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Chess and Education

by Bill Wall

There are so many educational benefits of

chess. Chess teaches children to think
analytically, logically, and on more than
one level. The educational benefits of
chess are well documented by a large
body of research papers from around the
world. Chess helps promote intellectual
growth and has been shown to improve
academic performance. Chess also helps
to build up decision-making tools. It
educates them to be responsible for their
decisions and the consequences of those Bill Wall

The most frequently cited general benefits

of chess include the development of:

-Cognitive abilities, such as attention, When you see a good move, look
memory, and logical thinking. for a better one. —Emanuel
-Critical thinking, improving the ability to Lasker
assess strengths and weaknesses, establish
value judgments, and make decisions.
-Increased creativity through problem
-Ethical sense in which improvements in
attitude and general behavior are noted.
-Improvements in literacy.
-Better results in mathematics.

Chess is also noted as beneficial for

cognitive skills such as:

-Focusing attention. Children soon learn

that if they don't watch what is happening
on the chessboard, they can't respond to
-Visualization and imagining a sequence
of actions before it happens. This ability is
strengthened by moving the pieces in the
mind before doing so on the chess board.
-Abstract reasoning. This is the ability to
analyze information, detect patterns and
relationships, and solve problems. One
learns to take patterns used in one context
and apply them to different, but related
-Planning and developing longer range
goals and taking steps to bring them about.
This is the need to re-evaluate plans as
developments change the situation.
-Thinking ahead — learning to think first,
then act.
-Weighing options — learning that you
don't have to do the first thing that pops
into the mind.
-Analyzing correctly. Does this sequence
help me or hurt me?

There are a number of social benefits with

minorities. There have been noted
reductions in delinquency and drug use in
places such as Harlem and The Bronx
through the Chess-in-the-Schools
program. Other benefits include improved
ethical sense, improved discipline,
improved sense of fairness, improved
social mobility, and better integration of
minorities. Chess clubs in minority
communities are a gateway to community
activities for the children and their
parents. It is also a stepping stone towards
involvement in other kinds of social
activities such as sports and voluntary
social work.

Chess often serves as a bridge, bringing

together children of different ages, races,
and genders in an activity they can all
enjoy. Chess helps build individual
friendships and school spirit when
children compete together as teams
against other schools. Chess also teaches
children about good sportsmanship —
how to win graciously and not give up
when encountering defeat. For children
with adjustment issues, there are many
examples where chess has led to increased
motivation, improved behavior, better
self-image, and improved school
attendance. Chess provides a positive
social outlet, a wholesome recreational
activity that can be easily learned and
enjoyed at any age.

There are about 30 million school children

that take part in chess in school programs
around the world every week. There are
138 countries in the world that has chess
in school programs.

India has about 17 million children

involved nationwide in chess. Chess is a
part of the curriculum in the states of
Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.

From 1973 to 1974, Dr. Albert Frank, a

school director based in Zaire, studied the
effects of chess on children who took
chess classes for two hours every week.
He conducted studies using 92 students,
ages 16 to 18. After the lessons, he
concluded that those who practiced chess
demonstrated improved verbal skills, as
well as enhanced mathematical skills and
administrative-directional tasks. He found
that good teenage chess players had strong
spatial, numerical, administrative-
directional, and paperwork abilities. His
study was published in 1974, Chess and
Aptitudes, Doctoral Dissertation.

In 1977, Dr. Adrian De Groot (1914-2006)

suggested that there were two types of
benefit to young people learning chess.
First, there were low-level gains in which
pupils improve their concentration, learn
to lose, and come to understand that
improvement comes with learning.
Second, there were high-level gains such
as increase in intelligence, creativity, and
school performance.

A study in 1977-79 at the Chinese

University in Hong Kong by Dr. Yee
Wang Fung, demonstrated a significant
15% increase in test scores for
mathematics for chess players, compared
to students not exposed to chess

Chess can bring all kinds of recognition.

In 1983, Bob Cotter, a 5th-grade science
teacher, took his team of inner-city kids
from PS 27 in Indianapolis to the National
Elementary School Chess Championship
in Memphis. After the team won the
championship, the kids were invited to the
White House and met President Reagan.
An Oscar-nominated documentary titled
The Masters of Disaster was also made of
their achievement.

In 1986, the Chess-in-the-Schools (CIS)

School Program, a non-profit
organization, was formed to teach chess in
the New York public schools. Over
500,000 students have been impacted the
by the program since 1986. During the
2017-2018 school year, there are 47
elementary and middle schools in the
School Program. That means 6,000
students will learn to play chess in this
program this year.

Chess helps in the ability for people to

socialize, either at a chess club, chess
tournament, or even on the Internet. Chess
enhances your ability to interact with other
people. In 1988, Joyce Brown, an assistant
principal and supervisor of the Roberto
Clemente School's Special Education
department in New York, and teacher
Florence Mirin began studying the effect
of chess on their Special Education
students. When the study began, they had
15 children enrolled in chess classes; two
years later they had 398. "The effects have
been remarkable," Brown says. "Not only
have the reading and math skills of these
children soared, their ability to socialize
has increased substantially, too. Our
studies have shown that incidents of
suspension and outside altercations have
decreased by at least 60% since these
children became interested in chess."

