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How Chess is Building a Culture of Resilience in Young People in Gombe

Gombe State has established itself in the world of sports, demonstrating its passion and commitment to sports with remarkable accomplishments through medals for numerous athletic fields. However, the growing popularity of chess shows how they are willing to extend the ongoing sporting excellence by embracing chess into the sporting catalog. 

Chess is one of the most popular two-person games in the world. In the game, players strategically move black and white chess pieces across a board with the aim of capturing the opponent’s king, known as checkmate.

According to experts, chess helps improve the cognitive development of its players, patience, and focus. Hence, the relevance of introducing it to school children with the aim of fortifying them with important extracurricular skills as they navigate the puddles of life.

As far as Gombe is concerned, chess, which is relatively new in this terrain is gaining wide acceptance among members of all ages in the state, especially among schoolchildren, and a review of the growth of chess in the northern Nigerian state would be deficient without the mention of Yakkon Danmaryam, an exceptional chess coach and the outstanding pioneer of chess in the state.

Yakkon is a filmmaker and owner of a chess academy that works with schools in northern Nigeria to coach the kids to play chess. Yakkon believes in the power of chess to reform minds and transform the lives of the players. Reforming the minds in the form of strengthening their thinking capacity, focus, and resilience. He believes chess extends beyond the movements on the board, but also imparts valuable skills to the school kids. Skills like the importance of analytic thinking before making a decision and the awareness of the consequences of each move they make in the broader board of life. And also, how to respond to the challenges of life and improve their overall mental health.

Yakkon describes chess as having the power to transform lives and a lucrative venture. It transforms lives through rewards, cash prizes, scholarships to prestigious higher institutions, and many life-changing opportunities. For instance, Perpetual Ogbiyoyo is a top female chess player in Nigeria and is currently competing at the 29th Abu Dhabi Chess Festival, challenging some of the world’s best players, and proving the game to be lucrative. 

The rigorous efforts of the chess coach and chess association in the state are so far yielding to fruition. It’s common to find youngsters crouched in contemplative posture moving pieces of white and black across boxed boards in nooks and streets of the jewel state. Increasingly, the state is witnessing a wave of mind-blowing tournaments and chess exhibitions around the state.

The chess association in the Gombe State aims to instill a culture of perseverance, and strategic thinking in the minds of the younger generation using the game of chess. To introduce chess as part of the curriculum to stimulate the minds and brains of students in various schools across the state.

The growing chess community has witnessed many accomplishments and has groomed so many talents in the game. Talents like Simon Solomon Wudiri a prodigy from Gombe state who has won numerous matches and tournaments. He emerged in the first position in the under-17 categories of the Jos mega chess tournament. 

Another stellar player is 17-year-old, Daniel Yakubu who finished second overall at the Queen Vee chess tournament and was sponsored to proceed for the Nigerian Grandmaster Initiative, one of the highest levels in the chess game, which will happen in Benin City.

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The growing chess community has its share of grand successes and challenges in this journey. Yakkon thus explains the challenges such as the lack of funding from the state government to cater to the needs of the players, purchase chess boards, organize tournaments, or attend tournaments outside the state.

In addition to this, there is mild resistance from parents who believe such extracurricular activities such as chess and other games are trivial and time-wasting endeavours that’ll distract their children from their academic pursuits. There’s also a cultural and religious barrier. Some believe the chess pieces are symbolism of occultic groups, or are inspired by idolatry, or a variant of gambling initiated by their children.

Regardless, the chess community is rigorous in its mission to instill a culture of patience, critical thinking, focus, and resilience in the booming population, to foster a community of young minds equipped with the abilities to navigate the complexities of life with resilience and determination. Ultimately, the synergy of passionate coaches and a flourishing interest in the chess game makes Gombe a promising chess destination in the country.

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