Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Chess in curriculum helps school hone kids’ abilities

Artwork by Mike Magnan

Chess in curriculum helps school hone kids’ abilities
Published: Thursday, Apr 28, 2011, 9:26 IST
By Team DNA | Place: Bangalore | Agency: DNA

Yes! Chess, the addictive board game, forms a part of the curriculum at the Green Wood High School, Bangalore. Being the first in the city to take this step, the school authorities believe that chess practised from a young age as a sport or a favourite pastime cultivates good habits among students. It not only helps them gain expertise in the game, but also guides them for a better, brighter, and quality life.

“Chess has been a part of our school curriculum for seven years. Since chess is an indoor game and does not require much equipment, it is easy to incorporate it into the curriculum. It helps students immensely,” said Niru Agarwal, director of the school.

Learning chess is compulsory for students of nursery to Class VII, while students of Class VIII to X can learn it by choice. Highly-qualified chess tutors, who are a part of the teaching staff, teach chess at the school. It is taught like any other subject, with 3-4 classes a week for all grades.

“Chess improves a child’s logical reasoning, patience, concentration power and mathematical ability. It also induces competitive spirit as students try to outplay one another, and enhances their decision-making ability,” Agarwal said, when asked how the game contributes in improving children’s cognitive skills.

“Our students have won many prizes at inter-school and state-level championships. This has boosted their confidence and the students are responding brilliantly to this initiative. Parents are also very happy,” she added.

“Children have the unique ability of learning things quickly and grasping them. Once a child is taught the basics of chess and encouraged to play, they develop an interest for the game and will only better themselves. In their pursuit to learn more about the intricacies of the game, they would be anxious to read more about the grandmasters, the different types of games, tactics and strategies and in the process, they cultivate the habit of reading,” said Santosh Desai, of Green Wood High School.

K Somnath, a national chess arbiter and tutor at the school said, “The teaching methodology differs from grade to grade. Nursery students are introduced to the basic concepts of chessboard and chessmen, while the high school students are judged on their playing ability. Playing chess naturally compliments academics as it sharpens students’ concentration and improves their IQ.”
Speaking about the students response, he said, “The kids are enjoying the programme very much, and they look forward to all the classes.”

The game of chess is part of compulsory school curriculum in countries like Russia. In India, Gujarat has incorporated chess into the state school curriculum. Chess, with each passing day is gaining more prominence as a sport globally. Moreover, the trend of incorporating it into school curriculum is expected to catch on in the coming days.

Source: DNA India

Chess in education debate

Artwork by Mike Magnan

Should all kids be forced to play chess?
Armenia is making the game mandatory for schoolchildren. Will that make them smarter?

Monday, April 25, 2011

The chess debate

Artwork by Mike Magnan

Should every child be made to play chess?

Armenia is making chess compulsory in schools, but could mandatory study of a board game really help children's academic performance and behaviour?

Every child aged six or over in Armenia is now destined to learn chess. The authorities there believe compulsory lessons will "foster schoolchildren's intellectual development" and improve critical thinking skills.

The country has plenty of reasons to believe in chess. It treats grandmasters like sports stars, championships are displayed on giant boards in cities and victories celebrated with the kind of frenzy most countries reserve for football.

Chess is nothing less than a national obsession.

It may only have a population of 3.2 million, but Armenia regularly beats powerhouses such as Russia, China and the US and its national team won gold at the International Chess Olympiad in 2006 and 2008.

Added to that, the Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan has just been re-elected as chair of the Armenian Chess Federation.


Now the chess-mad country is investing nearly $1.5m (£920,000) to teach all of its children. But for other countries constantly strategising about how to boost child development and education, is making study of the Sicilian and the Queen's Gambit a good idea?

Proponents of chess in schools do claim some evidence. A two-year study conducted in the US by Dr Stuart Marguilies found that learning chess improved reading test scores and reading performance in elementary schools.

Another study by Professor Peter Dauvergne, who is also a chess master, concluded playing chess could raise IQ scores, strengthen problem solving skills, enhance memory and foster creative thinking.

Malcolm Pein, chief executive of Chess in Schools and Communities, a programme that puts chess into UK schools, says there are lots of reasons why chess has a positive impact on primary school children.

"Not only does it give children good thinking skills and improve concentration, memory and calculation, but it teaches children to take responsibility for their actions.

"There are also behavioural attitudes and social attributes to the game too. Children shake hands at the start, and although it's not deathly silent in classes, it's reasonably quiet and disciplined."

Far from it just being the case that more academically-minded people are more likely to play chess, he says the game is a very universal and inclusive activity that can be played at all standards.

Turn off

"Someone who is four can play someone who is 104, someone that can't walk around can play a top class athlete. Sometimes children that have been overlooked in other ways - maybe the quietest or physically smallest child in class - could be the best.

“Start Quote

Chess is a very addictive process, a positive drug for children”

End Quote Malcolm Pein Chess in Schools and Communities

"The other outstanding thing about chess is it's so cheap, so it can really help children in areas that are economically disadvantaged."

Pein is a big supporter of chess being made compulsory at school and recently made a submission to the government's National Curriculum review. It recommended that one class of chess - "or other thinking games like bingo" - is made mandatory every week for children in Year 2 (aged six) or 3 (aged seven).

He concedes the game can be challenging for young children, but argues that by the age of six or seven they are more than capable of picking it up.

