they sat in the library facing their opponents, they seemed eager to learn. Young Fred Booth, with his fingers rubbing his temple in anticipation, waited for Paul Robinson, deputy director of the George Town Public Library, to make a move.
Mr. Tracey and other members of the chess association were teaching the students the basics of how to move their pawns, knights, bishops and rooks to attack their opponents and to protect their kings.
Educators tout the game’s benefits as improving critical thinking abilities and problem-solving skills.
“It is good to get the young minds involved in this way by playing the game of strategy, and we look forward to exciting times ahead,” said Principal Martin. “We are delighted to be a part of the new partnership with the Chess Association.”
Mr. Tracy described the game as one of the “oldest and greatest” in the world. “It is partly to have fun. but also to learn. You learn to play and play to learn.
“Chess is a game where you learn to use your brain. A war between teams without fighting, and a fun way for kids to develop critical thinking skills.”