Chess master relates game to the real world

During a sunny lunchtime at R. Roger Rowe School, more than 16 students sat across chess boards contemplating their next move between bites of sandwiches and applesauce. Chess Master Alex London nimbly navigated between games, playing multiple students at one time, explaining his strategy and answering questions.

“I didn’t think I would enjoy teaching children, but it turns out I really enjoy it,” said London, who has coached chess at the school for 11 years. “I want to explain chess and relate it to the real world.”

If fact, London encourages players as young as kindergartners to participate in the club, which meets twice a week at lunch.

“It’s like learning a language,” London said. “The younger you start the better.”

London breaks down the rules of the game so students of all ages can understand, for example: “The queen is the Arnold Schwarzenegger of the chess board.”

Students can play each other or London, individually or in teams. Students who don’t like to lose will shy away from playing him, London said, while others relish the challenge.

“He’s a really good tutor,” seventh-grader Patrick Roach said. “He always finds a way out of crazy situations, and teaches me what you do in a bad situation.”

Smart move
Playing the ancient war game has been shown to help children improve their critical thinking skills and academic performance, London said, because chess requires planning ahead, paying attention and patience.

Students seem to enjoy the mental challenge.

“It’s very strategic,” Roach said. “There is no real advantage over your opponent except for the mind.”

Chess also is packed with life lessons, such as good sportsmanship, which London strives to teach his pupils. When students lose, he shows them how to politely resign their king and offer a congratulatory handshake to their opponent.

“Five minutes after the game is over, no one remembers who won,” London said. “If you were a gentleman, that’s what they will remember all their life.”

Facing Fischer
London, 75, is a self-taught U.S. Chess Federation Life Chess Master. He began playing as a boy growing up in Minnesota, entering his first tournament at 12-years-old.

One of London’s greatest claims to fame is defeating 14-year-old Bobby Fischer, who had just won the 1957 U.S. Open Chess Tournament.

“I didn’t know he was a big player, which was a huge help to me,” London said, who was 24 at the time.

London still remembers what the board looked like when he made “the best combination of my career” to win checkmate.

Next Chess
Unlike Fischer, London believes there is much more to life than chess, emphasizing the importance of career and family over the game. However, he is still concerned about the future of the game he is so passionate about.

The rules of chess have not been changed since 1490, and masters can play the first 20 optimal moves from memory, London said.

“It’s played out,” he said.

Recognizing chess needs to evolve, many players tried to develop adaptations but none were widely adopted.

London believes his vision for the game’s future, “Next Chess,” is different. “Next Chess” does not involve creating new pieces or computer randomization. In his version, London adds two files to the center of the board, and each player picks two more pieces, either two bishops, two knights or one of each. This allows for up to 16 new beginning lineups, which London hopes will eliminate memorization of opening moves.

“I created it, but I don’t know the best moves,” he said.

London said he is looking for a computer programmer to help him put the game online, so the world can test it and see if it really is the “Next Chess.”

For more information, contact Alex London at

Related posts:

  1. Technical school takes kids inside game programming
  2. 10-year-old champ taking taekwondo world by storm
  3. Jewish Academy Lions tune up for season opener
  4. ‘Walking on Water’ World Tour comes to Del Mar
  5. Lifelong love of soccer fuels analyst

Short URL:

Posted by pjpent on Nov 20, 2008. Filed under Archives. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Leave a Reply



Bottom Buttons 1

Bottom Buttons 2

Bottom Buttons 3

Bottom Buttons 4

Bottom Buttons 5

Bottom Buttons 6



  • La Jolla Library welcomes new chief Shaun Briley
    For La Jolla Riford Library’s new head librarian, Shaun Briley, books have been a part of his life and career, in some form or another, every step of the way. […]
  • Tangerine trees, marmalade skies for Beatles-inspired Patrons of the Prado gala in Balboa Park, San Diego
    “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was the theme of the Patrons of the Prado gala on July 12, 2014 in Balboa Park, San Diego. Beatles-inspired music came from Wayne Foster Entertainment. Sandy Redman and Jeanne Jones served as event chairs. 2014’s beneficiaries are the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, San Diego Museum of Art and The Old Globe Theatre. […]
  • La Jolla’s Best Bets for events July 31- Aug. 7
    Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) offers a crash course in starting a photography collection 6 p.m. Thursday Aug. 7. at the Ligne Roset Showroom, 7726 Girard Ave. MOPA assistant curator Chantel Paul and director of jdc Fine Art Jennifer DeCarlo will share professional insights. […]




  • Rancho Santa Fe resident’s Gen 7 wines earn top honors
    Rancho Santa Fe resident Tim Bacino’s Gen 7 Wines is on a hot streak, his varietals winning several awards this summer in California wine competitions. […]
  • Torrey Pines High School baseball alum Taylor Murphy excelling in pro ball
    It was during a breakout senior year at Torrey Pines High that Taylor Murphy first popped up on the radar of professional scouts. Shortly after graduation, Murphy was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 40th round of the June 2011 amateur draft. He declined, honoring a commitment to the University of the Pacific. Three years later, Murphy got another sho […]
  • Why Hire a Licensed Landscape Professional?
    By Steve Jacobs, Nature Designs The old saying – “if something seems to good to be true, it probable is” – is quite fitting when it comes to hiring a contractor for your home or yard construction project. While it is smart to shop around, get quotes, etc., don’t fall into the trap of trusting […]