Saturday, February 20, 2010

Chess, Education and Culture


My name is Jeff and I am an ex-Toyota employee (Labor relations and shop floor management) and now business consultant for those choosing to learn the Toyota System. I have had the opportunity to play chess with equipment layout, material volumes, and policy decisions for years. I had also played the real game back in my college days at Auburn University, AL. Why chess? Its fun yes, but it reaches kids and adults in many ways that bring out the best in all of us.

The one constant the game provides is relationship building between individuals, cutting across many barriers in society. So, I decided to pick the game up again five years ago in my late 30s. I found that I still played bad but enjoyed it anyway. I even hired a coach. I actually got to the point of understanding GM games-wow. She still tells me to castle, but I never liked doing that so I found openings where one could skip castling sometimes-Sicilian Sveshnikov. To be honest, when I do not castle early I am toast.

I also decided to take up chess sponsorship on a consistent basis to see if it had any positive impact on people. I found several players who were not only highly rated but good communicators / teachers. There is a difference. At Toyota we had both skilled technicians and teachers like any company, but the teachers taught what I would describe as a new culture. This is significant in my mind. Teachers are real good with people, and many times influencing our youth and adults in healthy directions that ought to come from many places it does not for many reasons.

I’ll keep it short. I first noticed this chess culture at a little center in Queens, NY. I took some lessons from coach Sofia Polgar (actually flew her into NYC from Toronto, found her on the ICC website). I noticed how she explained complex things to a beginner at my chess level- just like a good teacher. Between lessons I would walk out into the large area of the little club and see young children solving 6 to 8 move tactical puzzles with club manager Leon. These amazing little kids. Seeing all this without moving the pieces and remaining so calm and enthusiastic. Sofia’s sister Susan ran this club at that time. So, I sponsored some events with both Susan and Sofia to help people experience their inter-personal gift of good character and joy both of them bring to their work.

Here is the full article.
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