Growing up, Frank Johnson assumed that chess was something “old guys did.” Johnson’s father played chess but didn’t teach his son the game. During Johnson’s youth, chess just seemed out of reach for him.
Now, Johnson is giving young adults the opportunity he didn’t have by introducing them to the game of chess at an early age.
Johnson, who has been teaching chess for roughly 15 years, teaches at the Checkmate Chess Academy—an initiative of DeKalb-County based nonprofit Unconditional Love for Children Inc.
“For me personally, it’s been fulfilling to see some of the students having huge achievements and some of the other students starting to get it,” Johnson said. “Any teacher wants their students to be successful. It’s not difficult to pick out the shooting star, but when you can get the average student in the class to start getting it, then you know you’re making process.”
Johnson’s introduction to the game was purely by accident, he said. One day while Johnson was in ninth grade, he and a friend were trying to find a computer lab. The duo happened to stumble into a math lab where students were learning how to play chess. The instructor told Johnson he could use the computers under one condition—that he learn to play chess.
From that point, Johnson said his love for the game grew as chess challenged him in a unique way. Eventually, he would join the school’s chess team.
“I ended up being the worst on the team for about two years,” Johnson said. “It took me a good two years before the dots started connecting. In hindsight, I was in my own way.”
Johnson isn’t in his own way anymore. In fact, he’s at the top of his game. Johnson recently returned from participating in the 2017 World Amateur Chess Championship held in Spoleto, Italy, where he placed second in his category.
He currently teaches more than 190 students ranging from ages 4 to 71. Johnson has also directed more than 250 national chess events with the United States Chess Federation.
“Chess is more than a game. Chess can teach life lessons as well,” Johnson said.
“Some of the kids that are being exposed to adult decisions as youth could benefit from chess,” Johnson said. “They’re having to make decisions outside of the game and if you have the ability to be able to calculate multiple decisions and the impact of it, it can help you. This is a microwave generation, but there’s a lot that happens in between. That stuff in between matters.”
Johnson said he plans to continue to spread his love for the game to youth in the metro area. The “old man’s game” that was once out of reach is now a part of his daily routine.
“My dad played chess but he didn’t teach me. He had one of those fancy marble chess sets. Chess was out of reach for most of my generation,” Johnson said. “It was something that the old guys did…like an old man’s game. Fast forward years later, I realized that I can expose other people to chess much earlier. That’s why I speak out, because learning chess at an early age will change their trajectory in life.”
1,214 total views, 1 views today