Benefits of chess for children
                                                                     By Dean J. Ippolito

Chess  has  long  been considered  a way for  children  to  increase  their mental prowess,  concentration,  
memory, and analytical skills. To anyone who has known the game, it comes as no surprise that these
assumptions were  actually  proven  in several studies  on  how  chess can improve the grades of students.

Although chess has been shown to increase the mental abilities of persons of  all  ages, the main studies have
been done with children. This is first for the   obvious  reason   that  students  are  constantly  tested  anyway,  
and therefore  the  data  need  only  be  analyzed,  and  secondly  because children's  mental  development  is  
more  rapid  and  can  be  more  easily measured than persons at a later life stage.

Early Conclusions:

After several informal studies were done in the early 20th century on the effect  that chess  has on  logical  
thinking  and  other  such  functions, a primary  conclusion was  drawn  that  chess does in fact not only demand
such characteristics, but develops and promotes them as well. John Artise in Chess and Education wrote "Visual
stimuli tend to improve memory more than any other stimuli; chess is definitely an excellent memory exerciser the
effects  of  which  are  transferable  to  other  subjects   where  memory  is necessary."

Improved  memory  is  just  the  tip of the iceberg. Reports from students, teachers,  and  parents noticed the  
academic benefits of chess on math problem  solving  skills  and reading  comprehension, an increase in self-
confidence,   patience,   logic,   critical   thinking,   observation,   pattern recognition, analysis, creativity,  
concentration, persistence,  self-control, sportsmanship, responsibility, respect for others, self esteem, coping
with frustration, and many other influences which are difficult to measure but can make a difference in student
attitude, motivation, and achievement.

With this in mind, legislation in the U.S. in 1992 promoting and encouraging the incorporation of chess  into  the
curriculum of schools was passed. The U.S. joined the more than 30 countries which already had chess included
in some form in  their school  curricula. Today it is estimated that number has more than doubled.

In part due to the educational community, which has noted the increased academic performance of students
participating in chess, there has been an explosion  in the  number  of  children  playing  chess  in  the U.S. This
popularity  can  be  seen  in  the  record  number  of players competing in National  Scholastic  Events.
Scholastic  chess  players  are  increasing in numbers   more   rapidly   than   adult  chess  players;  scholastic   
chess membership within the United States Chess Federation now represents more than 50% of the total
members. An estimated 250,000 children in the U.S. are  introduced every year through the school system to the
basics of the game. As the  number  of  children playing chess grows, it has become necessary for  actual  tests  
to  be  performed  to determine the benefits of chess.  Luckily,  these  studies  have  already  been  done  to  
confirm  the hypothesis that chess is linked to increased grades in school; far too many to  be  listed  here.  I  will  
touh on some of the more outstanding, thorough studies, all of which have similar findings.

Case Studies:

As reported  in  Developing  Critical  Thinking Through Chess, Dr. Robert Ferguson  tested  students  from  
seventh to  ninth grades from the years 1979-1983 as part of the ESEA Title IV-C Explore Program. He found that
non-chess  students  increased  their  critical thinking  skills  an average of 4.6% annually, while students who
were members of a chess club improved their analytical  skills an average of  17.3% annually. Three separate
tests to determine how chess affects creative thinking were also done as part of the same study. It concluded that
on average, different aspects of creative thinking had improved at a rate two to three times faster for chess
playing students, as opposed to their non-chess playing counterparts.

Subsequent studies by Dr. Ferguson further supported these original conclusions. In the Tri-State Area School
Pilot Study conducted in 1986 and Development of Reasoning and Memory Through Chess (1987-88) chess
playing students showed more rapid increased gains in memory, organizational skills, and logic.

In Zaire the study Chess and Aptitudes, was conducted by Dr. Albert Frank at  the  Uni  Protestant  School,  
during  the  1973 - 74  school  year. Using sufficiently  large  experimental  and  control  groups,  Dr. Frank  
wanted to confirm  if  the  ability  to  learn  chess  is  a  function  of   special  aptitude, perceptive  speed,  
reasoning,  creativity,  or  general  intelligence.  He hypothesized that in order to learn chess well one must have
a high level of one  or  several  of  these  abilities.  He  also  wanted  to see to what extent learning  chess  could  
influence  the  development  of  these  abilities.  His results  were   astonishing,   yet  predictable.   There  was  
a   significant correlation  between  the  ability  to  play chess well, and spatial, numerical, administrative-
directional, and paperwork abilities. It showed that the ability in chess  is  not  due  to  the presence of only one or
two abilities but that a large number of talents all work together in chess. The conclusion was that students  
participating in the  chess course show a marked development of their verbal  and  numerical  aptitudes.
Furthermore, this was noticed in the majority of chess students and not only those who were better players.

A  study  conducted  in  four  large  elementary  schools  in  Texas  in 1997 further  demonstrated  the  positivism  
of  chess.  Through  the  Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS), the study was done to test the difference
that chess club had on standardized tests. These schools were selected since all had a chess program in
existence for a minimum of two years. The chess clubs met for one hour after school one day per week. Since a
few thousand total students took the test and all types of students were  tested  from  special  education  
students  to  gifted  and  talented students,  the  sample  was  large and diverse  enough to make a concrete
conclusion. There were significant improvements in both reading and math for all grade levels and all classes of
students (regular, gifted and talented, special education, academically able, etc.).  Through  the  Texas  Learning
Index, or TLI, it was determined that on average the students who played chess improved in reading and
mathematics at a rate between 1.5 and two times faster than non-chess playing students.

In terms of verbal improvement specifically, a study by Dr. Stuart Margulies from  1991  addressed  this.  The  
study  conclusively proved that students who  learned  chess  enjoyed  a  significant  increase in their reading
skills. "Margulies  Study  is  one  of  the strongest arguments to finally prove what hundreds of teachers knew all
along-chess is a learning tool. (Inside Chess, February 1994).

"Can chess promote earlier intellectual maturation" was the question posed in  the  Chess  and  Cognitive  
Development  study  directed  by  Johan Christiaen from the 1974-76 school years in Belgium. The results again
clearly confirmed  that  the  group  of  chess  playing  students  showed significantly more improvement then the
non chess playing students. In 1982, Dr. Gerard Dullea mentioned this study and proclaimed "…we have
scientific support for what we have known all along-chess makes kids smarter! (Chess Life, November 1982) In a
similar study done in a test series in New Brunswick, Canada called Challenging Mathematics, the mathematics
curriculum used chess to teach logic from grades 2 to 7. The average problem solving score in the province
increased from 62% to 81%. In Playing Chess: A Study of Problem-Solving Skills in Students with Average and
Above Average Intelligence by Philip Rifner from the 1991-92 school term, the hypothesis that learning general
problem solving skills in chess could then be applied to other domains was affirmed.


We can now say with full confidence that chess has been PROVEN to enhance creativity, problem solving,
memory, concentration, intellectual maturity, self esteem, and many other abilities that a parent or teacher would
desire. This proves what all of us involved in chess have been saying for years…chess makes you smart!
U.S. Chess Mates