Chess is an exercise of infinite possibilities for the mind, one which develops mental abilities used throughout life: concentration, critical thinking, abstract reasoning, problem solving, pattern recognition, strategic planning, creativity, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, to name a few.
Chess can be used very effectively as a tool to teach problem solving and abstract reasoning. Learning how to solve a problem is more important than learning the solution to any particular problem.
Through chess, we learn how to analyze a situation by focusing on important factors and by eliminating distractions. We learn to devise creative solutions and put a plan into action.
Chess works because it is self-motivating. The game has fascinated humans for almost 2000 years, and the goals of attack and defense, culminating in checkmate, inspire us to dig deep into our mental reserves.
The New York City Schools Chess Program included more than 3,000 inner-city children in more than 100 public schools between 1986 and 1990. Based on academic and anecdotal records only, Palm (1990) states that the program has proven:
- Chess dramatically improves a child’s ability to think rationally.
- Chess increases cognitive skills.
- Chess improves children’s communication skills and aptitude in recognizing patterns, therefore:
- Chess results in higher grades, especially in English and Math studies.
- Chess builds a sense of team spirit while emphasizing the ability of the individual.
- Chess teaches the value of hard work, concentration and commitment.
- Chess instills in young players a sense of self-confidence and self-worth.
- Chess makes a child realize that he or she is responsible for his or her own actions and must accept their consequences.
- Chess teaches children to try their best to win, while accepting defeat with grace.
- Chess provides an intellectual, competitive forum through which children can assert hostility, i.e. “let off steam,” in an acceptable way.
- Chess can become a child’s most eagerly awaited school activity, dramatically improving attendance.
- Chess allows girls to compete with boys on a non-threatening, socially acceptable plane.
- Chess helps children make friends more easily because it provides an easy, safe forum for gathering and discussion.
- Chess allows students and teachers to view each other in a more sympathetic way.
- Chess, through competition, gives kids a palpable sign of their accomplishments.
- Chess provides children with a concrete, inexpensive and compelling way to rise above the deprivation and self-doubt which are so much a part of their lives