Labour MP Rachel Reeves on Chess
Rachel Reeves was elected as a Labour Member of Parliament for Leeds West in 2010 and has been Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury since October 2011. Find out more about Rachel’s political career. She started playing chess at the age of seven and became BWCA U14 Champion. In her time in Parliament, Rachel has lobbied for the government to support the work of Chess in Schools and Communities. She took part in the celebrations of Chess in Schools and Communities’ First Anniversary at the House of Commons where she promoted the game with luminaries such as Garry Kasparov, Nigel Short and Malcolm Pein. She was also involved in a group of players that defeated the London Chess Classic participants in their annual simultaneous exhibition! We’re grateful that Rachel took some time out of her busy schedule to share some of her thoughts about chess with us.
When and how did you start playing chess?
I was taught at primary school in South East London. Our head teacher, Mr Hawkins, was a really good player and encouraged all of us to learn. I also practiced at home with my dad and I remember being very proud when I beat him for the first time!
How old were you when you started playing and do you think you need to start young to become a strong player?
I was seven when I started. You don’t have to start that early but I do think it helps because younger minds are more flexible and can pick up different mental skills. And as a child you have plenty of time to develop skills, whereas as an adult that opportunity to practice isn’t there.
What is your proudest moment in your chess career so far?
Probably meeting former world chess champion and all time great Gary Kasparov. He is an amazing man who has achieved a huge amount for chess and beyond.
You have become a great supporter in the Chess in Schools and Communities project. How do you think chess helps a child’s development?
In a number of ways. Chess teaches concentration, forward planning, observation, as well as numerical skills and problem solving. I think it’s a great game.
What are your ambitions for the CSC project and what are it’s main goals?
CSC want to establish a chess club in all 17,000 primary schools in England and Wales. If they do it that’s about 1 million children who can take part in something which is open to all and can bring out great qualities. That’s what I want to see – a way of helping schools and children that can make a big impact.
Chess in this country suffers from a lack of publicity especially on TV. Do you think it can lend itself to TV and hopefully grow through the rewards of better sponsorship?
I think it’s possible. In countries like Armenia chess is treated like football in terms of exposure. We haven’t had a tradition of that in Britain so I think it will be harder, but perhaps with styles like rapid chess we’ll see a format which works for TV emerge. A sport like darts you might not think as being naturally suited to TV, but is hugely popular. I wouldn’t be surprised if the same happened with chess in the future.
Would you like to see a British World chess champion and how do you think this can be given a chance to happen?
Yes, that would be fantastic. Hopefully CSC will help contribute to finding the talent of the future.
Do you think you are the strongest chess playing politician in this country or do you think there are others who would be a worthy challenge?
I’m pretty rusty actually! I’m sure there are definitely a few chess talents in Westminster keeping quiet. Maria and Angela Eagle are very strong players. More politicians should learn chess – it teaches you how to stay one step ahead.
Follow @RachelReevesMP on twitter!
Telegraph Online – Rachel Reeves – The chess expert who may end up as Queen of Labour
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