Chess being considered for social intervention
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has said that he will support efforts to use the sport of chess as a means of social intervention, to address crime and violence in Jamaica.
Holness, who played competitively for St Catherine High and later Chancellor Hall while a student at the University of the West Indies, said that he will be opening a chess centre at Seaward Primary and Junior High School in Olympic Gardens, which falls within his constituency of West Central St Andrew.
“There are schools that play chess and have a team, but to use chess as a means of social intervention, that might be a little new,” Holness told The Gleaner. “There are people who are attempting it. We want to partner with them, we want to inject new resources, and we want to support the growth of the sport. So we plan to use the centre at Seaward, not just for the school, but to spread the playing of chess in the community.”
Holness said that the idea to start the centre had been years in the making.
“Actually, that came from a meeting I had in 2010, thereabouts, with Ian Wilkinson (Jamaica Chess Federation (JCF) president), who was then spearheading a programme to spread chess throughout the island, starting with the schools,” he said.
“I had made a commitment at that time that I would spend some resources to create a centre at the Seaward All-Age School. But then it blossomed, having spoken to (Grandmaster) Maurice (Ashley), a former resident of Olympic Gardens, who has done amazingly well. Then I asked Ambassador Nigel Clarke (JCF vice-president) to coordinate with Maurice, and that blossomed into a bigger movement, to kind of get chess a new energy, to spread it in Jamaica. The centre at Seaward is only but just one of what we plan to do.”
When asked whether playing chess will be mentioned to National Security Minister Robert Montague as a mental strategy under his crime prevention plan, the prime minister said: “I don’t want to limit it to that, but it would certainly help if we could get more youngsters involved.
“If you’re engaged in any kind of sport, the time that you have to be drawn into mischief is limited. But outside of that, chess is a cerebral game, obviously, but it is also a game of great social interaction. It teaches people how to resolve issues without fighting.”
Clarke agrees with Holness, saying that chess can be uplifting to Jamaica, because of the value it holds in human development.
“It’s important for a country like Jamaica to take on a game like this, a game of the mind, and do well in it,” Clarke said. “Chess is both a sport and an art at the same time. It’s clearly a sport, but has the characteristics of an art. It’s like any sport, really. You can say that Neymar Jr has an artistic approach to the game (football). Chess has an artistic element to it.
“Jamaica is a country where resources are not easy to come by. Even as we focus on dollars and cents and we focus on income and getting wealthier as a country, it’s crucial that we also focus on human development and the measures by which human development is sometimes judged. Doing well in chess, I can’t say that that is going to yield material benefits, but sure, it will yield benefits in terms of social order, in terms of individual and national pride and as an indicator of human achievement and what we can do.”