Is it True that Chess Makes Kids Smarter?
To my greatest pleasure, teaching chess in kindergartens and schools is more and more widespread, still, a lot of people ask this question. Let’s see what the truth may be.
When we worked out our online chess tutor we thoroughly analyzed this problem and studied the relevant scientific research papers, which are already available for everyone on the Internet, fortunately. Now, I would like to summarize these methodologically and make them clearer through examples. I do hope that after reading this blog entry even more people will take a liking to teaching – and of course, learning – chess.
However, I would like to emphasize it at the very beginning that teaching chess at school is not about professional sport but, similarly to any other school subjects, is useful for each student and serves properly defined development goals.
So, let’s see what chess develops. Let’s start with generally known things:
Perhaps the first word that crosses our mind about chess is strategy, since we have to follow several important strategic rules during chess games. These are, for example, the development in the opening, placing our king into safety, making use of weaknesses and strengths. All this requires logical and foreseeing thinking which is also critical when we choose one of the several possible moves or plans, which may decide over the outcome of the game.
Memory, pattern recognition
I have already heard it a million times that persons playing chess have good memory. First of all, chess players know several opening variations, use numerous typical combinations and to top it all, they can even play in their heads. However, we are not born with these faculties but can acquire them by playing and practicing chess and we may also make use of these acquired abilities in other fields as well.
Focusing, concentration, attention
Chess players continuously have to focus on giving mate, the safety of the king, capturing pieces during games. If our concentration flags and we make only one move absent-mindedly, the whole game will be lost. Punishment will be quick to arrive, which is a good incentive to keep up our attention.
It is not surprising that chess develops mathematical abilities, since the numerous possible moves and the subsequent variations require a great deal of calculation. However, research has shown development in each learning ability, which is not surprising any more regarding the development of thinking, memory and attention. Especially good results may be achieved in the field of reading abilities causing more and more problems nowadays.
The position has to be analyzed and evaluated all the time. Simple or complex plans have to be made to achieve victory. Chess develops these abilities in a playful manner, children quickly learn that moves based on a plan are much more successful than the ones made impulsively.
Now let’s see some less known areas which can also be developed with chess:
Children imagine the moves and answers made with the pieces first. Recognizing the typical positions and combinations is also based on visualization. In the course of constant practicing, these abilities develop to an extent that most children will be able to play a short game even in their head!
Situations are rare for children when they are left to their own ideas as much as in chess. The initiative, ability to make decisions play a really important role in achieving victory. To accomplish one’s own ideas, for example in the form of minor combinations, gives peculiar pleasure.
To find the best move, plan and the winning combination means a constant challenge. If we want to beat even better opponents, then we have to train ourselves. Even losing a game may be serious motivation before the next game to continue our development and pay it back.
Staying quiet and sitting in one place during – even long – chess games are the real test of patience, which also strengthens our nerves. We should not make moves hastily but have to consider the consequences calmly first. It is surprising that children playing chess are able to accept either winning or losing a game gracefully.
Finally, let’s see what social advantages chess offers:
The community building role of chess is remarkable in schools. The game is played on an easy and safe forum, so children of different age, sex and race may enjoy it alike. Chess provides children who do not perform very well at P.E. lessons or who are introverted with an opportunity to assert themselves and become part of the community.
Opens up a new world
It is not necessary to become a professional chess player to make friends through chess. Chess is an international language by means of which we can communicate practically anywhere in the world.
Chess is inexpensive
You only need a board, a chess set; perhaps a clock and you may already play with your friends in the park, school or at home with your family members. However, today you can use even your computer to play chess: You can play against a human opponent or a computer at LearningChess.net and taking the certain courses even the tutor can be substituted.
Chess is fun
Finally, I would like to repeat that the ideas written above are supported by modern scientific research easily available on the Internet; accordingly, the answer to the question raised in the title is an explicit ‘Yes‘. Contrary to public belief, chess is not a sport for smart people, but the truth is just reversed: those who play chess will become smarter. That is why chess has become part of school education in more than 40 countries and this number keeps rising.
This is where our LearningChess.net online chess tutor, which is absolutely free of charge for schools in the academic year of 2014/15, becomes part of this process. Those interested may register here.