English grandmaster and Times chess correspondent Raymond Keene agrees with targeting six-year-olds at primary school - and not just because he thinks it is the optimum time to catch children with the potential to make it big.

"Chess draws from brain power, not experience - it's not like writing an epic. So if a child is good at six, they could be a grandmaster by the time they are 12," he enthuses.

He says "chess is a very addictive process, a positive drug for children". Even when it is played online, it is much better than video games or television, he adds.


But although he thinks teaching chess in schools could be beneficial, he would stop short of making it compulsory.

"There are plenty of other things that could benefit from being compulsory too, I wonder whether it would be appropriate," he says.

"Also, in Armenia the government is knocking at an open door. Chess is already so embedded in its culture, it's bound up in its national psyche and ambitions. In the UK making it compulsory might actually turn people off."

Chess players may be convinced of chess' credentials, but could education experts be persuaded?

Katherine Birbalsingh, the teacher who came to public notice after a speech to the Conservative conference criticising school standards, and who is now setting up her own free school, says it is easy to see how chess would be a useful tool.

"I'm a great believer in knowledge acquisition - and chess is obviously a skill - so I can understand why it would be a good thing to teach children. My question is, what would you lose instead?

"There is so much to learn, so many subjects to put into the curriculum, it would be a shame to lose something like music or art for chess."

Chris Woodhead, the former chief inspector of schools in England, says providing chess in schools - either through clubs or classes - could be helpful, but compulsory classes are not the way forward.

"I'm not sure whether it would have a beneficial impact, but chess is an activity many people find intriguing and satisfying, so it's got to be a good to have the option," he says.

Russell Hobby, the general secretary of The National Association of Head Teachers says fostering strategic thinking is an essential employability skill. But he can't support the idea of mandatory chess.

"No more compulsory subjects. It's about finding what works with each group of children."

And in a curriculum already subject to numerous priorities, chess may struggle to make the grade.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Brainy benefits of chess

The Brainy Benefits of Chess
How this classic game of strategy makes kids smarter.
By Beth Weinhouse, Photo by Annie Schlechter
Parents Magazine

On Manhattan's Upper East Side, 18 kindergartners are staring at a large vinyl screen at the front of their classroom. But it's not a video they're watching -- it's a chess game. Amazingly for a group of energetic 5-year-olds, the kids sit still and listen raptly as a dapper gentleman with an eastern European accent points at the magnetic pieces on the hanging board, explaining excitedly that "chess is an art, a struggle, a science, a war!"

This is the Dalton School, a private academy in New York City, which has one of the country's first -- and best -- chess programs. Its director, Svetozar Jovanovic, started the program 18 years ago, and today all the school's students begin chess instruction in kindergarten. Those who remain interested after first grade join Dalton's after-school Chess Academy, whose team regularly wins local and national championships.

Barely three miles uptown, a classroom of equally attentive kindergartners is also transfixed by a vinyl chessboard. These are students at P.S. 194, a public school in Harlem. There, Nikki Church, an instructor from Chess-in-the-Schools, a New York City-based nonprofit organization, is greeted with applause at her weekly visit. "Let's put on our chess faces," Church says, helping kids find the calm they'll need to play. The students watch the board, and each time they see a piece captured, they shout, "Splat!" This school, too, has a winning chess team -- the Renaissance Warriors.

What the elite private academy and the inner-city public school both know is that "Chess makes you smart," a slogan of the U.S. Chess Federation (USCF). A growing body of research is showing that chess improves kids' thinking and problem-solving skills as well as their math and reading test scores. Accordingly, communities across the country are racing to create after-school chess programs and start local chess clubs, and some states -- New Jersey, for one -- have written chess into official school curricula.

The USCF has seen the number of scholastic members ages 14 and under soar in the last decade, from just over 3,000 in 1990 to more than 35,000 today. The game's image is changing too: It's going from geeky to groovy, thanks in part to pop-culture icons like rock star Sting and New York Knicks forward Larry Johnson, who boast of their chess prowess in interviews.

Chess Makes the Grade

Schools that encourage chess are reacting to studies like that of New York City-based educational psychologist Stuart Margulies, Ph.D., who in 1996 found that elementary school students in Los Angeles and New York who played chess scored approximately 10 percentage points higher on reading tests than their peers who didn't play. James M. Liptrap, a teacher and chess sponsor at Klein High School in Spring, TX, conducted a similar study in 1997. He found that fifth-graders who played chess scored 4.3 points higher on state reading assessments and 6.4 points higher on math tests than their non-chess-playing peers.

Further proof comes from the doctoral dissertation of Robert Ferguson, executive director of the American Chess School in Bradford, PA. He studied junior-high students, each of whom was enrolled in an activity -- either working with computers, playing chess, taking a creative writing workshop, or playing Dungeons and Dragons -- that was designed to develop critical and creative thinking skills. By the time the students had spent about 60 hours on their chosen activities, the chess players were well ahead of the others in several psychological tests, scoring almost 13 percentage points higher in critical thinking and 35 percentage points higher in creative thinking.

Experts attribute chess players' higher scores to the rigorous workout chess gives the brain. Studies by Dianne Horgan, Ph.D., dean of the graduate school of counseling, educational psychology, and research at the University of Memphis, has found that chess improves a child's visual memory, attention span, and spatial-reasoning ability. And because it requires players to make a series of decisions, each move helps kids learn to plan ahead, evaluate alternatives, and use logic to make sound choices.