Children love games. Chess is the kind of

game that teaches a child patience and
willpower. Children enjoy chess despite
the fact that it is good for them. Chess
improves children's thinking and problem-
solving skills. A 1990-92 study in New
Brunswick, Canada by Louise Gaudreau,
entitled, Etude Comparative sur les
Apprentissages en Mathematiques 5e
Annee (Comparative study on 5th Year
Mathematics Education), showed the
value of chess for developing problem
solving skills among young children. By
integrating chess into the traditional
mathematics curriculum, teachers were
able to raise significantly the average
problem-solving scores of their students.
These students also scored far higher on
problem solving tests than ones who just
took the standard mathematics course.

One study, conducted by Philip Rifner,

Purdue University, from 1991-1992,
aimed to determine whether or not
students who practiced general problem-
solving skills through playing chess could
successfully apply those skills to an
unrelated domain, in this case, poetic
analysis. The study, Playing chess: A
Study of the transfer of problem-solving
skills in students with average and above
average intelligence, concluded that chess
proficiency develops skills which students
can indeed apply to other fields. Students
were shown to be more adept at poetic
analysis as a result of exposure to chess,
leading to the conclusion that chess
potentially accelerates cognitive
development in a multitude of capacities.

In a 1995 study titled Chess in Education

Research Summary, Dr. Robert Ferguson
established that chess is instrumental in
the enhancement of a child's critical
thinking and good judgment skills. His
subjects, seventh to ninth graders in
Pennsylvania, yielded a 17.3%
improvement in the results of academic
performance, compared with only 4.56%
for students participating in other forms of
"enrichment activities."

A 1997 study, titled Chess and Standard

Test Scores, in Texas showed that
elementary students who participated in a
school chess club showed twice the
improvement of non-chess players in
Reading and Mathematics between third
and fifth grades on the Texas Assessment
of Academic Skills (TAAS). The study
was conducted in four of the elementary
schools in a large suburban school district
near Houston, Texas from 1884 to 1997.

In 1998, James Smith and Robert Cage

showed that chess was crucial in the
improvement of a child's mathematical
skills. In their study titled The Effects of
Chess Instruction on the Mathematics
Achievement of Southern, Rural, Black
Secondary Students, they demonstrated
that math proficiency test results improved
in African-American high school students
when they were provided 120 hours of
chess instruction. James and Cage
attributed the enhanced arithmetical skill
of the subjects to the influence of chess on
perceptual ability.

In 2000, James Smith and Bob Cage

reported the effects of 120 hours of chess
instruction on the mathematics
achievement among rural, African-
American secondary school students in
northern Louisiana. They determined that
the treatment group composed of 11
females and 10 males scored significantly
higher in mathematics achievement and
non-verbal cognitive ability than the
control group composed of 10 females and
10 males after controlling for differences
among pretest scores.

In 2002, Robert Katende began a Ugandan

Sports programs in Katwe, the largest of
Kampala's slums. The sports program also
included chess. In 2006, Phiona Mutesa,
age 10, won the Uganda National Junior
Chess Championship. She also won in in
2007 and 2008. She played second board
for Ugana at the Women's Chess
Olympiad in Kany-Mansiysk, Russia. She
gained the title of Woman Candidate
Master at the 2012 Chess Oympiad in
2012. Disney made a move of her, called
Queen of Katwe, which every parent and
child should see.

Chess has been shown that, when

methodologically taught, it can increase
the IQ in elementary age children. A 2003
study by Dr. Murray Thompson at the
Flinders University in Australia showed
that participants who played chess also
demonstrated improved IQ levels.
Thompson ascribed this to the
concentration and logical thinking a chess
game calls for. A similar study was
conducted in Venezuela with over 4,000
children. Children who took chess classes
for 4.5 months increased their IQ points.
This occurred across all socio-economic
groups and for both males and females.

In 2005, the Chess for Peace was initiated

by the International Educational and
Cultural Services, a non-profit
organization. The Chess for Peace
initiative is designed to promote peace
throughout the world by bringing
secondary school students from different
countries together to learn how to play
chess and to establish lasting friendship.
On October 29, 2005, former President
and Nobel Prize winner Mikhail
Gorbachev launched the Chess for Peace
program in the U.S

In 2006, Dr. Alexey Root authored

Children and Chess: A Guide for
Educators. Since then, she has written
several other books on the relationship
between chess and education. She has
written Science, Math, Checkmate: 32
Chess Activities for Inquiry and Problem
Solving (2008), Read, Write, Checkmate:
Enrich Literacy with Chess Activities
(2009), People, Places, Checkmates:
Teaching Social Studies with Chess
(2010), The Living Chess Game: Fine
Arts Activities for Kids 9-14 (2010),
Thinking with Chess: Teaching Children
Ages 5-14 (2012), and Preparing With
Chess Strategy (2016)

In 2007, the University of Aberdeen

sponsored a Chess in the Schools and
Communities International Conference

In 2008, the Department of Education

invested $120,000 for chess in 100 public
schools. Since then, it has expanded to
several hundred more schools.

