These are the key ways in which chess helps to develop young (and not so young) minds:
- Chess improves focus and attention by encouraging sustained mental alertness.
- Chess develops the skill of tactical and strategic planning.
- Because players need to find novel solutions to unpredictable problems, chess improves creativity and problem solving skills.
- The great game teaches kids to deal positively with stress and to think on their feet. A large number of tactical problems encountered over a game of chess will be unique and need to be solved under pressure.
- Chess nurtures evaluative and critical thinking skills (because kids need to deliberate over, and weigh multiple options carefully).
- Chess engenders a positive attitude towards learning. Moreover, because it is a game, and they’re having fun, kids aren’t necessarily aware that they’re learning valuable cognitive skills while they’re playing.
- The game builds logical, sequential and analytical thinking while simultaneously bolstering the ability to synthesize information.
- Chess players develop an acute sense of spatial awareness by having to be alert to opportunities and threats in multiple locations.
- Very importantly, chess hones pattern recognition aptitudes. The solution to particular problems often provides a template for solving later problems.
- For those who think they matter, IQ scores have been shown to improve with methodical chess instruction.
- Through the careful study of openings, middle and end games, players’ ability to memorise improves.
- There is a strong general link between chess and improved academic performance in school kids of all ages.
- Chess provides a stimulus and a challenge for gifted students.
- Chess teaches patience, determination, perseverance and old fashioned grit. It also brings about a different attitude towards failure as something to be deconstructed, analysed and learnt from. Every failure brings with it an opportunity to improve.
- When players analyze their own games in order to diagnose and evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses, the essential skills of reflection and metacognition become ingrained.
- Most interestingly, I have noticed that kids with ADHD (hyperactivity) and ADD (the inability to focus) have shown significant improvement when exposed to chess. Also, kids with social / emotional problems learn to be more confident.
Intriguingly, chess is also a great leveler. It teaches us all that what matters is not what you look like or where you come from – nor is it how old you are or how much you have (or don’t have) – what matters most is what you do with what you have.