June 14, 2017
Revere deserves praise for redefining parks and recreation with the giant outdoor chess set the city plunked in the middle of downtown. It doesn’t matter if chess is a game that takes years to master, the fact that Revere tried a new approach to engaging residents and giving downtown a fresh look makes sense and should be copied by other communities.
The surreal sight of a chessboard and pieces on a downtown street is enough to make pedestrians and drivers gawk and stop and ponder the toddler-sized pieces. Putting a chessboard where everyone can see it is equivalent to inviting literally the entire city to get interested in a game that is a world unto itself.
Chess and other board games could be described as generational because grandparents or parents or aunts and uncles teach children how to play the games on snowy afternoons, idle evenings or in the shade on scorching-hot days.
At once a solitary and extremely intimate game, chess builds concentration and mental nimbleness and brings players face to face with an opponent’s mental discipline. People play the game for their entire life and readily admit they have barely scratched the surface in terms of becoming a proficient player.
It is a timeless game played for centuries and across the course of history. Books written about chess could fill several libraries.
Chess relates directly to mathematics. It is a teaching exercise for almost every major political and military decision made in the course of history and it is an unforgiving pursuit: A lapse in concentration, a move made too casually, can spell defeat.
Putting these lessons and many others the game teaches on display in Revere is a brilliant move in an age when electronic entertainment all too often captivates young and old minds alike. Social media and texting take a back seat when pieces start moving on a chessboard. The focus and patience chess teaches are lessons worth reinforcing in an age of instant gratification and split-second information.
Chess also teaches the virtues of silence. In an age of effortless communication, saying nothing has taken a backseat to saying anything that comes to mind. Teaching kids to keep their mouths shut for a half hour or hour and their minds engaged is a lesson that pays significant dividends later in life when silence plays a role in enhancing an employment opportunity or strengthening a relationship.
Because it is largely a game played in silence, chess straddles and overarches language barriers and cultural differences. It is the perfect game for a city like Revere where people from all over the world live and make a living.
It’s too early to declare Revere’s outdoor chess set a fun attraction or a training ground for chessmasters. But if one kid walks by the board and decides to learn chess fundamentals or a local senior gets inspired to teach the game to someone, then the city will have scored a huge success.
It’s your move, Revere.