Science aside, anecdotal evidence is enough to convince some teachers and parents of chess's benefits -- behavioral as well as cognitive. In 1990, for instance, the principal at Russell Elementary School in Brownsville, TX, had become concerned about some boys who were being dropped off at school early and getting into mischief. But when she visited J. J. Guajardo's fifth-grade classroom one day, she was surprised to see some of those boys quietly engrossed in chess games. So she asked Guajardo to start a before-school chess program. Soon kids from kindergarten through sixth grade had signed up to play, and by 1993 the Russell team was winning state championships.

"We were a public school with a lot of students from low-income families, but we were beating magnet schools with gifted students," says Guajardo, who's now a high school teacher. "And I noticed that every one of our kids who played chess was also passing the state assessment tests in reading, writing, and math."

When to Begin

Not all experts agree on the optimal age for children to start learning to play chess. Some simply say the earlier the better. "I believe the younger the child, the greater the impact," says the American Chess School's Dr. Ferguson, who has taught the game to kindergartners. "These kids have brains like sponges."

While some children will be ready to learn the game by age 4, the consensus among chess teachers seems to be that second grade -- meaning age 7 or 8 -- is the ideal time to start. "I've had mixed results when teaching kindergartners and first-graders, but by second grade, they're all ready," says Tom Brownscombe, scholastic director of the U.S. Chess Federation.

As for gender, most agree that many more boys than girls become interested in the game and continue playing. "I don't think there's any reason for it other than society seems to think chess is a boys' thing," Brownscombe says. "Obviously, females are perfectly capable of competing with males in chess."

Though Jovanovic admits there aren't many girls in Dalton School's chess academy, he says that girls who do play are extremely good. "I have one sixth-grade girl, Katharine Pelletier, who's the highest-rated middle school player in the United States," he says proudly. "She's not intimidated by anybody."

As chess's popularity rises among children, experts who've been involved with chess for years say that more girls are playing -- and winning. "My older daughter, who's now 21, started playing when she was in elementary school, but she quit after a year and a half because there just weren't any other girls doing it," says Susan Breeding, director of instruction for the Dallas Area Chess-in-the-Schools program. "For my younger daughter, who's 10, it's a whole other ball game now."

Beware the Pushy Parent

For some, the thought of children playing chess conjures up images of the 1993 film Searching for Bobby Fischer, which chronicles the exhausting training and competition schedule of 7-year-old chess prodigy Joshua Waitzkin, a former Dalton student. Experts warn that for the average kid, such intense pressure can cause more harm than good. For one thing, tournament play can be extremely taxing to the body: A Temple University study found that chess players can expend as much energy during a tournament as a boxer.

What's more, chess's effect on the brain will be undermined if kids feel forced to play, says Dr. Nelson. "It has to be fun. A parent who wants to make a child into the next Bobby Fischer is as bad as one who pressures a child to be a star football player or neurosurgeon. Children have to want to play to derive the benefits."

The key to making chess fun, say the instructors, is how you teach the game. Dalton's Jovanovic spices his lessons with all kinds of cultural and literary references as well as dramatic battles between chess pieces. At P.S. 194, Church's students take breaks from learning game strategy to design their own chess pieces with crayons and paper. They get up from their seats to perform dances that help them remember moves: In the Rook Dance, for example, kids move up, down, and side to side.

Students of Keith Halonen, a chess teacher in Santa Rosa, CA, learn about the history of the game. He'll ask the kids if they've seen the Disney movie Aladdin, for instance. "Then I tell them the real Aladdin was an adviser in the 15th-century Persian court. He was such a good chess player that he could conduct four games of chess simultaneously while blindfolded and at the same time carry on conversations with his friends!"

And Yakov Hirsch, a Chess-in-the-Schools instructor who teaches in New York City's Chinatown, enlivens his instruction with banter designed to make the kids giggle. "The king is naked!" he exclaims, showing an unprotected monarch. "The pawns were the king's clothing, and the white queen took them away," he explains as the class dissolves in general second-grade hilarity. The lesson is about when to let a piece to be captured -- a "sacrifice" -- instead of losing it because of bad moves.

Calling All Kids

Teachers say that anyone can play chess and almost anyone can play well. For kids who aren't interested in entering tournaments, just playing for fun still confers all of the game's cognitive benefits. "It's a misconception that chess is only for nerdy, gifted kids," Guajardo says. "I've found that chess helps all students, whether they're bilingual, special-ed, dyslexic, or economically disadvantaged."

For parents who still aren't convinced, consider that a child who's playing chess is sitting quietly and concentrating, not needing to be entertained by anything loud, violent, or silly. I discovered this benefit firsthand on a flight home from Paris with my son last summer. Though my bag was filled with books and toys, I dreaded trying to keep a squirmy 5-year-old occupied for seven hours.

Shortly after takeoff, a fellow passenger -- an older man -- walked down the aisle with a portable chess set. "Chess, anyone?" he inquired. No one took him up on his offer, so I nudged Daniel. "Would you like to play?" I asked. Daniel bounded over to the man's seat.

The gentleman turned out to be a retired high school teacher who had coached his school's chess team. He and Daniel played for hours, with my son returning to his seat only when the "fasten seat belts" sign lit up. As for me, I actually got to relax and read the book I'd optimistically carried aboard -- a first for me when traveling with my son. I really love this game!

Why study chess?

Why Study Chess?

