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Adorable teen fad is the perfect bridge between the generations



Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 05/14/23

I expected that my kids would learn to play chess, but I didn't expect how their love for chess would bond them and my grandmother!

They say “Everything old is new again,” and that’s wonderfully true in the case of the teen fad that’s everywhere these days — chess.

“Teachers nationwide are flummoxed by students’ new chess obsession,” the Washington Post reports: 

Interviews with teachers and students in eight states paint a picture of captivated students squeezing games in wherever and whenever they can: at lunch, at recess and illicitly during lessons, a phenomenon that is at once bemusing, frustrating, and delighting teachers.

Data from, whose usership is the highest it’s ever been, and anecdotal evidence nationwide suggest a fervid, growing base of young users. This month’s U.S. Chess Federation National High School Championships in D.C. had to add overflow rooms to accommodate a record 1,750 attendees — spurring fears of a shortage of participation medals.

Of all the things that young people could spend time on, chess certainly seems like a worthwhile hobby! The game has loads of cognitive benefits and it’s incredibly wholesome to see kids taking such an interest in it.

Reading about the chess trend made me think of my own children’s recent obsession with the game. They became interested in chess after my grandmother sent one of my kids a chess set for a birthday gift last year. She is a lifelong fan of the game, and I remember playing with her as a child.

I expected that my kids would learn to play chess, but what took me by surprise was how their love for chess actually became a bond between them and my grandmother!

Ever since my grandmother gave my kids the chess set, my kids like to challenge her to a game of chess when we get together with her. Chess has become a warm and friendly bond of connection for them.

It’s incredible to see how chess became a bridge that crosses the decades to make possible a real friendship between my eight-year-old son and my grandmother, who is in her 80s.

I wonder if chess could build this kind of connection between other grandparents or great-grandparents and young children like mine. After all, some 70% of adults play chess, so it’s pretty likely that both Grandma and Junior would know how to play.

It seems we need more opportunities to build these bridges. Pope Francis often says that friendship should be encouraged between young people and the elderly. He has said:

Please, do this: get grandparents and young people together to talk, to converse. And it will make everyone happy.

Another time, he said:

Grandparents need young people and young people need grandparents: They should talk to each other, they should get together! 

When we do get elderly people together with young people, however, it can be hard to break the ice and find something in common to talk about.

This is exactly where chess can come into play. Chess can be such a valuable way to help our kids appreciate and enjoy time spent with elderly relatives and friends.

So the next time you visit an elderly relative with your kids, consider bringing a chess set along. Hopefully it can break the ice to build a friendship that both of them will cherish!

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