At any given time, every NYU student has over a dozen different diversions competing for their time and attention. Video games, social media, movies and books are all useful ways to unwind and relax between classes, but there is one activity that goes relatively underappreciated given its benefits: chess. Chess is a centuries-old piece of cultural heritage, the ultimate game of strategy and an easy way to pass time. It is an exercise routine for the mind and should be valued as much as any crossfit regimen when it comes to improving the mental faculties that we rely on every day to survive.
Chess is hands-down one of the greatest games ever invented. It teaches long-term strategizing, short-term damage control, pattern recognition, risk evaluation and a thousand other essential skills we rarely take the time to consciously hone. And, while these skills are all useful in their own right, they are particularly useful to students who need to balance short-term assignments with long-term studying, think about problems carefully or approach them from various angles. There is a reason that wickedly clever leaders from Napoleon to Fidel Castro were all avid chess nerds.
In addition, daily life at NYU can often be hectic and taxing, and students unwind in equally exhilarating ways. Chess, however, provides a slow-paced, thoughtful and risk-free environment in which to solve high-level problems. It is both a great way to relax and a mental workout that prepares one’s mind for the challenges of excelling as a student.
There are many opportunities to play chess at NYU. For those on the go, apps such as Chess Time provide a convenient — though often slow-paced — means of playing, and the NYU Chess Club holds regular meetings. One option that becomes more attractive as the weather improves is playing at Union Square and Washington Square Park, where infamously skilled players often charge $5 a game. Playing chess outdoors is a distinctive way to engage with the culture of the city, and everyone should try it at least once. Engaging with the city’s chess players fosters an appreciation for New York City culture at the fraction of the cost of a Broadway show or an art gallery opening. No matter how or where you play, chess is a uniquely productive activity that everyone should make time to enjoy.
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