Chess requires you to think hard, analyze, plan, and execute. Problem-solving and learning are become a game! Studies conducted over the last 30 years show an increase in student IQ’s, and test scores improve after less than a year of systematic chess study.
Chess is also valuable due to its intellectual brand attributes: Chess is known to be a smart person’s game, and kids who play chess believe they are smart. Why is this important? Because what kids believe can be self-fulfilling.
WHAT DOES CHESS DO?
- Develops self-esteem
- Builds team spirit
- Increases concentration.
- Encourages and promotes pattern recognition
- Enhances logical deductive reasoning to solve problems
Chess levels the playing field. Age, gender, ethnic background, socioeconomic status, and spoken language are irrelevant factors when playing chess.
Chess and IQ
Chess has been shown to raise student’s overall IQ scores. A Venezuelan study involving 4,000 second grade students found a significant increase in their IQ scores after only 4.5 months of systematically studying chess. Tournament chess games, which bind each player to make his move within the stipulated time, hone one’s ability to perform under pressure, mimicking environments of most school and competitive exams.
Chess improves reading skills
In an often cited 1991 study (The Effect of Chess on Reading Scores), Dr. Stuart Margulies studied the reading performance of 53 elementary school students who participated in a chess program and evaluated them compared to non-chess-playing students in the district and around the country. He found definitive results that playing chess caused increased performance in reading. In a district where the average students tested below the national average, kids from the district who played the game tested above it.
Chess teaches analysis, logic, and problem solving
Playing chess well involves multiple aptitudes. Dr Albert Frank found that learning chess, even as teenagers, strengthened both numerical and verbal aptitudes. Some studies have even claimed that playing chess can strengthen a child’s memory .
A 1990-92 study  in New Brunswick, Canada, found that by integrating chess into the traditional mathematics curriculum teachers were able to raise significantly the average problem solving scores of their students. These students fared much better on problem solving tests than ones who just took the standard mathematics course.
Chess improves verbal skills
How could chess possibly improve English skills? The young students learned to make connections based on chess moves; This helped them connect different aspects of what they read in English courses & texts. Thus, the ability to make connections improves the overall IQ score.
Chess increases problem-solving skills
A chess match is like one big puzzle that needs solving, and solving on the fly, because your opponent is constantly changing the parameters. Nearly 450 fifth-grade students were split into three groups in a 1992 study in New Brunswick. Group A was the control group and went through the traditional math curriculum. Group B supplemented the math with chess instruction after first grade, and Group C began the chess in first grade. On a standardized test, Group C’s grades went up to 81.2% from 62% and outpaced Group A by 21.46%.
Chess improves concentration
Chess masters might come off like scattered nutty professors, but the truth is their antics during games are usually the result of intense concentration that the game demands and improves in its players. Looking away or thinking about something else for even a moment can result in the loss of a match, as an opponent is not required to tell you how he moved if you didn’t pay attention. Numerous studies of students in the U.S., Russia, China, and elsewhere have proven time and again that young people’s ability to focus is sharpened with chess.
Chess increases creativity
Since the right hemisphere of the brain is responsible for creativity, it should come as no surprise that activating the right side of your brain helps develop your creative side. Specifically, chess greatly increases originality. One four-year study had students from grades 7 to 9 play chess, use computers, or do other activities once a week for 32 weeks to see which activity fostered the most growth in creative thinking. The chess group scored higher in all measures of creativity, with originality being their biggest area of gain.
Chess improves memory
Chess players know — as an anecdote — that playing chess improves your memory. Being a good player means remembering how your opponent has operated in the past and recalling moves that have helped you win before. But there’s hard evidence also. In a two-year study in 1985, young students who were given regular opportunities to play chess improved their grades in all subjects, and their teachers noticed better memory and better organizational skills in the kids. A similar study of Pennsylvania sixth-graders found similar results. Students who had never before played chess improved their memories and verbal skills after playing.
Chess exercises both sides of the brain
In a German study, researchers showed chess experts and novices simple geometric shapes and chess positions and measured the subjects’ reactions in identifying them. They expected to find the experts’ left brains being much more active, but they did not expect the right hemisphere of the brain to do so as well. Their reaction times to the simple shapes were the same, but the experts were using both sides of their brains to more quickly respond to the chess position questions.
Chess teaches planning and foresight
Having teenagers play chess might just save their lives. It goes like this: one of the last parts of the brain to develop is the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for planning, judgment, and self-control. So adolescents are scientifically immature until this part develops. Strategy games like chess can promote prefrontal cortex development and help them make better decisions in all areas of life, perhaps keeping them from making a stupid, risky choice of the kind associated with being a teenager.
Chess improves spatial intelligence
The ability to perceive possibilities for movement is particularly crucial to chess thinking, as is the capacity to build up a system of knowledge and experience. Chess thinking often involves a complex, hierarchical structure of problems and sub-problems, and the capacity for retaining and manipulating such complex structures of data concurrently never deviating from the goals, all correlate with having a high IQ.
Chess grows dendrites
Dendrites are the tree-like branches that conduct signals from other neural cells into the neurons they are attached to. Think of them like antennas picking up signals from other brain cells. The more antennas you have and the bigger they are, the more signals you’ll pick up. Learning a new skill like chess-playing causes dendrites to grow. But that growth doesn’t stop once you’ve learned the game; interaction with people in challenging activities also fuels dendrite growth, and chess is a perfect example.
1. Frank, Albert, 1974. Chess and Aptitudes, Doctoral Dissertation. Translation, Stanley Epstein.
2. Gaudreau, Louise (1992)“tude Comparative sur les Apprentissages en Mathématiques 5e Année,” a study comparing the Challenging Mathematics curriculum to traditional math. (The authors are Michel and Robert Lyons. The ISBN is 2-89114-472-4.