Bart, William M. and Atherton, Michael. The Neuroscientific Basis Of Chess Playing:
applications to the Development Of Talent and Education

Buky, J. Chess, Math & Extended Response Curriculum

Campitelli, Guillermo and Gobet, Fernand. The mind’s eye in blindfold chess

Celone, Jim. Why chess?

Cohen, Robyn. Chess is fast track to brainier kids.

Dr. Dauvergne, Peter. The case for chess as a tool to develop our children’s minds

Dyck, Brenda. Chess as an Essential Teaching Tool

Ericsson, Anders. Long-Term Working Memory

Dr. Ferguson, Robert C. Chess in Education Research Summary

Dr. Ferguson, Robert C. Teacher's guide: research and benefits of chess

Dr. Ferguson, Robert C. The USA Junior Chess Olympics Research:
Developing Memory and Verbal Reasoning

Fletcher, David Chess in Education. A Creative, Aesthetic, and Feminist Approach to the
Life Lessons Learned by Students Studying Chess as an Integral Part of the
School Curriculum - and as a Non-school Educational Experience

Gobet, Fernand. Training in chess: A scientific approach

Ippolito, Dean J. Benefits of chess for children

James, Richard. Chess, Piaget and Polgar

Kitsis, Aleksandr. Benefits of chess for academic performance and creative thinking

Liptrap, James M. Chess and Standard Test Scores

Margulies, Stuart. The effect of chess on reading scores

McDonald, Patrick S. The benefits of chess in education. A Collection of Studies and Papers
on Chess and Education.

Milat, Marcel. The role of chess in modern education

Palm, Christine. Chess Improves Academic Performance

Russell, Deb. Chess and Math?

Ryan, Gary. Chess in education

Saariluoma, Pertti. Chess and content-oriented psychology of thinking

Simon, Herbert A. The Game of Chess

Wojcio, Michael D. The importance of chess in the classroom

More . . .

Benefits of Chess for Youth

A brief survey of psychological studies of chess

Chess: A Learning Tool

Chess Development in Aberdeen’s Primary Schools: A Study Of Literacy And Social Capital

Chess in the Math Curriculum

Chess raises IQ scores

Educational Benefits

Educational Benefits of Chess

Expert Performance and Deliberate Practice. An updated excerpt from Ericsson (2000).

Ho Math and Chess Research and Articles

Huge benefits for young chess players

Mathematics and Chess Page

Research & Educational Benefits of Chess

Scholastic Chess Research Bibliography

Success in Chess Mediated by Cognitive- Affective Molds

The Expert Mind

Why chess is important in education?

Research and benefits of chess by Dr. Ferguson



In a 1973-74 Zaire study conducted by Dr. Albert Frank, employing 92 students, age 16-18, the chess-playing experimental group showed a significant advancement in spatial, numerical and administrative-directional abilities, along with verbal aptitudes, compared to the control group. The improvements held true regardless of the final chess skill level attained. [1], [2], [7]

In a 1974-1976 Belgium study, a chess-playing experimental group of fifth graders experienced a statistically significant gain in cognitive development over a control group, using Piaget's tests for cognitive development. Perhaps more noteworthy, they also did significantly better in their regular school testing, as well as in standardized testing administered by an outside agency which did not know the identity of the two groups. Quoting Dr. Adriaan de Groot: ...``In addition, the Belgium study appears to demonstrate that the treatment of the elementary, clear-cut and playful subject matter can have a positive effect on motivation and school achievement generally...'' [1], [3], [7]

In a 1977-1979 study at the Chinese University in Hong Kong by Dr. Yee Wang Fung, chess players showed a 15% improvement in math and science test scores. [4]

A four-year study (1979-1983) in Pennsylvania found that the chess-playing experimental group consistently outperformed the control groups engaged in other thinking development programs, using measurements from the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal and the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking. [1], [4], [5], [6], [7], [23]

The 1979-1983 Venezuela ``Learning to Think Project,'' which trained 100,000 teachers to teach thinking skills and involved a sample of 4,266 second grade students, reached a general conclusion that chess, methodologically taught, is an incentive system sufficient to accelerate the increase of IQ in elementary age children of both sexes at all socio-economic levels. [1], [7], [8], [9], [10]

During his governor's teacher grant from the New Jersey State Department of Education, William Levy found that chess consistently (1980-1987) promoted self-esteem after a year of exposure. Many students' self-images improved dramatically. [7], [11]

According to a two-year study conducted in Kishinev under the supervision of N.F. Talisina, grades for young students taking part in the chess experiment increased in all subjects. Teachers noted improvement in memory, better organizational skills, and for many increased fantasy and imagination (Education Ministry of the Moldavian Republic, 1985). [1], [7]

In his 1986 pilot study, Dr. Ferguson found that it is possible to enhance achievement by focusing on individuals' modality strengths, creating an individualized thinking plan, analyzing and reflecting upon one's own problem solving processes, sharing his/her thinking system with peers, and modifying the system to integrate other modalities. [1], [7], [12]

During the 1987-88 ``Development of Reasoning and Memory through Chess,'' all students in a rural Pennsylvania sixth grade self-contained classroom were required to participate in chess lessons and play games. None of the pupils had previously played chess. The pupils significantly improved in both memory and verbal reasoning. The effect of the magnitude of the results is strong (eta 2 is .715 for the Memory test gain compared to the Norm). These results suggest that transfer of the skills fostered through the chess curriculum did occur. [1], [7], [13]

