Tuesday, January 07, 2014
How chess helped Sharansky
Natan Sharansky reveals how chess helped him in solitary confinement
A man who was held prisoner for campaigning for human rights during the Cold War has revealed how chess helped to keep him sane. Natan Sharansky was sent to prison by the Soviet Union in 1977 on a fake charge of spying for the US and spent nine years locked up in Siberia. Half of that was in solitary confinement, BBC Magazine reports.
Fortunately, he had been a chess champion before his capture and had developed the ability to play games in his head, a technique he used to alleviate the boredom and keep himself sane despite brutal ill-treatment.
"The KGB hoped that I would feel weaker and weaker mentally. Actually I felt stronger and stronger," Mr Sharansky explained.
He was finally released in 1986 and the famous photo of him being set free from prison is testament to his mental strength - and the apparent powers of chess to improve mental health.
Last year, the Education Endowment Foundation provided a grant that will see chess taught in primary schools to investigate whether or not it can improve children's maths abilities.