Thursday, January 17, 2013

Happy birthday, Ben

We learn by chess the habit of not being discouraged by present bad appearances in the state of our affairs, the habit of hoping for a favorable change, and that of persevering in the search of resources. The game is so full of events, there is such a variety of turns in it, the fortune of it is so subject to sudden vicissitudes, and one so frequently, after contemplation, discovers the means of extricating one's self from a supposed insurmountable difficulty, that one is encouraged to continue the contest to the last. . . .
-- Benjamin Franklin, "The Morals of Chess"

Portrait of Benjamin Franklin by Joseph Duplessis

Today is the birthday of Benjamin Franklin: writer, publisher, scientist, statesman, revolutionary, philosopher -- and chess fanatic! As the Chicago Chess Center nears the end of our 30-day fundraising campaign, still well short of our $30,000 goal, it's an apt moment to reflect on Franklin's words about what we can learn from chess.

We know today that children in particular gain great benefit from chess, not only through the practice of logical thinking but also through the use of what are sometimes referred to as "soft skills" or "executive functions": the ability to sustain attention on a task, master their feelings and impulses, treat others with respect, manage conflicts, and connect study and practice with success. Franklin, from his own experience, made similar observations in his 1750 essay, noting that the study of chess teaches foresight, circumspection, caution and hopefulness. Everyone, not just young people, can enjoy more success in life by developing these traits.

In the pursuit of our mission to bring these benefits to the residents of our hometown, Chicago, we're staying mindful of Franklin's words ourselves. We're persevering in our search for the resources we need to open our doors and begin offering classes and events to the public this year. We're not losing heart or giving up. The mountain is high -- and we know that, with your help, we can reach the top.

Please donate now to help us open our doors by our target date of May 1.

In the course of his remarkable life, Franklin took part in the creation of a dazzling number of civic institutions, including the Union Fire Company, the Academy and College of Philadelphia (which later became the University of Pennsylvania), the American Philosophical Society, Pennsylvania Hospital, the Pennsylvania Militia and the U.S. Post Office. By donating now, you can do your part to establish a new civic institution here in Chicago -- the first urban, metropolitan chess club since the closure of the original Chicago Chess Center 22 years ago -- and restore Chicago to its place among great American chess cities.

Please join us in celebrating the life of this great chess player, and donate today.

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