A 1989-92 New Brunswick, Canada study, using 437 fifth graders split into three groups, experimenting with the addition of chess to the math curriculum, found increased gains in math problem-solving and comprehension proportionate to the amount of chess in the curriculum. [14]

A 1990-92 study using a sub-set of the New York City Schools Chess Program produced statistically significant results concluding that chess participation enhances reading performance. [15], [16], [23]

“Playing Chess: A Study of Problem-Solving Skills in Students with Average and Above Average Intelligence,'' a study by Philip Rifner, was conducted during the 1991-1992 school term. The study sought to determine whether middle school students who learned general problem solving skills in one domain could apply them in a different domain. Data indicated that inter-domain transfer can be achieved if teaching for transfer is an instructional goal. [17]

During the 1995-1996 school year, two classrooms were selected in each of five schools. Students (N = 112) were given instruction in chess and reasoning in one classroom in each school. Pupils in the chess program obtained significantly higher reading scores at the end of the year. It should be noted that while students in the chess group took chess lessons, the control group (N = 127) had additional classroom instruction in basic education. The control group teacher was free to use the ``chess period'' any way he/she wanted, but the period was usually used for reading, math or social studies instruction. The control groups thus had more reading instruction than the chess groups.

Even so, the chess groups did better on the reading post-test; therefore, the gains in the chess groups were particularly impressive. [18]

In a 1994-97 Texas study, regular (non-honors) 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. [19], [20]

Researchers and educators have questioned what causes this growth. The Venezuelan study claimed: ``Chess develops a new form of thinking, and this exercise is what contributes to increase the intelligence quotient.'' [10] More recent researchers speculate that it is the growth of new synaptic connections. Chess promotes the growth of dendrites!

Why does chess have this impact? Briefly, there appear to be at least seven significant factors: 1) Chess accommodates all modality strengths. 2) Chess provides a far greater quantity of problems for practice. 3) Chess offers immediate punishments and rewards for problem solving. 4) Chess creates a pattern or thinking system that, when used faithfully, breeds success. The chess playing students had become accustomed to looking for more and different alternatives, which resulted in higher scores in fluency and originality. 5) Competition. Competition fosters interest, promotes mental alertness, challenges all students, and elicits the highest levels of achievement (Stephan, 1988). 6) A learning environment organized around games has a positive affect on students' attitudes toward learning. This affective dimension acts as a facilitator of cognitive achievement

(Allen & Main, 1976). [21]

Instructional gaming is one of the most motivational tools in the good teacher's repertoire. Children love games. Chess motivates them to become willing problem solvers and spend hours quietly immersed in logical thinking. These same young people often cannot sit still for fifteen minutes in the traditional classroom. 7) Chess supplies a variety and quality of problems. As Langen (1992) states: ``The problems that arise in the 70-90 positions of the average chess game are, moreover, new. Contexts are familiar, themes repeat, but game positions never do. This makes chess good grist for the problem-solving mill.''


Chess is part of the curricula in nearly 30 countries. In Venezuela, Iceland, Russia and other countries, chess is a subject in all public schools. [8]

In Vancouver, BC, the Math and Chess Learning Center, recognizing the correlation between chess playing and math skills development, has developed a series of workbooks to assist Canadian students in math. [42]

In Harriet Geithmann's article ``Strobeck, Home of Chess,';' The National Geographic Magazine, May 1931, pp. 637-652, we find that this medieval village in the Harz Mountains of Germany has taught the royal game in its public schools for years. Chess began in Strobeck in 1011. [37]

In ``Chessmen Come to Life in Marostica,'' The National Geographic Magazine, November 1956, by Alexander Taylor, pp. 658-668, we see an Italian town reviving a romantic legend of the Middle Ages, in which suitors played chess for the hand of a lady fair. [43]

The mathematics curriculum in New Brunswick, Canada is a text series called Challenging Mathematics, which uses chess to teach logic and problem solving from grades 2 to 7. Using this curriculum, the average problem-solving score of pupils in the province increased from 62% to 81%. The Province of Quebec, where the program was first introduced, has the highest math grades in Canada, and Canada scores better than the USA on international mathematics exams. [19], [20], [40]

Former U.S. Secretary of Education Terrell Bell encouraged knowledge of chess as a way to develop a preschooler's intellect and academic readiness. [39]

The State of New Jersey passed a bill legitimizing chess as a unit of instruction within the elementary school curriculum. On December 17, 1992, New Jersey Governor Jim Florio signed into law a bill to establish chess instruction in public schools. A quote from the bill states ``In countries where chess is offered widely in schools, students exhibit excellence in the ability to recognize complex patterns and consequently excel in math and science...'' [41]

Funding for chess activity is available under the ``Educate America Act'' (Goals 2000), Public Law 103-227, Section 308.b.2.E.: ``Supporting innovative and proven methods of enhancing a teacher's ability to identify student learning needs and motivating students to develop higher order thinking skills, discipline, and creative resolution methods.'' The original wording of this section included ``such as chess'' and passed Senate that way, but the phrase was deleted later in Conference Committee. [19]


Several articles discuss chess as a tool to assist children of all levels.