In 2009, Robert Katende launched a chess

program in Gulu, Uganda. In 2013, he
gained support from the Uganda national
chess federation and the World Chess
Federation's Social Action Commission.
The programs have grown and the lives of
many children have been empowered with
improved social and life skills using this
chess platform. In 2017, a girl's chess
team from Gulu won the National Schools
Championship. The team was comprised
of the girls from the "Smart Girl Chess
Program" that Robert Katende started.

In 2010, International Master Malcolm

Pein founded the Chess in Schools and
Communities to promote chess education
for youth in the UK. Chess is taught to
underprivileged, often immigrant, children
in the United Kingdom.

In 2011, Armenia was the first nation to

introduce chess as a compulsory part of
the school curriculum. Armenian schools
teach chess as a purely academic subject,
so the focus is educational, not
competitive chess. Children are taught
chess two hours a week for two years. But
the chess culture spreads far beyond the
classroom, with weekly chess magazines
and television programs aimed at children.
Serzh Sargsyan, the country's president
and head of the Armenia's Chess
Federation, sees chess not just as an
educational benefit but as a means of
developing a sense of national identity.
"We don't want people to know Armenia
just for the earthquake and the genocide.
We would rather it was famous for its
chess," he has said.
In March 2012, the European Parliament
endorsed the 'Chess in European schools'
program, a cooperation between the
European Chess Union (ECU) and the
Kasparov Chess Foundation.

In 2012, Farhad Kazemi and team

examined the cognitive effects of chess
play. They employed an experimental
group composed of 86 randomly selected
school-aged students, who received chess
instruction for six months, and a control
group of 94 randomly selected school-
aged students. All participants were male
and from 5th, 8th, and 9th grades from
schools in Shanandaj in western Iran. All
participants were administered a measure
of metacognitive ability and a grade-
appropriate mathematics exam prior to
and after the intervention. The chess group
participants registered significantly higher
posttest metacognitive ability scores and
higher posttest mathematics test scores
than the non-chess group participants. A
major conclusion of the study is that chess
instruction improves significantly the
mathematical abilities and the
metacognitive capacities of school-aged

In 2013, Susan Sallon evaluated the

effects an in-school chess intervention on
second grade students in England. 201
students participated in a total of 30 hours
of chess instruction. Schools in which
chess was taught to students at this age
were matched, based on student
characteristics, with schools that did not
offer chess to their students or taught
chess in a later grade. Students in both
groups completed a math quiz composed
of 19 math and reasoning items. The quiz
specifically sought to measure student
ability in the areas of numeracy spatial
awareness, logical deduction, and problem
solving. The results of independent tests
comparing the mean performance of
students in treatment schools to that of
students in control schools revealed
significant differences on each of the four
areas of mathematical ability measured by
the quiz. The results were statistically
significant. The randomization of schools
into the treatment and control groups
provided confidence that the higher levels
of mathematics achievement observed
among treatment group students is
attributable to the chess intervention.

In 2013, Roberto Trinchero examined the

effects of chess instruction on the
mathematical ability of primary school
students. His study involved 568 primary
school children in Italy placed in four
groups: (1) experimental, (2) control, (3)
experimental without a pretest, and (4)
control without a pretest. The
experimental group received chess
training in addition to ordinary class
lessons. The control group only received
ordinary class lessons. One prominent
result was that the experimental group that
received chess training registered a modest
but statistically significant increase in
scores on mathematics test items that
required problem-solving skills on
complex tasks. That effect was greater
among students who had more hours of
chess instruction.

In 2016-17, the New York Chess-in-the-

Schools program surveyed the schools in
their program. What they found was that
89% of the teachers reported that
practicing chess increased their students'
self-esteem. 89% of the teachers reported
that chess enriched their students' social
skills. Finally, 91% of teachers reported
that practicing chess enhanced students'
cooperation skills.

America's Foundation for Chess (AF4C)

has developed a program called First
Move. It is being taught in 26 states at the
2nd and 3rd grade level. It uses chess as a
learning tool to teach higher level thinking
skills, advanced math and reading skills. It
also uses chess to build self-esteem in

In Philadelphia, the 7th largest school

system in the country, 18 of the 280 public
schools have added the AF4C First Move
chess program to their curriculum.
Additionally, the Philadelphia Eagles NFL
football league has made a commitment to
chess in the Philadelphia schools as part of
its Eagles Youth Partnership After-
Schools Activities Partnership (ASAP)


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