By Mike Anderson

Chess, one of the world’s most popular and ancient games – dating back some 1,500 years, takes only minutes to learn but a lifetime to master.

John Burrows, a retired teacher and co-founder of the Georgina Chess Academy, should know.

He’s taught kids how to play chess for nearly 20 years, running chess clubs in Toronto-area public schools.

With a $1000 Quick Action Grant offered through the Georgina Community Action Table and the United Way, Burrows and his wife Alice launched the Georgina Chess Academy on January 4.

The free eight-week program, available to kids between the ages of seven and 16, offers instruction for beginners and coaching for more advanced players.

It meets on Wednesday nights, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at the Salvation Army’s Georgina Community Church at 1816 Metro Rd. N. in Jackson’s Point.

John & Alice Burrows with friend Gord Davies

According to Burrows, chess is good for a kid’s cognitive development and a great way to have fun and meet new friends.

“Not everybody plays hockey; not everyone is an athlete. But every kid can learn how to play chess,” he said.

“It’s a social activity you can do with your friends.

“If a friend comes over and says, you want to play chess? They’ll be able to do so.”

“It also improves IQ. And it’s proven to improve attention spans, the ability to sit still, focus, and stay on task.”

“It’s really good for kids to play chess. There are all kinds of skills involved, including math skills, and it’s fun,” adds Alice, who hopes they can also offer the program in the spring and fall.

“We’re pleased with the turnout. But if we could get a few more kids and cap it at 20, that would be manageable because we want them to learn how to play.”

John teaching Milana and Mariah the basics
Gord Davies supervises the more advanced kids

Parents seemed delighted that free chess lessons were now available during the winter months.

Vik Scott brought her two daughter’s Milana, 7, and Mariah, 8, to the first night.

“It’s a good idea for them to learn. I think it’s basic knowledge that everyone should have,” she said.

“I taught them at home a little bit. But I thought maybe a professional teacher would be better.”

Lisa Samoy from Sutton agrees. She brought her own two kids, plus three kids from different neighbours.

“I read somewhere that the three best things you can do for your children are getting them to learn an instrument, learn another language and play chess. So, here we are!”

While Samoy worried her youngest wouldn’t get into chess that much, she was pleasantly surprised.

“They’ve obviously worked with children before. They’re making her feel very welcome and accepted.”

Samoy says Georgina needs more diverse recreational programming for kids.

“We have swimming and skating, but we need to expand a bit,” she said.

“I think it’s nice of the Salvation Army to provide this space. So it’s a free program for everybody. It’s wonderful that they’ve allowed them to come in here and are doing this for all the right reasons, other than monetary reasons.”

For more information email John Burrows ( or call 905-830-2443.



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