Dr. Stefurak, a cognitive neuropsychologist, stated that ``chess instruction informs the mind and the emotions in such a way as to structure an emergent mental circuit where motivation and ability multiply to produce achievement in chess and school and life.'' [23]

In December 1996, Arman Tajarobi wrote: ``For the past three years, I've been a witness to an experiment held in 24 elementary schools in my town: The school board allowed these schools to replace an hour of math classes by a chess course each week for half of their students. For three consecutive years, the groups who received the chess formation have had better results in math than those who did not. This year (the fourth year), the school board has allowed any school that wants to provide its students with a chess formation to do so.'' [35]

John Artise (B.S., M.A.) draws upon his years of psychological research in chess to identify the contribution chess makes in education and learning. He identifies four areas of growth: memory improvement, logic, observation and analysis, and operant conditioning. ``Chess and Education,'' John Artise. [31]

The chess program funded by Oakland (California) Youth at Risk program proves to be an effective vehicle for saving troubled youth. [32]

Chess program in the troubled East Harlem district, New York, also rescues kids from drugs and gangs. [33]

Saratoga Springs editorial: ``Chess is the last best hope for this country to rescue its skidding educational system and teach the young generation the forgotten art of nurturing an attention span.'' [34]

In his book ``Your Child's Intellect,'' former U.S. Secretary of Education Terrell Bell encourages some knowledge of chess as a way to develop a preschooler's intellect and academic readiness (Bell, 1982, pp. 178-179). [44]


``Not only have the reading and math skills of these children soared, their ability to socialize has increased substantially, too. Our studies have shown the incidents of suspension and outside altercations have decreased by at least 60 percent since these children became interested in chess.'' --Assistant Principal Joyce Brown at the Roberto Clemente School in New York, 1988 [25]

Dr. Fred Loveland, superintendent of the Panama City schools, voiced his opinion: ``Chess has taught my students more than any other subject.'' [26]

The article ``Chess Improves Academic Performance'' from the NY School Chess Program features a number of testimonies from school principals, including: ``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.'' [27]

``It's the finest thing that ever happened to this school. ...chess makes a difference...what it has done for these children is simply beyond anything that I can describe.'' [27]

``I see them (students) able to attend to something for more than an hour and a half. I am stunned. Some of them could not attend to things for more than 20 minutes.'' -- Jo Bruno, Principal, P.S. 189 [27]

Dr. Calvin F. Deyermond, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction for the North Tonawanda City School District, wrote: ``Chess develops intellectual, esthetic, sporting, decision making, concentration, and perseverance skills. We have seen the effects of this wonderful game in our classroom and as an extracurricular activity. Not only is it mentally challenging but it attracts not only gifted pupils but also students at all levels of learning. Many students who have been experiencing problems, particularly in mathematics and reading, sometimes demonstrate remarkable progress after learning chess.'' [28]

Rob Roy of Connecticut: ``Children with special problems can also learn chess. I taught a successful course for emotionally and educationally disadvantaged children in the Waterbury schools and used chess as a way for them to learn and practice self-control.It was like turning on switches in their heads. You see the child looking at a problem, breaking it down, and then putting the whole thing back together. The process involves recall, analysis, judgment and abstract reasoning.'' [38]

Public School 68 in the Bronx noted standardized scores increased 11.2% in reading and 18.6% in math during the 1994-95 school year. Principal Cheryl Coles wrote: ``As encouraging as our scores are, the benefits of our Chess Education Program far exceeded anything that these scores could ever hope to indicate. There were significant outgrowths in varying degrees in all curriculum areas. Such as: increased enthusiasm for learning, increase in general fund of knowledge, increase in pupil attendance, increase in self-confidence, increase in parent involvement, etc.'' [29]

Beulah McMeans, a guidance counselor at Morningside Elementary School in Prince George's County, MD, uses chess ``to help raise the self-esteem and higher order thinking skills for young students, particularly those at risk.'' [30]

``Intuitively, I feel what the kids learn from chess carries over to their everyday lives. The change shows up in their improved critical thinking and problem solving. It gets kids to think for themselves.'' -- Fred Nagler, Principal, P.S. 123 [27]


“Chess has significantly increased my logical and mathematical skills. In fact, because of the effect of chess, I am going to major in mathematics and computer science in college, both of which utilize the aforementioned skills.'' Matthew Puckett [45]

The skills chess offers to those who play it are gold mines. It teaches the faithful players how to approach life. It teaches people that are having dilemmas that here is more than one answer to a problem. While your adversary is looking at the issue through a single point, you as the great chess player that you are, can take a step back and look at the picture through many points.'' Sultan Yusufzai [45]

Because of chess, I feel that my life has been enriched both mentally and socially. I have improved my critical thinking skills in everyday life through chess.'' Brandon Ashe [45]


Andrew Rozsa, psychologist, speaking of his gifted son: ``He has had real social and behavioral difficulties since he was 18 months old... He was thrown out of several schools... Things became pretty bad at about age 9 ... Nothing seemed to work, nothing. ... Today he is a straight A student and his behavior problems are minimal (but not trivial). ... Sorry, no control subjects, no double blind, no defined independent variables (actually there are two: chess and age).

