Engaging Kids Across The Board

By Sara Faruqi, Toronto Police Service Published: 12:01 p.m. February 23, 2015

Chess is a game where one need not be the tallest, strongest or fastest, rather it’s a game of patience and strategy.

A boy sits across a table and a chess board from a man in TPS uniform
Grade Two Student Matthew Do plays against Constable Melvin Gonsalves at Saint Jude Catholic School

This is one of many reasons Constable Melwin Gonsalves chose this sport to help engage with youth who live in  31 Division.

It helps with “decision-making and strategy as well as concentration levels,” said Gonsalves, who organized a chess tournament with the help of ProAction Cops & Kids at St. Jude’s Catholic School on Feb. 19.  

Students from Grade one to eight, from five different schools, came out to compete for the top spot as well as enjoy the sport and interact with officers and other chess enthusiasts. 

“If students start thinking intellectually about moves and strategy, it helps with their thinking,” said Gonsalves, who said he thought it was a good way to interact with at-risk youth and help promote mutual respect and understanding. He added that, playing the game has “been shown to augment problem-solving capabilities, provide cultural enrichment, advance intellectual maturity and enhance self-esteem.” 

For Alex Macukdchi, the game helps him think because “you have to think first and then your brain gets active,” said the nine-year-old, just before winning a game.

A man in TPS uniform speaks to a boy sitting near a chess board
Constable Oscar Montoya discusses a chess match with a young player

Gonsalves learned how to play “quite late,” he says, when he was in grade four or five. Children at the tournament at St. Jude’s, this year, were as young as seven and already quite skilled at the game. With five rounds of the game for each student in every grade level, strong contenders were beginning to emerge. 

Maximo Mantero, 14, from Immaculate Conception School, had won three games in a row and was waiting for his next round. 

“It is a great sport,” said the teenager, as he refereed a game between seven-year-olds.  “It helps build strategy and a lot of logic so, if you’re good at math, you have great potential.”

But it is not necessary to be a math whiz to excel in the sport, according to Constable Oscar Montoya, a School Resource Officer who was there to referee and help out. “If you want to be good you practice and you will be,” he said. 

Practice does make perfect and one must be on their guard at all times. Gonsalves knows this as he has a lost a few times to a couple of kids. “Yes, kids have beaten me,” said the officer, laughing, adding he was just an average player as he sat down to battle second-grader Matthew Do, who had made it to the provincial level last year. 

This sort of student/officer interaction is exactly why Gonsalves chooses to host tournaments. “I’m the School Liaison Officer and I do presentations, but playing games with the students helps with interaction in a fun atmosphere,” he adds.

Boys and girls sit near a chess board as one girl claps and a man in TPS uniform stands over them smiling
A Grade Five student from Immaculate Conception School gives some encouragement to players as Constable Melwin Gonsalves looks on
TPS crest watermark