“Little Susie Hunanyan attended her favourite class in school last week, and it wasn’t drawing, crafts or sport. The seven-year-old sat studiously through an hour of chess lessons,” Al Jazeera writes.

The agency reminds that in Armenia, learning to play the grand game of strategy in school is mandatory for children – the only country in the world that makes chess compulsory – and the initiative has paid dividends. “Armenia, a Caucasus country with a population of just three million, is a chess powerhouse.”

“Armenia has produced more than 30 grandmasters and won the team chess Olympiads in 2006, 2008 and 2012. Armenian champion Levon Aronian is currently the third-best player in the world, according to the World Chess Federation rankings,” the article reads.

The chess initiative is not only meant to scout young talent but also build a better society. Armen Ashotyan, Armenia’s education minister, told Al c the project is aimed at fostering creative thinking.

“Chess develops various skills – leadership capacities, decision-making, strategic planning, logical thinking and responsibility,” Ashotyan said. “We are building these traits in our youngsters. The future of the world depends on such creative leaders who have the capacity to make the right decisions, as well as the character to take responsibility for wrong decisions.”

More than $3m has been spent on the project so far to supply chess equipment and learning aids in all Armenian schools, Ashotyan added. The majority of the budget was allocated to train chess players to become good teachers. In coming years, spending on chess is expected to rise, he said.

The initiative is also attracting attention from other countries. Later this year, chess will be integrated into the national curriculum of Hungary’s elementary schools. Countries such as Moldova, Ukraine and Spain are showing interest in running similar projects.

Chess mania captures Armenia’s attention

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