4-year-old develops grit

4-year-old develops grit

Here’s an incredible story of a 4-year-old developing grit and the “Can Do” Attitude through his older brother’s example.

Four year old Joel has been giving up (resigning) his chess games anytime he loses his most powerful piece, the queen, appearing to think “there’s no way I can win without my queen”.

At the 2018 state elementary chess championships, once again, Joel resigned a game when his queen got trapped.


At the same time, just a short distance away, Coach Elliott observed a game being played by Joel’s 6-year-old brother Caleb.

Caleb Playing Chess at 2018 State Tournament

Elliott shares,

“Caleb’s game was fairly equal when I first walked by. Later on I saw he was behind a queen.

After the game was finished, I asked Caleb, How did you do? Win, Draw, or Learn?

I was quite surprised when he said he had won the game! I replied, “You won? I thought you were behind a queen during the game!”

Caleb simply replied, “Yes, I missed a pin so I had to lose my queen - the Bishop was pinning my queen but I still won!”

I realized at that moment that little brother Joel was listening, so I intentionally questioned Caleb further.

"So what did you do? You didn’t just give up when you lost your queen?"

Caleb replied, “I kept looking for ways. I used my rooks and I really just tried to find a way. Eventually I managed to pin his queen to his king with my rook - I built a battery with my rooks so I could do this - after winning his queen I ended up checkmating his king with my Rook.

I gave a big high five to Caleb as he finished his story, congratulating him on not giving up and persevering to eventually come back and win the game.

Then I turned to Joel who had been listening intently, “Did you notice that Joel? Isn’t that great that when Caleb was down a queen, he kept looking for chances to win. He didn’t give up! So what do you think? Next time you are down a queen are you going to give up?”

Joel looked as thoughtful as a 4-year-old can and smiled as he answered, “I won’t give up - I’ll keep trying.”

Joel ready for his next game.

Elliott continued,

“Well after the next game I got a chance to talk to Joel. He had a small smile as he quietly came up and told me this story.

‘Daddy, there was this place in the game that I lost my queen, but I still won the game!’

That’s great Joel! How did it happen?

Joel said, ‘We didn’t remember whose turn it was. So I let him play even though I would lose my Queen.’

As his Dad, I was so very pleased to hear this - that my son was willing to do what was better for the other player even though it was not good for him! He was being kind to another young person!

Remember this is the kindergarten section and Joel showed exceptional sportsmanship by letting the other player move even though he knew he was going to lose his queen because of that move.


What happened next was remarkable.

Joel didn’t give up this time, in spite of losing his queen. He found a way to win.

He found a way!”

What a moment for a parent, coach, or mentor - especially this youngster!

Joel rewarded for persevering

Elliott says, “It’s about getting over a mental block. Through the experience of another student (his older brother) who wouldn’t give up, and succeeded, Joel gained the confidence to not give up himself when he was in a similar situation. That change in belief from ‘I can’t’, to ‘maybe it’s possible’, allowed him to break though that mental barrier and grow this valuable life skill, what I call the “Can Do” Attitude."

Caleb and Joel’s perseverance and sportsmanship exemplify the concepts, culture, and results of Chess4Life programs run by caring educators who are transforming kids’ lives with chess in schools throughout America.

Some of the Chess4Life team at 2018 Washington state chess championships

Elliott with Joel who won 3.5 out of 5 games.

Elliott with Joel who won 3.5 out of his 5 games.

Their sister won 3 of her games and took home a trophy!

Sister wins too

Chess4Life helps educators bring life-changing tools into classrooms without any barriers of prior chess knowledge. Kids learn life skills while having fun. If you're an educator or teacher who wants to make a difference, licensing the Chess4life curriculum and tools will help your school succeed with chess!

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