What are benefits of playing chess?

  • First of all I would like to thank Camilo Ardiles for requesting my answer to this question.

    At start, I thought this will be an easy one. I was already starting to think about some general answer that would include the words like calculation, geometrical themes, visualization, etc.

    However, I realized that such an answer would be too superficial.

    It has been known for a long time that the benefits of playing chess are numerous.

    Still, I have never bothered to check the opinion of science regarding this matter.

    Therefore I have tried to search for scientific articles tightly connected with the answer to the question above.

    Some of the benefits that are most often mentioned are as follows:

    1. Chess increases IQ

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

    “Chess has even been shown to raise students’ overall IQ scores.

    Using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children a Venezuelan study of over 4,000 second grade students found a significant increase in most students’ IQ scores after only 4.5 months of systematically studying chess.

    This occurred across all socio-economic groups and for both males and females. The Venezuelan government was so impressed that all Venezuelan schools introduced chess lessons starting in 1988-89.”

    2. Chess improves cognitive skills

    Source: Checking the “Academic Selection” argument. Chess players outperform non-chess players in cognitive skills related to intelligence: A meta-analysis

    “As mentioned above, the number of studies comparing chess players to non-chess players on cognitive skills is quite small. Additional studies are needed that compare chess players of different ages and ratings to matched non-chess players on a variety of cognitive tests.

    A larger number of studies examining variables such as level of skill, the age of players, and a broad range of cognitive abilities would allow us to test more sophisticated models and hypotheses.

    Based on the available evidence, we demonstrated that chess players tend to perform better than non-chess players on measures of cognitive ability.

    Consequently, cognitive ability is a strong candidate to play an important role, together with deliberate practice, in skill acquisition in chess. “

    3. Chess improves memory

    Source: Auditory memory function in expert chess players

    “Auditory memory, as a kind of memory, can be influenced by strengthening processes following long term chess playing like other behavioral skills because of common processing pathways in the brain.

    The mean score of dichotic auditory-verbal memory test between the two groups, expert chess players and non-chess players, revealed a significant difference (p≤ 0.001). The difference between the ears scores for expert chess players (p= 0.023) and non-chess players (p= 0.013) was significant. Gender had no effect on the test results.

    Auditory memory function in expert chess players was significantly better compared to non-chess players. It seems that increased auditory memory function is related to strengthening cognitive performances due to playing chess for a long time.”

    4. Chess and academic skills are positively corelated

    Source: Do the benefits of chess instruction transfer to academic and cognitive skills? A meta-analysis

    “In conclusion, the game of chess seems to exert a slight positive influence on both academic and cognitive abilities.

    Further research is needed to shed light on the relationship between cognitive and academic improvements, to evaluate the role of potential moderators and confounds, and to understand the role, if any, of placebo effects and game elements non-specific to chess.”

    5. Chess improves concentration

    Source: The Effect of Playing Chess on the Concentration of ADHD Students in the 2nd Cycle

    “Through the mentioned results, training students with ADHD on playing chess has affected their concentration period and skill.

    It was shown that students take a longer duration until they started exhibiting undesirable and unacceptable behaviors. Hence, it is important for students to learn chess as it trains them to stay longer on task, control their actions, and maintain focus. “

    6. Chess improves problem solving

    Source: Étude comparative sur les apprentissages en mathématiques, 5e année

    A 1989-92 New Brunswick, Canada study, using 437 fifth graders split into three groups, experimenting with the addition of chess to the math curriculum, found increased gains in math problem-solving and comprehension proportionate to the amount of chess in the curriculum.

    Apart from everything written above, it is interesting to see what Kasparov’s chess foundation has to say about their project “Chess in schools” and the benefits of chess in education.

    Source: The benefits of chess in education

    “We have brought chess to the schools because we believe it directly contributes to academic performance. Chess makes kids smarter. It does so by teaching the following skills:

    Focusing – Children are taught the benefits of observing carefully and concentrating. If they don’t watch what is happening, they can’t respond to it, no matter how smart they are.

    Visualizing – Children are prompted to imagine a sequence of actions before it happens. We actually strengthen the ability to visualize by training them to shift the pieces in their mind, first one, then several moves ahead.

    Thinking Ahead – Children are taught to think first, then act. We teach them to ask themselves “If I do this, what might happen then, and how can I respond?” Over time, chess helps develop patience and thoughtfulness.

    Weighing Options – Children are taught that they don’t have to do the first thing that pops into their mind. They learn to identify alternatives and consider the pros and cons of various actions.

    Analyzing Concretely – Children learn to evaluate the results of specific actions and sequences. Does this sequence help me or hurt me? Decisions are better when guided by logic, rather than impulse.

    Thinking Abstractly – Children are taught to step back periodically from details and consider the bigger picture. They also learn to take patterns used in one context and apply them to different, but related situations.

    Planning – Children are taught to develop longer range goals and take steps toward bringing them about. They are also taught of the need to reevaluate their plans as new developments change the situation.

    Juggling Multiple Considerations Simultaneously -Children are encouraged not to become overly absorbed in any one consideration, but to try to weigh various factors all at once.”

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