The Value of Chess

Introduction. Recent studies have confirmed what educators have known for nearly 40 years: that chess improves academic performance, concentration, logical thinking, judgment, creativity, problem solving, emotional intelligence, and social skills. Much of the research can be found online, and we’ve tried to collect some of the best of it here.  We also include, at the end of this section, some links to video clips that show, better than words on paper, what chess can do for kids.

The Ashley summary. Perhaps the best summary of the research spanning the years 1973 to 1999 appears in Maurice Ashley’s excellent Chess for Success: Using an Old Game to Build New Strengths in Children and Teens (Broadway Books/Random House, 2005) (pp. 58-64).

Ashley, raised on the rough and tumble streets of Brooklyn, discovered chess as a teenager and rose to become the first (and thus far the only) African American Grandmaster. His personal story is a testament to the role that chess can play in transforming one’s life for the better and reaching the pinnacles of success. Ashley also became a scholar of the game and an extraordinary writer, able to bring to life even the history of what some might view as dry academic research:

“The first study of note to focus on chess and aptitude in young people was conducted during the 1973-74 school year by Dr. Albert Frank at the Lisanga School in Kisangani, Zaire. Taking a group of ninety-two students between the ages of sixteen and eighteen from a fourth-year humanities class, Dr. Frank randomly split the group in half (experimental and control) and gave them a battery of aptitude tests. The experimental group was then taught chess for two hours each week with optional play after school and during vacations.

Read more ...


In these short videos, you’ll hear from kids, teachers and school officials about the effects chess has had on kids' lives:

Chess-in-the-Schools (New York) (6 minutes): Learn about New York's outstanding program and its impact on kids in this video called "Winning Moves-Transforming Lives Through Chess."

Brooklyn’s PS 318 (3 minutes): The trailer for Brooklyn Castle, an inside look at a national championship middle school chess team and the pride it has infused into its school: (click on "Watch the Trailer")

St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center (7 minutes):  The St. Louis facility is one of the nation’s premier chess centers.  This video, which appeared on PBS in St. Louis, shows how chess has joined the everyday lineup of classes at some St. Louis schools and how it’s teaching elementary students more than just academic lessons:

A program set up by the St. Louis Center focusing on kids with severe behavioral problems was also the subject of a recent article in the Wall Street Journal:

Washington D.C.'s U.S. Chess Center (3 minutes): This item appeared on NBC Nightly News and features a program in which tens of thousands of kids have learned chess at a chess center and as part of their school curriculum.  Participants discuss how chess can lead to improvements in behavior, discipline, and success in life:

America’s Foundation for Chess (4 minutes): Based in Bellevue, Washington, AF4C is a leader in chess education and runs programs in 27 states (including in 16 Chicago schools).  Chess is taught to 2nd and 3rd graders as part of the regular curriculum.  Topics covered on the video include chess as an aid to critical thinking and self esteem, and one commentators describes the game’s capacity to channel the energy of kids with behavioral problems.  See and other videos on the site.

From across the pond (2 minutes): BBC's take on chess in the school curriculum:

Who says chess isn't out of this world?  (2:30)  Astronauts Greg Chamitoff  and Greg Johnson play and talk about chess in this wonderful May 2011 video made during a shuttle mission.  Despite the zero gravity, they're serious.

NBA Chess (2 minutes):  Although this was an ad for the 2009 NBA playoffs using chess as the backdrop,  we prefer to think the opposite.  "Board" has a new meaning in this video featuring top basketball stars:

Spanish ODonnells (4 minutes): Scroll down in this link to see Marquette's hip-hop take on the benefits of chess:

Chess Through the Ages: Check out the slide show at the bottom of the page showing of celebrities, politicians and others playing and celebrating the age-old game: