Alex and the Wednesday Chess Club Review

Alex and the Wednesday Chess Club
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One of the most amazing facts about the human species is that child prodigies are found in only a few areas. I have heard it argued that they appear only in mathematics, music and chess. The most interesting part of this is that all three require the abstraction of patterns. This book is about a boy (Alex) who learned to play chess when he was four years old and loved to play until he was soundly defeated by an adult named Uncle Hooya. The defeat left a sour taste in his mouth, a literal statement, as he often used treats as chess pieces and ate every piece that he captured. Therefore, he vowed to never play chess again.
Alex then went on to try many other things, but after eating some dirt playing football, his mind went back to chess and he joins the school chess club. At first, he repeatedly goes down to defeat against the other members of the club, but eventually he starts to win on occasion. He then is a contestant in a chess tournament, losing his first two games, before he starts winning. The high point is when he plays a relative of Uncle Hooya. By concentrating and thinking of food, he defeats his rival, avenging the defeat that turned him away from chess for so long. The book ends with a top ten list of tips for success in chess.
Written for children aged 4-8, this is a parable about life with the points being made via chess. One defeat should never end your involvement in something you enjoy and the strategies for success listed by the coach of the chess club can be applied to any field of human endeavor. It is an excellent book of lessons about life and what you must do to succeed.
Published in Journal of Recreational Mathematics, reprinted with permission.

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