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On Chess: A personal reflection on how chess is good for body and soul

Vitaly Neimer teaching a child to play.
Vitaly Neimer reflects on the holistic benefits of the game.

I took my first steps in chess in St. Petersburg when I was 5 years old. In cold Russia, chess is considered one of the mainstream sports to follow. Then, my family and I moved to Israel and discovered that chess was not any less popular.

Chess followed me through school, military service and even to a university in the United States.

Today, I am very excited to write about my chess journey from the chess capital of the world — St. Louis. Becoming the grandmaster in residence for the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis is a dream come true. Having taught more than 750 students worldwide for more than 15 years, it is an honor to share my knowledge and experience with chess fans.

There are many benefits to learning and playing chess — mostly medical benefits — including aiding creativity, improving memory and boosting your IQ. Some advantages are more behavioral, such as developing self-esteem, enhancing concentration and building grit. In my opinion, the power of chess is life changing and should be learned by every individual on our planet because it teaches a skill that is needed in order to survive – how to work as a team.

History has shown that humans are social creatures; we thrive in groups and fail alone. But what makes the group a success? Success occurs when everyone is working together toward a mutual goal. Every great endeavor was always the result of teamwork. Personally, I have had the opportunity to be involved in three of the top teamwork environments in St. Louis.

The SPICE program at Webster University was the first place I got a taste of the power of teamwork. Being a member of a chess team that won six consecutive national championships was a real honor and a pleasure as well. Coached by Grandmaster Susan Polgar and Paul Truong, it was really enlightening to see the symbiosis that the program created between chess players from all over the world. Their leadership created an environment in which the common goal overpowers the individual desire, which leads to winning.  


My second eye-opening experience, which further solidified my thoughts on teamwork, came from my experience in the St. Louis accounting firm RubinBrown LLP. This firm, founded in 1952, is now one of the nation’s leading accounting firms. Their recipe for success stems from their core values. These include innovation, superior service, competence, teamwork and my favorite — having fun!

My third team work environment experience began on Sept. 5 when I began my residency at the CCSCSL. The institution is run by a group of enthusiastic and committed employees who are dedicated to one common goal – “to teach the game of chess and to promote and support its educational program through community outreach and local and national partnerships to increase the awareness of the educational value of chess.” This is done by creating an environment that is open, encouraging and that gives you the freedom to thrive. Ultimately, it gives you the support of a team.

I have learned throughout my various experiences that in a chess match, one cannot win without the teamwork of his pieces – the concept of which is called coordination. In order to become an expert in this game, one needs to master the art of effectively and efficiently balancing the “dance” of its pieces across the board. This concept is true for real life as well. When all countries, religions, entities and individuals will work as a team — they will win the game of life. I look forward to continuing to contribute my skills and knowledge to the success of the team here in St. Louis.  

Vitaly Neimer is an International Master and currently the “Grandmaster in residence” at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis