Chess and Latin American children
Among board games, chess has the status of being a royal game. It is immensely popular across the world, and large amounts of money are offered in competition prizes. Chess is also accorded a great deal of esteem since it epitomizes human intelligence. Whereas many other board games (such as checkers) can be programmed to play by rote or probabilitiy tables, chess also involves intuition, insight and human psychology. In fact, chess has been used as a testing ground for the scientific discipline of artificial intelligence (AI).
Chess is a game that can be played by any two persons according to the standard rules. As such, chess exhibits network externality, in the sense that the utility rises when there are more people who play the game. Grass root participation is therefore important to the future of the game. According to the 1998 Pan Latin American Kids study, 19% of Latin American kids between the ages of 7 and 11 have a chess set at home. The following table provides the breakdown by geodemographic characteristics:
|Geodemographic Characteristic / Class||% Own Chess at Home|
Balance of Central America / Caribbean
Balance of South America
|Highest Education Level of Head of Household
Less than 6 years of school
6 to 11 years of school
12 years of more of school
Source: Pan Latin American Kids Study 1998, Audits & Surveys Worldwide
The incidence of chess ownership is higher in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and the Balance of South America (Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay) and lower in Brazil, Venezuela, Central America and Caribbean, (Note: This survey does not cover Cuba, where we would expect high interest in chess because the legendary José Raul Capablanca was the world champion from 1921 to 1927). Chess ownership is highly correlated with affluence and educational level, as befits a pastime that has a reputation for being an intellectual pursuit for people who have surplus leisure time. It is also a male pursuit, as were virtually all of the top players in the history of chess.
Games like chess are essentially procedures that are played under an arbitrary, but clearly defined and commonly accepted, set of rules. In some cases, a game such as checkers can be completely abstract in nature devoid of any other context. In other cases such as chess or cards, the set of rules may be colored by socio-cultural metaphors. As such, they may be unwittingly promulgating specific cultural values. In the case of chess, the names of the pieces and their strengths and admissible moves reflect a certain hierarchical vision. Thus, we have a world consisting of the king, the queen, the bishops, the knights, the rooks and, at the very bottom, the "peons".
Yet, the chess world is not strictly a patriarchical kingship system enforced by physical force and religious terror. Here are some interesting deviations:
WWW LATIN AMERICAN CHESS LINKS
(posted by Roland Soong on 9/18/99)
(Return to Zona Latina's Home Page)