Why Learn Chess – Benefits of the Game

Chess is known as a noble game – “a game of kings“, and it is no coincidence, as it takes/develops similar skills. How come?

Consider the following facts: in the initial position the player heading the white pieces has 20 possible ways to play, to which his/her opponent can react in many ways. As the game progresses, the number of possibilities grows, thus for his second move each player will already have about 30 possible moves, which means that after only two moves approximately 360000 different positions can be reached! What can be a better simulation of real life, that forces us to react to just as many changes, big and small on a daily basis?

In chess, just like in life, you can either aimlessly wander around, hoping for a miracle, or set yourself a goal, build a plan and strive to accomplish it. The latter is no guarantee of success, but the former is a sure recipe for failure. Chess teaches you to have a goal and overcome the obstacles on your way there.

A person with the facility to win at chess is ready to conquer any complex problem on either a personal or business level. Chess Learning helps to develop thinking skills, enhances mental prowess and directly contributes to academic performance, and makes people smarter in a variety of ways, like:                

  • Learning to play Chess dramatically improves the ability to think rationally 
  • Play Chess to learn and develop patience and thoughtfulness 
  • Playing Chess helps you to learn and increase cognitive skills 
  • Playing Chess helps you to learn and improves communication skills and aptitude in recognizing patterns 
  • Learning to play Chess results in higher grades, especially in English and Math studies
  • Learning to play Chess makes people more focused by teaching the benefits of careful observation and concentration
  • Learning Chess stimulates visualizing – players are prompted to imagine a sequence of actions before they happen
  • Chess helps you to learn and build a sense of team spirit while emphasizing the ability of the individual
  • Chess helps you to learn the value of hard workconcentration, and commitment 
  • Learning to play Chess instills a sense of self-confidence and self-worth
  • Chess makes a person learn and realize responsibility for their own actions and acceptance of the consequences
  • Playing Chess helps in making friends more easily because it provides a safe forum for gathering and discussion
  • Playing Chess, through competition, gives a palpable sign of accomplishments
  • Chess helps to learn and develop the thinking ahead abilities – players have to think first and only then act.

Health Benefits of Chess

A good chess player is required to have strategic thinking skills, determination, creativity, and also the ability to understand the body language of your opponent. And when the player plays his/her part, the game of chess not just rewards them with long hours of entertainment but some health benefits as well.

While it is well-known that chess improves mental capabilities, let us have a detailed look at 5 of the most amazing health benefits of playing chess.

  • Increases the growth of dendrites: Dendrites are responsible for conducting signals from your brain’s neuron cells to neurons to which they are attached. Playing chess increases the growth of dendrites which helps in improving the quality of your brain’s neural communication. This results in an increase in the processing power of your brain.
  • Prevents Alzheimer’s: As we age, every major muscle group in our body requires regular exercise to function properly. While physical exercises can take care of the muscles of our body, what about the brain? It turns out that playing games, like chess, provides the brain with the workout it needs to function properly and reduces the chances of developing Alzheimer’s.
  • Treats Schizophrenia: Schizophrenic patients who play chess on a regular basis show better improvements as compared to the patients who do not. Moreover, the patients who do play chess also show signs of improved planning, reasoning, and attention skills.
  • Better recovery from disabilities and strokes: Playing chess is also known to improve the fine motor skills of individuals who have suffered a stroke or have some disability. The game requires people to move the chess pieces in different directions which helps with the motor skills and the mental efforts for playing the game helps in improving communication and cognitive skills.
  • Improves concentration and thinking skills of children: Children who play chess from a young age are known to perform better in their studies. Studies show that chess helps in improving the problem-solving, reading, mathematics, and thinking skills of children.
  • While playing chess is something that is commonly associated with very smart people, the amazing benefits that the game has to offer to make it essential for each one of us, including kids, adults, and even the individuals who are aging. Add chess to your life and you are sure to experience some astonishing changes in your life.

Mental Benefits of Chess

Chess is an excellent game which requires the players to focus, think and then make a decision. While adults who love playing chess can spend hours on it, it is highly recommended that even children should be trained to play chess.

