Tutor: David Dobb

To have never played chess is like having lived without hearing music! ~ Arthur Tonkin

Chess is an ancient game which has enthralled people throughout the ages. It has been long recognised as a great developer of the mind and of character. By playing chess, children (and older people too) learn that there is a logical outcome to their actions. There has been a great deal of research overseas as to the educational benefits of chess. This research is particularly advanced in Russia, France, Britain and New York State. It has demonstrated that chess teaches a student to concentrate and also helps him or her to plan and to make rational decisions based on weighing evidence. This usually results in greatly improved marks in school subjects, especially at secondary school. It is good news indeed that we can be taught to concentrate and to be disciplined when it counts. This is especially needed in our society where people cannot even go for a walk without being entertained by sticking an iPod in their ear. How can we be disciplined when we need constant distraction?

You do not have to be very clever to enjoy chess but you do need to persevere. Many people who learn how the chess pieces move, do not get beyond that very primitive stage which is like playing marbles – grab a Queen there, a Rook here. Not much thinking is needed for that! They are not really playing chess. It’s a bit like saying that by learning the alphabet you can read a novel. Many schools say their school provides chess for its students when there is no one who plays chess and the children are never taught to play. This intricate game cannot be taught in a few days.

There is a great deal of technique in chess which can be taught and applied in your games. There are forks in chess; they are not just for eating roast dinners. Pins are useful in chess too; they are not only used by dressmakers. Skewers have more uses than for testing to see if the cake has been cooked right through. Space, time and the initiative are also interesting concepts. Knowledge of these techniques and the ability to plan are necessary to become a reasonably competent chess player.

The glaring difference between a player who has had only a few lessons and one who has had none shows up in the first couple of moves of a game. Part of the learning process is to use and understand particular openings. But chess is more than just technique. It is an art form as you can discover for yourself when you get the thrill of sacrificing your strongest piece, the Queen, in order to checkmate your opponent. This gives the game great beauty as well as excitement.

Comment by a former student:

Trinity School for Seniors is fortunate to have as a volunteer chess tutor Arthur Tonkin who International Master Guy West, from Victoria, named as the outstanding teacher of elementary and intermediate chess in Western Australia and one of the leading exponents of teaching chess to children and young adults in Australia. In fact his complete chess course consists of 100 lessons, each of which contains twenty or more examples illustrated by diagrams. It is used in many parts of the eastern states.

Mr Tonkin does not claim to be a great player but he has competed with modest success in the WA championships and in the Australian Open as well as in many club championships. He is a very good teacher of chess and has taught many juniors who have won state under-age titles. He has taught at more than fifteen schools, private and public, as well as at many PEAC centres. At Mirrabooka Primary School where he worked for eleven years as a volunteer, eight students became state junior champions – under 10, under 12 and under 14.

Mr Tonkin taught me chess for many years so that a couple of my classmates became state under 10 and under 12 champions and the school won many interschool contests which included state and private schools. Going even further back, Mr Tonkin taught my father chess in the early 1960s.

Roger Samson (November 2014)

Suitable for: All skill levels

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  • Level 1, Trinity Arcade
    72 St George's Tce, Perth WA 6000
  • Email: Reception@tsfs.org.au
    Phone: 08 9483 1333