Why play chess?
There are many reasons why adults and children should play chess. Some pay dividends right away, while others kick in years later.
It has been said that chess is an easy game to learn, but a hard game to master. Fortunately, mastery is not required in order to benefit from chess. All over the world, studies show that just the process of regularly working to improve is enough to make a difference in other areas of school and life.
Chess education improves problem-solving skills, which can translate to success in math. Iranian boys in 8th and 9th grade who were randomly chosen to enroll in a chess program for six months scored better on math tests afterwards and showed more developed meta-cognitive abilities, or higher-order thinking skills. Students in Denmark in grades 1-3 also scored better on math tests after studying chess, with especially large benefits for bored and unhappy students.
The mental discipline and agility of chess training also has a way of trickling over to other subjects, including language arts and the humanities. Indian 6th graders randomly assigned to a year-long chess program performed better in English and social studies, as well as science. Romanian students across many grades scored better on tests for language skills and literary creativity as well as math tests, after only ten chess lessons spread over three months.
Chess can be an especially important tool for reaching groups who get left behind by standard education methods. Children with ADHD who played chess twice a week became able to concentrate longer and improved their listening skills. Low-income students of color who received chess instruction reported a more positive view of school.
By the end of their teenage years, and for many decades afterwards, adult chess players have physical differences in their brains as well as better performance on many planning and memory tasks when compared to non-chess-players of the same age who got the same level of education.
Many large schools offer full and partial chess scholarships. The IAC does not maintain a comprehensive list of these schools, but here are a few examples:
The US Chess Federation offers five scholarships every year in the form of Scholar Chess Player Awards for high school students who "promote a positive image of chess." In 2020, a 16-year-old from Madison, Wisconsin won a Samford Fellowship from the US Chess Trust.
The Wisconsin Scholastic Chess Federation offers scholarships to the winners of its tournaments.
If you're thinking of taking up chess along with your children, you might like to know that playing chess can help to prevent or delay the onset conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia in later life. In one especially striking study, playing games like chess reduced the risk of Alzheimer's by 75% , more than playing a musical instrument (64%) and much more than doing crossword puzzles (38%).
During the cold winter months (or the summer COVID months) when everyone is looking for something to do, what better way to pass time together as a family than by playing a game you can enjoy together?
The Brainy Benefits of Chess in Parents
Playing Chess as a Tool in Learning in the New York Times
Checkmating Alzheimer's Disease in ChessBase
Top 10 Health Benefits of Chess While Social Distancing in Health Fitness Revolution