Playing chess comes with a host of benefits for the children which have been confirmed in many scientific studies. The game is known to improve the cognitive and critical thinking skills of the children and makes them a better decision maker.

Let us try to know the benefits of playing chess for children in detail.

  • Improves IQ: While children are not required to go through an encyclopedia to play chess, the game helps in improving their thinking abilities. Children use many different areas of their brain to play the game which in turn strengthens their brain muscles and sharpens their mind. Moreover, it is the impatience that often leads to children and adults making the wrong decision. Chess helps them to think slowly and make their moves very patiently.
  • Independent Decision-Making: While playing, children make the moves on their own without consulting anyone. This helps in improving their decision-making abilities which can prove very beneficial in the later stages of life as well.
  • Improves Problem-Solving Abilities: While playing chess, children learn to analyze the problem from all the different angles and then make the best possible decision. When they make a move, good or bad, they get to see live results of their decisions and over time, this can help in improving their problem-solving skills and will make them understand that there can be consequences to bad decisions.

Apart from these, skills like mathematics, language, reading and memory are also improved through various aspects of playing chess. As you can see, children can gain incredible benefits from chess and the skills that they learn at this young age will continue to help them in later stages of life as well.

Chess and Performance in School

Apart from allowing you to improve your chess-playing skills in a simpler, cheaper and convenient way, online chess learning software also helps in improving your mathematical skills.

Chess and Mathematics

Chess is scientifically proven to improve your critical thinking, logical thinking and pattern-recognition skills that are very important to understand mathematics. Moreover, it is also known to help you with your memory. Also, if you start to learn the advanced tactics and strategies of chess, you will see that some moves will require you to use your mathematical skills, which in turn improves your skills.

And with expert tutors to help you with every move, learning these strategies will not be as difficult as it might appear at first. Practicing them on a regular basis will not only make you a better chess player but will also help your mathematical skills abundantly.

Complete Brain Workout

When you use an online chess learning software to learn and to play chess, it improves your intellect in ways that you cannot imagine. For instance, some studies have confirmed that there is a direct correlation between playing chess and academic performance of school-going children. This is because apart from math, chess helps in improving your reading and language skills and functions as a complete brain workout.

Ideal for Children and Adults

Another great thing about online chess learning software is the fact that children and adults, both novice and professionals can use them. If you play chess already, amazing! Continue playing and learning more advanced strategies to improve. But even if you are new to this game, the step-by-step tutorials offered in the software will guide you at every step. A bit of motivation and patience, and you will learn to play chess in no time.

And if you believe chess is nerdy, think again. Chess requires a lot of concentration, practice, and skills, and these things are something that you should be glad about.

Studies About The Benefits of Chess

Studies show that chess helps players to increase their concentration levels and memory power. In fact, some of the best schools and colleges in the country recommend this game to help their students develop various skills such as logical thinking, abstract reasoning, and spatial intelligence, in addition to helping them develop various characteristics such as patience, self-discipline, humility and a never-say-die attitude. The reasons for this lie in the nature of this beautiful game.

Unfortunately, for most learners, it is not always possible to properly learn how to play chess. The causes for this are many. For instance, most of the better academies are located at quite some distance from peoples’ homes making daily or even regular travel impossible. Other factors such as the high cost of learning, inconvenient hours, and absence of proper teachers, among others, add to the problem. This is where online chess coaching helps the players to learn and improve their game, and thereby develop their concentration and memory power.

Read on to understand how playing chess online helps improve concentration and memory power:

Regular classes: The fact that all classes are online, and the game can be learned from the comfort of the home makes online classes the most valid option to learn chess. These classes can be taken on a regular basis as there is no travel involved and players have to simply log in and start learning. The regularity hones the player’s memory on a daily basis and makes learning complex moves easier, thereby improving memory power.

Learn with other people or on one’s own: Online classes can be taken in groups or one’s own depending on the learning method preferred. Learning online in the way one prefers helps them to focus on the game and learn chess lessons with ease. Each lesson may include instructions, insights, and discussions on various moves, in addition to practical lessons. Such an approach helps the person concentrate well and take in more information that what was otherwise possible.

Learn from the best teachers: Since online classes can be conducted from anywhere across the globe, the students get access to some of the best teachers, which is not possible with offline classes. Learning from the best means the students get the best insights and training possible. These teachers help the students to pick up the tricks of the game a step at a time, which helps the learners to slowly build up their memory and concentration levels and become accustomed to using these abilities on a regular basis. This translates to improvement in other spheres of life such as studies and work.

The Effect of Chess on Kids

By Dr Peter Dauvergne

University of Sydney

July, 2000


This article surveys educational and psychological studies to examine the benefits for children of studying and playing chess. These show that chess can

  • Raise intelligence quotient (IQ) scores
  • Strengthen problem-solving skills, teaching how to make difficult and abstract decisions independently
  • Enhance reading, memory, language, and mathematical abilities
  • Foster critical, creative, and original thinking
  • Provide practice at making accurate and fast decisions under time pressure, a skill that can help improve exam scores at school
  • Teach how to think logically and efficiently, learning to select the ‘best’ choice from a large number of options
  • Challenge gifted children while potentially helping underachieving gifted students learn how to study and strive for excellence
  • Demonstrate the importance of flexible planning, concentration, and the consequences of decisions
  • Reach boys and girls regardless of their natural abilities or socio-economic backgrounds

Given these educational benefits, the author concludes that chess is one of the most effective teaching tools to prepare children for a world increasingly swamped by information and even tougher decisions.

Is chess an art? A science? Some claim it’s both. Yet let’s be honest, it’s really just a game. Fun, challenging, creative: but still a game, not much different from tennis, cricket, football, or golf.

But there is one striking difference to these other popular games. While learning to play almost any game can help build self-esteem and confidence, chess is one of the few that fully exercises our minds.

Many of us could probably use this exercise, although it may be a bit late for some. (At least for those of us old enough to read an article like this voluntarily!) It’s not, however, too late for our children.

Chess is one of the most powerful educational tools available to strengthen a child’s mind. It’s fairly easy to learn how to play chess. Most six or seven year old’s can follow the basic rules. Some kids as young as four or five can play. Like learning a language or music an early start can help a child become more proficient. Whatever a child’s age, however, learning chess can enhance concentration, patience, and perseverance, as well as develop creativity, intuition, memory, and most importantly, the ability to analyze and deduce from a set of general principles, learning to make tough decisions and solve problems flexibly.

This is undeniably a grand claim. The remainder of this paper outlines some of the arguments and educational studies to justify and support this.

Concentration, Patience, and Perseverance

To play chess well requires intense concentration. Some of the world’s top players can undeniably look distracted, sometimes jumping up between moves to walk around. A closer look, however, reveals that most of these players are actually in deep concentration, relying on strong visual recall to plan and calculate even when they are away from their game. For young, inexperienced players, chess teaches the rewards of concentration as well as provides immediate penalties for lapses. Few teaching tools provide such quick feedback. One slip in concentration can lead to a simple blunder, perhaps even ending the game. Only a focused, patient and persistent young chess player will maintain steady results ? characteristics that are equally valuable for performing well at school, especially in school exams.

Analysis, Logic, and Problem Solving

Playing chess and making chess strategies well involves a combination of aptitudes. A 1973-74 study in Zaire by Dr. Albert Frank (1974) found that good teenage chess players (16-18 years old) had strong spatial, numerical, administrative-directional, and paperwork abilities. Dr. Robert Ferguson (1995, p. 2) notes that “This finding tends to show that ability in chess is not due to the presence in an individual of only one or two abilities but that a large number of aptitudes all work together in chess.” Even more significantly Frank’s study found that learning chess, even as teenagers, strengthened both numerical and verbal aptitudes. This occurred for the majority of students (not just the strong players) who took a chess course for two hours each week for one school year. Other studies have added that playing chess can strengthen a Child’s memory (Artise).

A 1990-92 study in New Brunswick, Canada, further shows the value of chess for developing problem-solving skills among young children (Gaudreau 1992). 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. Primary school chess has now exploded in New Brunswick. In 1989, 120 students played in the provincial school chess championship. Three years later over 19,000 played (Ferguson 1995, p. 11).

Chess has also been shown to foster critical and creative thinking. Dr. Ferguson’s four-year study (1979-83) analyzed the impact of chess on student’s thinking skills in the Bradford Area School District in the United States (grades 7-9). These students were already identified as gifted, with intelligence quotient (IQ) scores above 130. Using two tests (Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal and the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking) Ferguson (1995, pp. 4-6) found that after spending 60-64 hours playing and studying chess over 32 weeks students showed significant progress in critical thinking. He further found that chess enhances “creativity in gifted adolescents.” He concluded that “it appears that chess is superior to many currently used programs for developing creative thinking and, therefore, could logically be included in a differentiated program for mentally gifted students”.

Playing and learning chess, however, is not only valuable for developing the skills of gifted children. Average and even below average learners can also benefit. Chess coach Michael Wojcio (1990) notes that “even if a slow learner does not grasp all of [the strategies and tactics in chess], he/she can still benefit by learning language, concepts, and fine motor movement.” During a program run by Dr. Ferguson from September 1987 to May 1988 all members of a standard sixth grade class in rural Pennsylvania were required to take chess lessons and play games. This class had 9 boys and 5 girls. At the start of this study students took IQ tests, producing a mean IQ of 104.6. Students then studied chess two or three times per week while playing most days. They were also encouraged to participate in tournaments. After this intensive chess instruction a group of seven boys managed to finish second in the 1998 Pennsylvania State Scholastic Championship. Significantly, at the conclusion of the study tests showed a significant increase in both memory and verbal reasoning skills, especially among the more competitive chess players (Ferguson 1995, pp. 8-9).

Chess has even been shown to raise student’s overall IQ scores. Using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children a Venezuelan study of over 4,000 second grade students found a significant increase in most student’s IQ scores after only 4.5 months of systematically studying chess. This occurred across all socio-economic groups and for both males and females. The Venezuelan government was so impressed that all Venezuelan schools introduced chess lessons starting in 1988-89 (summarized in Ferguson 1995, p. 8).

Solving Problems and Synthesizing Information in a Globalizing World

The internet, email, and computers are rapidly changing the skills essential to succeed at school and work. As globalization accelerates, information is pouring in faster and faster. Information that took months to track down a few years ago can now spin off the internet in just minutes. With such easy access and tremendous volumes, the ability to choose effectively among a wide variety of options is ever more vital.

In this world students must increasingly be able to respond quickly, flexibly and critically. They must be able to wade through and synthesize vast amounts of information, not just memorize chunks of it. They must learn to recognize what is relevant and what is irrelevant. They also need to acquire the skills to be able to learn new technologies quickly as well as solve a continual stream of problems with these new technologies.

This is where chess as a tool to develop our children’s minds appears to be especially powerful. By its very nature chess studies presents an ever-changing set of problems. Except for the very beginning of the game – where it’s possible to memorize the strongest lines – each move creates a new position. For each of these a player tries to find the ‘best’ move by calculating ahead, evaluating these future possibilities using a set of theoretical principles. Importantly, more than one ‘best’ move may exist; just as in the real world more than one best option may exist. Players must learn to decide, even when the answer is ambiguous or difficult.

These thinking skills are becoming ever more valuable for primary and secondary school students constantly confronted with new everyday problems. If these students go to university it will be especially imperative to understand how to apply broad principles to assess new situations critically, rather than rely on absorbing a large number of ‘answers’. Far too commonly my own university students do not have these skills. As a result they become swamped by information, vainly searching for the right answer to memorize rather than the various best options.


The case, then, is exceptionally strong for using chess to develop our children’s minds and help them cope with the growing complexities and demands of a globalizing world. More and more schools around the world are recognizing the value of chess, with instruction now becoming part of standard curriculums. It’s of course just a game. Yet it has fascinated and challenged some of the greatest minds of the last century, sparking enough books about how to play to fill an entire library.

