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"Mr. Khan" Teaches Life Lessons With Chess

Furqan Tanwir, or "Mr. Khan" as he's called by his students, is a chess instructor who works with children after school as he teaches them one of the oldest games in the world. Tanwir has been teaching chess for about 10 years and this summer is running sessions out of the Ardsley Community Center.

Chess is looked upon as a difficult game to those who've never played, but Tanwir says it's simply a matter of perspective.

"When I started teaching I realized that what you teach is almost irrelevant, but what matters most is how you teach it," Tanwir said. "A lot of times when someone becomes something great at something in life, whether its basketball or football or whatever it may be it's not always a love of the context, but a lot of times its to alleviate an imbalance in another aspect in life."

Mr. Khan subscribes to the notion that chess isn't a game; rather it's a way of teaching valuable life lessons.

"In addition to making you think in a logical way, it teaches you about struggling, which is very important in life in general," Tanwir said. "To be able to put yourself in a situation in which you can either win or lose is an accomplishment in itself."

In a day and age where everyone is obsessed with winning and losing and being the best, Tanwir reminds people that more often than not it's the struggle that builds strong character, regardless of individual success.

He teaches students from ages 7 to 10 in two levels, beginner and advanced, and said with just one lesson students will be able to play competitively with average players. In fact, Tanwir said that after just four lessons, many of his advanced students could beat their parents—easily.

"A lot of people just feel about who's smarter, but that's not necessarily true at all," Tanwir said. "It's a game of patterns and the more patterns you understand and learn the easier it is to become a better player. That's all there is to it."

Chess isn't as much about the game as it is life as many of its techniques can be directly applied to the real world. Tanwir said that players must learn to use foresight and look ahead 10 moves, 20 moves or perhaps even 30 moves.

"It's about being able to visualize where you're going before you actually get there," Tanwar said.

It is this mindset that seems to make Tanwar's classes so popular with his students because it's not about winning or losing, rather it's about building strength and learning through these challenges.

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