I was taken aback to read the following headline and byline in today’s edition of The Guardian – Two players die at world chess event in Norway – Competitor dies in the middle of a match during Chess Olympiad in Norway and another is found dead in hotel room.

At one stage of the day this report was in fact was the most popular article being read on the news media’s website.

I had never thought about the stress and the strains of competition a chess Olympiad and the article did indeed cite other deaths that might be the result of a hard game of chess. The mental and physical stress that chess tournaments put on players can be quite severe.

In 2000 a Latvian grandmaster had experienced a fatal fatal heart attack during a tournament in Finland. In the same year, another Latvian had suffered a stroke, from which he later died, and in 2007, Ian Rogers Australia’s chess master “retired abruptly from chess, saying he had been warned by his doctors that the stress of top-level competition was causing him serious health problems.”


Ironically, only 2 days earlier, I had finished reading How Children Succeed, by Paul Tough.

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Tough devotes a full chapter of his book to the value of chess as a vehicle in promoting character strength and I had decided to write about the suitability of chess as a CAS activity.

To highlight the currency of chess in experiential learning Tough refers and defers to Scottish chess Grandmaster Jonathon Rowson who explains, “chess is a creative and beautiful pursuit which allows us to experience a wide range of uniquely human characteristics….the game is a celebration of existential freedom, in the sense that we are blessed with the opportunity to create ourselves through our actions. In choosing to play chess, we are celebrating freedom above utility.” How Children Succeed (2012), page 133.

Rowson believes that, “2 chess players facing off across a board make a unique collaborative work of art, and the better they play the more beautiful the result.”

Do you agree with these claims?

Is chess a suitable CAS activity?

Indeed is chess one of your CAS activities?

Do you play within a chess club at your school?