Nonetheless, I think that the great improvements we have seen are, to a large extent, due to chess.'' [36], [38]

``Chess is one of the most meaningful things I've ever seen enter this school system.'' Dee Estelle Alpert

``I want to see chess introduced into the curriculum, right alongside math, music, and art.'' Oscar Shapiro [27]


At the 40th World Chess Congress in 1969, Dr. Hans Klaus, Dean of the School of Philosophy at Humboldt University in Berlin, commented upon the chess studies completed in Germany: ``Chess helps any human being to elaborate exact methods of thinking. It would be particularly useful to start playing chess from the early school days ... Everybody prefers to learn something while playing rather than to learn it formally…it produces in our children an improvement in their school achievements. Those children who received systematic instructions in chess improved their school efficiency in different subjects, in contrast with those who did not receive that kind of instruction.'' [22]

Because of the overwhelming research demonstrating the benefits of chess and because of the brain research theorizing the growth of dendrites, chess should be integrated into the school curriculum at the primary level.

Chess is a new way of solving the old problem of poor education. From the streets of Harlem to Venezuela's public schools the sport of kings has been implemented as an effective tool for teaching students to utilize their higher order thinking skills and to strive to overcome personal problems to reach their full potential. In light of these facts it is not unreasonable to imagine chess as a broader part of schools in America. Chess could very well be one of the missing components for America to regain its place at the top for educating its young people.



Chess is a game for people of all ages. You can learn to play at any age and in chess, unlike in many other sports, you don't ever have to retire. Age is also not a factor when you're looking for an opponent --young can play old and old can play young.

Chess develops memory. The chess theory is complicated and many players memorize different opening variations. You will also learn to recognize various patterns and remember lengthy variations.

Chess improves concentration. During the game you are focused on only one main goal -- to checkmate and become the victor.

Chess develops logical thinking. Chess requires some understanding of logical strategy. For example, you will know that it is important to bring your pieces out into the game at the beginning, to keep your king safe at all times, not to make big weaknesses in your position and not to blunder your pieces away for free. (Although you will find yourself doing that occasionally through your chess career. Mistakes are inevitable and chess, like life, is a never-ending learning process.)

Chess promotes imagination and creativity. It encourages you to be inventive. There are an indefinite amount of beautiful combinations yet to be constructed.

Chess teaches independence. You are forced to make important decisions influenced only by your own judgment.

Chess develops the capability to predict and foresee consequences of actions. It teaches you to look both ways before crossing the street.

Chess inspires self-motivation. It encourages the search of the best move, the best plan, and the most beautiful continuation out of the endless possibilities. It encourages the everlasting aim towards progress, always steering to ignite the flame of victory.

Chess shows that success rewards hard work. The more you practice, the better you'll become. You should be ready to lose and learn from your mistakes. One of the greatest players ever, Capablanca said, "You may learn much more from a game you lose than from a game you win. You will have to lose hundreds of games before becoming a good player."

Chess and Science. Chess develops the scientific way of thinking. While playing, you generate numerous variations in your mind. You explore new ideas, try to predict their outcomes and interpret surprising revelations. You decide on a hypothesis, and then you make your move and test it.

Chess and Technology. What do chess players do during the game? Just like computers they engage in a search for the better move in a limited amount of time. What are you doing right now? You are using a computer as a tool for learning.

Chess and Mathematics. You don't have to be a genius to figure this one out. Chess involves an infinite number of calculations, anything from counting the number of attackers and defenders in the event of a simple exchange to calculating lengthy continuations. And you use your head to calculate, not some little machine.

Chess and Research. There are millions of chess resources out there for every aspect of the game. You can even collect your own chess library. In life, is it important to know how to find, organize and use boundless amounts of information. Chess gives you a perfect example and opportunity to do just that.

Chess and Art. In the Great Soviet Encyclopedia chess is defined as "an art appearing in the form of a game." If you thought you could never be an artist, chess proves you wrong. Chess enables the artist hiding within you to come out. Your imagination will run wild with endless possibilities on the 64 squares. You will paint pictures in your mind of ideal positions and perfect outposts for your soldiers. As a chess artist you will have an original style and personality.

Chess and Psychology. Chess is a test of patience, nerves, will power and concentration. It enhances your ability to interact with other people. It tests your sportsmanship in a competitive environment.

Chess improves schoolwork and grades. Numerous studies have proven that kids obtain a higher reading level, math level and a greater learning ability overall as a result of playing chess. For all those reasons mentioned above and more, chess playing kids do better at school and therefore have a better chance to succeed in life.

Chess opens up the world for you. You don't need to be a high ranked player to enter big important competitions. Even tournaments such as the US Open and the World Open welcome players of all strengths. Chess provides you with plenty of opportunities to travel not only all around the country but also around the world. Chess is a universal language and you can communicate with anyone over the checkered plain.

Chess enables you to meet many interesting people. You will make life-long friendships with people you meet through chess.

Chess is cheap. You don't need big fancy equipment to play chess. In fact, all you may need is your computer! (And we really hope you have one of those, or else something fishy is going on here.) It is also good to have a chess set at home to practice with family members, to take to a friend's house or even to your local neighborhood park to get everyone interested in the game.

CHESS IS FUN! Dude, this isn't just another one of those board games. No chess game ever repeats itself, which means you create more and more new ideas each game. It never gets boring. You always have so much to look forward to. Every game you are the general of an army and you alone decide the destiny of your soldiers. You can sacrifice them, trade them, pin them, fork them, lose them, defend them, or order them to break through any barriers and surround the enemy king. You've got the power!

To summarize everything in three little words: Chess is Everything!


[1] Robert Ferguson, ``Chess in Education Research Summary,'' paper presented at the Chess in Education A Wise Move Conference at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, January 12-13,1995.

