The mind as a chess playing field
by Dr. Uvencio Blanco Hernández
In the beginning was playing
Since time immemorial, play has been part of the behaviour and culture of every human group. Children of all times and places have played, alone or in groups. It is therefore a natural human activity. However, play goes beyond pure fun; it is an engaging, voluntary and spontaneous activity; a way for children to test their limits (what they are, what they can do and how far they can go), to engage in new experiences and to learn about themselves and others.
Also noteworthy is the very close relationship between the concepts of play and culture. In fact, Huizinga (1938) stated that play is older than culture; therefore, civilisation arises and develops in play. Corsaro (1985), for his part, points out that the games we play create a common cultural bond that links children with previous generations; but it also creates a cultural bond between the children themselves.
The game of chess is an avenue by which virtuous habits and patterns of character facilitate the insertion of its young practitioners into the public sphere of adult life, most particularly in the integration into the world of work. It is therefore an opportunity for the development of character, understood as “a set of values of moral action”.
Chess, a game of strategy
Chess is conceptualised as a strategy game, i.e. it belongs to the group that contributes to the development of the ability to concentrate, tactical thinking and will, through decision-making and in the course of complex or uncertain situations. These activities are mainly used in the exercise of thinking strategies, within the heuristic methods that pedagogy defines as “techniques for learning to learn”.
From the pedagogical point of view, we insist once again that, as a game, chess fulfils a series of characteristics typical of games, namely:
It assumes a social function
The game of chess stimulates the development of certain cognitive skills and favours symbolic thinking, which facilitates its civilising action by contributing to the integration of the individual into his or her culture. This implies that this game promotes the development and social integration of its practitioners because, as a game, it is a means of interaction of the individual with others, achieving levels of integration that almost no other activity can achieve, with all that this implies in the construction of the individual as a social being.
In the game, and in particular in chess, there are no colours, races, creeds, sexes or social strata, which is why chess players are taught respect, recognition and tolerance for the differences between people.
Chess also evolves
There is no human group in which the game does not exist; it has evolved along with such groups throughout history. According to Boyd, R. and Ricerson. P. (2005), “Culture… consists of the body of ideas, skills, values, beliefs, languages and attitudes that can be acquired through imitation, teaching and other forms of indirect social learning such as social facilitation of attention to particular actions or objects. Culture is information that is transmitted and that conditions the behaviour that individuals develop.”
Huizinga (1990), for his part, affirms that play predates any culture and that we have to go back to the first inhabitants of planet Earth; he also points out that “There has been a factor of playful competition older than culture itself that permeates all life in the manner of a cultural ferment, so we can say that play was an integral part of civilisation in its early stages.”
Civilisation arose with play and as play, never to be separated from it again. From its remote origins in Egypt, India, Persia, China or Ireland, chess has accompanied the birth, development and fall of many civilisations, and has survived them, evolving both in its structure and forms, as well as in its rules and universal scope over a period of more than 30 centuries.
Blanco, U. (2020) “Ajedrez, patrimonio cultural de la humanidad”
Blanco, U. (2023) “Ajedrez, ciencia cognitiva y educación”