Sprinting crosscourt, charging the net, leaping for overheads — tennis is a game of continual movement, quick changes of direction, and physical racquet skills. Chess is two people sitting in chairs. But the game on the chessboard is also a contest of movement, position and anticipation — as in tennis.
“Tennis is a game of strategy and tactics and patience, and chess is very much the same,” said Greg Moran, tennis director of Four Seasons Racquet Club on Route 7 in Wilton. “I always found a lot of similarities between the two games. In fact, famed tennis journalist Bud Collins described tennis at its best as ‘athletic chess.’”
Moran, a committed amateur chess player and a tennis pro with decades of experience teaching at all levels of the game, sees enough similarities to have added a “tennis and chess” option to Four Seasons’ summer camp offerings this summer. “We’re excited about it,” Moran said. “It’s a great game on a lot of levels. There’s the competition that kids like, there’s the thought process that everybody likes and needs, there are analytical and planning skills that everybody needs.”
Moran is an author of an instructional series and the second book Tennis Doubles, Beyond Big Shots, features on its cover art not someone hitting a ball but chess pieces.
As different as the two games seem, there are underlying similarities that unite them — such as the importance of thinking ahead.
“When you begin a point in tennis, you have probably your first three shots in your head: You plan where you’re going to hit your serve, you know what your opponent’s likely response is, which will then lead into your second shot, which you’ve already thought of. And again, you already know what your opponent’s likely shot is, based on the percentages and knowing your opponent’s style of play,” Moran said. “And very much the same is true in chess.
“A little bit like in tennis, you can kind of say what’s going to happen,” he added. “But in tennis and in chess, the unexpected often arises, and you have to be able to adjust and adapt.”
Both games are often decided by mental strength, “the ability to maintain focus for an extended period of time,” Moran said.
Veteran Four Seasons teaching pro Chris Damone will lead the tennis aspect of the summer camps. “Players will learn mental processes that will help them on the court, on the chessboard, as well as in the classroom and in other areas of their lives,” he said. “I’m trying to get the kids to think in terms of pattern play in tennis — to think ahead.”
The chess program will be led by Glenn Budzinski of Newtown, a U.S. Chess Federation-rated chess expert, teacher and tournament director for over 30 years. He founded Connecticut Kids Play Chess Inc., dedicated to bringing chess into area school systems.
“It’s been one of my passions in life, many, many years, chess,” Budzinski said. “I retired three years ago from the aerospace industry. At that time I decided to pursue my longtime passion in life — chess and teaching chess.”
Chess has benefits. “Study after study has proven that students who learn chess learn to think in life — how to focus and concentrate. Reading scores and math scores, all show the results,” Budzinski said.
But it isn’t all moves and strategy. “The fun aspect is important,” he said. “When I teach chess I like it to be both fun and instructional as well — with the emphasis on fun.”
Those priorities blend well with Moran’s beliefs about teaching tennis: There’s a lot kids can learn about hitting forehands and backhands, but the key to making them good tennis players is making sure they have fun on the court.
He knows kids can have fun playing chess, too.
“I played a lot of chess when I was young,” he said. “There used to be an elderly man who lived down the road from me in Weston. I’d get on my bike and ride down the street and he would teach me and we’d play. And then I played with my math teacher in school. And I really got back into it three or four years ago. I play people all over the world, by the Internet. That’s how I met Glenn.”
Four Seasons’ summer camp starts the week of June 6, offering weekly sessions, Monday through Friday. “There’s a straight tennis camp, but then we do combination camps,” Moran said.
In addition to the tennis and chess, there’ll be a tennis and swim camp. “We’re going to start the chess camp for kids age 7,” he said.
There are plans for camps that go from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and an afternoon camp from 1 to 4:30, both with tennis, chess and a supervised swim.
More information about the Four Seasons tennis and chess camps is available from Greg Moran at [email protected] or 203-762-2423.