[2] Albert Frank, ``Chess and Aptitudes,'' doctoral dissertation, 1974, Trans. Stanley Epstein.

[3] Johan Christiaen, ``Chess and Cognitive Development,'' doctoral dissertation, 1976, Trans. Stanley Epstein.

[4] Donna Nurse, ``Chess & Math Add Up,'' Teach, May/June 1995, p. 15, cites Yee Wang Fung's research at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

[5] Robert Ferguson, ``Teaching the Fourth R (Reasoning) through Chess,'' School Mates, 1(1), 1983, p. 3.

[6] Robert Ferguson, ``Developing Critical and Creative Thinking through Chess,'' report on ESEA Title IV-C project presented at the annual conference of the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, April 11-12, 1986.

[7] Robert Ferguson, ``Teaching the Fourth R (Reflective Reasoning) through Chess,'' doctoral dissertation, 1994.

[8] Isaac Linder, ``Chess, a Subject Taught at School,'' Sputnik: Digest of the Soviet Press, June 1990, pp. 164-166.

[9] Rafael Tudela, ``Learning to Think Project,'' Commission for Chess in Schools, 1984, Annex pp. 1-2.

[10] Rafael Tudela, ``Intelligence and Chess,'' 1984.

[11] William Levy, ``Utilizing Chess to Promote Self-Esteem in Perceptually Impaired Students,'' a governor's teacher grant program through the New Jersey State Department of Education, 1987.

[12] Robert Ferguson, ``Tri-State Area School Pilot Project Findings,'' 1986.

[13] Robert Ferguson, ``Development of Reasoning and Memory through Chess,'' 1988.

[14] Louise Gaudreau, ``tude Comparative sur les Apprentissages en Mathématiques 5e Année,'' a study comparing the Challenging Mathematics curriculum to traditional math, 1992. (The authors are Michel and Robert Lyons. The ISBN is 2-89114-472-4. This collection has been sold to La Chenelière & McGraw Hill in Montreal. You can reach them at (514) 273-7422. Ask for Michael Soltis.)

[15] Stuart Margulies, ``The Effect of Chess on Reading Scores: District Nine Chess Program Second Year Report,'' 1992.

[16] Chess-in-the-Schools, Web page at

[17] Philip Rifner, ``Playing Chess: A Study of Problem-Solving Skills in Students with Average and Above Average Intelligence,'' doctoral dissertation, 1992.

[18] Stuart Margulies, ``The Effect of Chess on Reading Scores,'' 1996.

[20] James Liptrap, ``Chess and Standardized Test Scores,'' Chess Coach Newsletter, Spring 1999, Volume 11 (1), pp. 5 & 7.

[21] L.E. Allen & D.B. Main, ``Effect of Instructional Gaming on Absenteeism: the First Step,'' The Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 1976, 7 (2), p. 114.

[22] Naciso Rabell Mendez, ``Report by the World Chess Federation (FIDE) to the United Nations Organization (UNO),'' June 1988, quotes Dr. Klaus' comments.

[23] Kathleen Vail, ``Check This, Mate: Chess Moves Kids,'' The American School Board Journal, September 1995, pp. 38-40.

[24] Yasser Seirawan, ``Scholastic Chess -- Feel the Buzz,'' Inside Chess, February 21, 1994, p. 3.

[25] Roger Langen, ``Putting a Check to Poor Math Results,'' The Reporter, December 1992.

[26] Dr. Fred Loveland personal communication.

[27] Chess Improves Academic Performance, Christine Palm, 1990.

[28] Personal letter from Dr. Calvin F. Deyermond, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction for the North Tonawanda City School District.

[29] Personal letter to Allen Kaufman from Principal Cheryl Coles, June 9, 1995.

[30] Carol Chmelynski, ``Chess said to promote school performance and self-esteem,'' School Board News, July 6, 1993, Vol. 13 (12), pp. 7-8.

[31] John Artise, ``Chess and Education.''

[32] San Jose Mercury News, 4-3-96.

[33] Jo Coudert, ``From Street Kids to Royal Knights,'' Readers Digest, June 1989.

[34] ``Editorial: Chess gives hope for our youth,'' The Saratogian, March 12, 1991.

[35] Arman Tajarobi, e-mail from December, 1996.

[36] Andrew J. Rozsa, Birmingham, Alabama, Newsgroup e-mail.

[37] Harriet Geithmann, ``Strobeck, Home of Chess,'' The National Geographic Magazine, May 1931, pp. 637-652.

[38] ``Check Mates,'' Fairfield County Advocate, Mar. 20, 1989.

[39] Terrell Bell, Your Child's Intellect, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1982, pp.178-179.

[40] Chess'n Math Association, Canada's National Scholastic Chess Organization, 1681 Bayview Avenue, Toronto, Ont. M4G 3C1 (web page at

[41] Dan Edelman, ``New Jersey Legislature Passes Chess Bill into Law,'' Chess Coach Newsletter, Spring 1993, Vol. 6 (1), pp. 1 & 3.

[42] Math and Chess Puzzle Centre, 3550 West 32 nd Avenue, Vancouver, BC V6S 1Z2 (Web page at

[43] Alexander Taylor, ``Chessmen Come to Life in Marostica,'' The National Geographic Magazine, November 1956, pp. 658-668.

[44] Terrell Bell, Your Child's Intellect, 1982, pp. 178-179.

[45] Scholar-Chessplayer Outstanding Achievement Award Applications.