May 2022, Makati City – The Philippines has participated in chess tournaments for over 66 years now, as chess has been a long-time sport and skill that many Filipinos have grown to learn and love. However, over the past few years, the spotlight on chess has declined with many of the youth today preferring online games more than learning how to play chess.
This catapulted young 15-year-old Theodore Abara to establish Knights Build (KBO), a non-profit organization that aims to help his fellow Filipino youth build their adaptability, logical thinking, and creativity through chess. “One of the reasons I founded Knights Build was to provide an alternative form of entertainment for the youth that actually helps them perform better in school, improve their logical thinking skills, and pattern recognition, and at the same time teaches them important life skills that can change their lives – creativity, patience, perseverance in solving problems and challenges,” he shares.
Abara was a scholar at Philippine Science High School prior to his being awarded the prestigious Vicky Sycip Herrera Scholarship at International School Manila where he is currently a Grade 10 student. In the past, he has represented the country and won several competitions as part of the Philippine Math team, among other achievements he has at a young age.
Growing Youth’s Creativity and Adaptability
There have been studies from different countries like China, Amsterdam, Venezuela, and India that show how the sport develops the player’s ability to see from someone else’s perspective, improves memory, elevates creativity, strengthens planning skills, practices logical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Knowing all the benefits learning Chess can offer to his fellow youth, Abara has passionately served through Knights Build since 2020, seeking to make a difference in the community. “Seeing how chess benefited me, I knew early on I couldn’t keep it for myself, and wanted to share my passion with my community the best way I can. When I serve through my passion, service is no longer a sacrifice but something meaningful and fun. I was truly inspired to establish KBO because, upon seeing how effective it was for me, then looking around my community’s fellow youth and seeing that they too would need problem-solving skills that will make them ready to face life’s challenges,” emphasizes Abara.
Knights Build focuses on helping underprivileged youth who do not have the necessary exposure and access to chess. According to Abara, after-school activities like chess are a luxury most Filipino families cannot afford. He feels that students should be given access to after-school activities to hone their skills and talents aside from basic education received within the classrooms.
“There is a lot of untapped potential and KBO aims to slowly bridge this gap and make chess more accessible to the youth. I believe that learning chess can make a genuine difference in their lives and help them become not only great players but strong individuals who can adapt and face challenges,” says Abara.
Creating More Access to Chess Brings More Opportunities to the Youth
Aside from the late National Master Roland Perez who taught KBO children in 2020, the non-profit organization now has a world-class and highly-experienced KBO Program Head with Coach Sonny Labayne who taught the chess team at International School Manila for over 15 years. He is supported by a number of KBO volunteers who comprise young chess players in their teens or retired competitive chess players who are now focused on teaching chess.
Abara shares that there is true potential in chess. Most of KBO’s coach volunteers were talented players in their youth and they used their talent to acquire chess scholarships that helped them finish their college education. This is also the same reason why they have believed in the mission that KBO stood for and lived by:
“We not only harp on the skills development aspect but we also inspire our students that they also have the opportunity to gain scholarships to finish their education if they really hone their potential in chess,” shares Coach Labayne. Some universities that offer scholarships for chess include Ateneo de Manila University, University of Santo Tomas, University of the Philippines, University of the East, Jose Rizal University, and Rizal Technological University.
Knights Build’s ultimate end-goal is to equip the youth with the right mindset to face challenges and thrive as adults once they are on their own in the real world. These students gain exposure from well-trained and highly-qualified chess coaches who make it a point to provide world-class quality chess education through KBO.
To date, KBO has donated various chess sets, chess clocks, chess books, and magazines to the underprivileged communities such as Boystown Manila and soon in Cavite and Marikina before year-end. KBO commits to providing free chess education and training scholarships to at least a thousand underprivileged kids before the end of 2022. The organization works closely with local government units to implement their programs in certain communities across the metro.
KBO also runs its No Stress Chess program designed for chess players who want to learn the sport and just have fun without worrying about competing in chess tournaments. “We understand that competing is not for everyone. Practicing and enjoying the game helps some of our students build creativity, adaptability, and resilience without the pressure of competition. It really is my dream to have KBO provide accessible world-class chess education to the underprivileged Filipino youth at no cost,” stresses Abara.
As a means to sustain the operations of KBO as well as help local farmers at the onset and height of the pandemic, the organization sells locally-produced organic coffee from Baguio, Mushrooms Chips from Bulacan, and Tablea from Davao. To support them and keep updated on their latest news, visit their Facebook and Instagram pages.