Building Brain Power with Chess

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“…children who learn chess at an early age achieve more in the traditional maths and sciences. Chinese, European, and American research all find significant correlational values after just one year of systematic chess exposure. The most striking benefits are those associated with problem-solving and creativity.

Langen, 1992

Teaching young children to play chess is a great way to help them develop a variety of skill sets. Many studies have linked chess playing to a number of cognitive and academic benefits:

  • Advanced spatial, numerical, and administrative-directional abilities
  • Greater cognitive development over non-chess players.
  • Better performance in academic tests, in particular, in Math and Sciences tests.
  • Better performance in tests for critical thinking and creative thinking.
  • Learning to play chess in a methodical way can increase the IQ of children in elementary school.
  • Improved memory, verbal reasoning, and organisational skills.
  • Improved math problem-solving, math comprehension, reading ability,

A 5-year study of 7th and 8th graders by Robert Ferguson of the Bradford, PA School District showed that test scores improved 173% for students regularly engaged in chess classes, compared with only 4.56% for children participating in other forms of “enrichment activities” including Future Problem Solving, Dungeons and Dragons, Problem Solving with Computers, independent study, and creative writing.

Chess can help bring out latent abilities in children that may not be achieved through traditional methods of education. Playing chess promotes logical thinking, instills a sense of self-confidence and self-worth, and improves communication and pattern recognition skills. Playing chess also helps children learn the values of hard work, concentration, objectivity, and commitment.

The Benefits of Playing Chess

Children who play chess:

  • have higher IQs
  • are more creative
  • gain confidence
  • learn to solve problems
  • build discipline
  • increase in concentration
  • learn to strategize
  • develop critical thinking skills
  • learn to recognize patterns and develop tactics
  • improve communication
  • build memory abilities
  • learn sportsmanship
  • learn to analyze and evaluate and have better planning and foresight
  • improved reading skills

In addition to cognitive enhancements, Chess is also linked to improved social performance.

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.

Joyce Brown, Educator at Roberto Clemente School, New York

The Case for Chess as a Tool to Develop Our Children’s Minds

A study by Dr. Peter Dauvergne at the University of Sydney found that playing chess:

  • Raised IQ scores
  • Strengthened problem-solving skills
  • Taught children how to make difficult and abstract decisions independently
  • Enhanced reading, memory, language, and mathematical abilities
  • Fostered critical, creative, and original thinking
  • Provided practice at making accurate and fast decisions under time pressure, (a skill that can help improve exam scores at school)
  • Taught children how to think logically and efficiently, learning to select the “best” choice from a large number of options
  • Challenged gifted children while potentially helping underachieving gifted students learn how to study and strive for excellence
  • Demonstrated the importance of flexible planning, concentration, and the consequences of decisions
  • Reached boys and girls regardless of their natural abilities or socio-economic backgrounds.

Getting Started on Chess

If you would like to introduce your child to chess, the following are great for younger kids who have never played Chess before:

Chess Games:

  • No Stress Chess – a chess board designed to help you learn the rules of the game as you play.
  • All Queens from ThinkFun is a modified version of Chess using only Queens. This can be a great place for younger children to build their chess skills, working with Queens.
  • Solitaire Chess from ThinkFun is a single-player logic game that uses the rules of Chess. It is another great way to help children practice their chess skills as they familiarise themselves with what each Chess piece can do.

Chess Methods

If you’re serious about adding Chess to your child’s curriculum, you can try the following programs:

  • The Polgar Method by Chess Grandmaster Susan Polgar
  • Play Magnus by Chess Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen and current World Chess Champion (there are three apps available – Play Magnus, Magnus Trainer, and Tactics Frenzy)

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

2 thoughts on “Building Brain Power with Chess

  1. So informative ma’am. I would like to suggest reading about the polgar sisters too. And a chess book for parents of young children or beginners written by susan polgar in her website. its very easy to follow and its free.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation. I will add the resource here. I have read about the Grandmaster experiment and the Polgar sisters – it is very inspiring.

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