Chess is an especially effective teaching tool. It can equally challenge the minds of girls and boys, gifted and average, athletic and non-athletic, rich and poor. It can teach children the importance of planning and the consequences of decisions. It can further teach how to concentrate, how to win and lose gracefully, how to think logically and efficiently, and how to make tough and abstract decisions (Seymour and Norwood 1993). At more advanced levels it can teach flexible planning since playing well requires a coherent plan, yet not one that is rigidly followed regardless of the opponent’s response. Playing and learning chess can also build confidence and self- esteem without over inflating egos, as some losses are inevitable, even for world champions.

Chess can potentially help teach underachieving gifted children how to study, perhaps even leaving them with a passion for learning. Chess tournaments can, moreover, provide a natural setting for a gifted child to interact with other children of all ages, as many tournaments are not divided by age but by ability (unlike most school activities and many other sports). It’s common to see a six-year-old playing a twelve-year-old, or a ten-year-old playing a seventeen-year-old. Young players can also perform remarkably well in adult chess tournaments. In 1999-2000 in Australia, for example, a thirteen-year-old won the New South Wales championship, a fourteen- year-old won the South Australian championship, a fifteen-year-old won the Queensland championship, and a thirteen-year-old tied for second in the Australian championship.

Studying chess systematically has also been shown to raise students? IQ scores, academic exam scores (Dullea 1982; Palm 1990; Ferguson 2000, p. 3), as well as strengthen mathematical, language, and reading skills (Margulies 1991; Liptrap 1998; Ferguson 2000, pp. 3-4).

Tournaments and online chess games, which involve clocks to limit the total time each player can use, are also a fun way to provide practice at making fast and accurate decisions under pressure, a skill that can help students cope with the similar pressures of school exams. This is also a fun way to practice how to put the mind into high gear, where intense concentration increases alertness, efficiency of thought processes, and ultimately mental performance.

Perhaps most importantly online chess for kids is a fun way to teach children how to think and solve an ever- changing and diverse array of difficult problems. With millions of possibilities in every game, players must continually face new positions and new problems. They cannot solve these using a simple formula or relying on memorized answers. Instead, they must analyze and calculate, relying on general principles and patterns along with a dose of creativity and originality – a skill that increasingly mirrors what students must confront in their everyday schoolwork.

In June 1999 the International Olympic Committee officially recognized chess as a sport. This is welcome news for the world’s six million registered chess players as well as countless more unregistered players. With such recognition hopefully even more of our children will turn to chess, striving for sporting dreams that will leave them smarter and ultimately able to cope better in the real world of perpetual problems.

About the Author

Peter Dauvergne is a Canadian chess master (FIDE rating 2250) and Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Economics and Business at the University of Sydney, Australia. He is the editor of the journal Global Environmental Politics (MIT Press) and the author of numerous books and articles on environmental management in the Asia-Pacific. He can be reached at [email protected].


These and other chess and education research studies are available from the United States

Chess Federation, http://www.uschess.org/.

Artise, John. “Chess and Education.”

Dullea, Gerard J., 1982. “Chess Makes Kids Smarter,” Chess Life, November.

Frank, Albert, 1974. Chess and Aptitudes, Doctoral Dissertation. Translation, Stanley Epstein. Ferguson, Robert, 1995. “Chess in Education: Research Summary.” A Review of Key Chess Research Studies. For the Borough of Manhattan Community College Chess in Education ?A Wise Move? Conference.

Ferguson, Robert, 2000. “The Use and Impact of CHESS,” in Section B, USA Junior Chess Olympics Curriculum, copy emailed by the author.

Gaudreau, Louise, 1992. “Étude Comparative sur les Apprentissages en Mathématiques 5e Annee.”

Liptrap, James, 1998. “Chess and Standard Test Scores,” Chess Life, March.

Margulies, Stuart, 1991. “The Effect of Chess on Reading Scores: District Nine Chess Program Second Year Report.” The American Chess Foundation, New York.

Palm, Christine, 1990. “Chess Improves Academic Performance,” derived from “New York City Schools Chess Program.”

Seymour, Jane, and David Norwood, 1993. “A Game for Life,” New Scientist 139 (September, no.1889), pp. 23-26.

Wojcio, Michael David, 1990. “The Importance of Chess in the Classroom,” Atlantic Chess News.