Why Chess?

Photo courtesy Jeff Smith www.jeffsmithusa.com

Photo courtesy Jeff Smith www.jeffsmithusa.com

Chess is much more than a timeless game enjoyed around the world, it is also a powerful and effective tool with the potential to improve educational outcomes and close the achievement gap. Although chess was invented over 1,500 years ago, chess provides an innovative solution to the current problems faced by American teachers, students and schools. Research shows that chess can improve cognitive abilities, increase student achievement and promote emotional intelligence.

Chess improves cognitive abilities

  • A two-year study conducted by Johan Christiaen found that chess-playing fifth grade students experienced significant gains in cognitive development over a control a group.1
  • The four-year “Learning to Think Project” found that second grade students exposed to chess instruction experienced accelerated increases in IQ during a four-year study. The project trained 100,000 teachers and involved a sample of 4,236 students.2
  • A four-year study conducted by Robert Ferguson in Pennsylvania found that middle school age students who played chess consistently outperformed control groups engaged in thinking development programs.3

Chess increases student achievement

  • A three-year study conducted by James Liptrap found that elementary school students who participated in a school chess club showed twice the improvement of non-chess playing students in Reading and Mathematics between third and fifth grade.4
  • A one–year study conducted by Robert Ferguson found that sixth graders receiving chess instruction experienced significant gains in memory and verbal reasoning.5
  • A one-year study conducted by Stuart Margolis found that students who received chess instruction during the school day obtained significantly higher reading scores than students who received additional reading instruction.6

Chess promotes self-esteem and emotional intelligence

  • A seven-year study conducted by William Levy found that students exposed to chess for at least a year experienced improved self-esteem and self-image.7


1. Johan Christiaen, “Chess and Cognitive Development,” doctoral dissertation, 1976, Trans. Stanley Epstein.
2. Rafael Tudela, “Learning to Think Project,” Commission for Chess in Schools, 1984, Annex pp. 1-2.
3. James Liptrap, “Chess and Standardized Test Scores,” Chess Coach Newsletter, Spring 1999, Volume 11 (1), pp. 5 4. Robert Ferguson, “Chess in Education Research Summary,” paper presented at the Chess in Education A Wise Move Conference at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, January 12-13,1995.

5. Robert Ferguson, “Tri-State Area School Pilot Project Findings,” 1986.

6. Stuart Margulies, “The Effect of Chess on Reading Scores: District Nine Chess Program Second Year Report,” 1992.
7. William Levy, “Utilizing Chess to Promote Self-Esteem in Perceptually Impaired Students,” A governor’s teacher grant program through the New Jersey State Department of Education, 1987.