This summary has
drawn freely from several sources including Dr. Tim Redman’s Chess
as Education: Character Assassination or Life of the Mind
and Robert Ferguson’s doctoral dissertation. The following
studies will be reviewed briefly.
- Chess and
Aptitudes by Albert Frank
- Chess and
Cognitive Development by Johan Christiaen
Critical and Creative Thinking Through Chess by Robert
- Chess as a
Way to Teach Thinking by Dianne Horgan
Development of Reasoning and Memory Through Chess by
- The Effect
of Chess on Reading Scores by Stuart Margulies
Comparative sur les Apprentissages en Mathématiques 5e Année
by Louise Gaudreau
Chess: A Study of Problem-Solving Skills by Philip
John Artise in Chess
and Education states: "Visual stimuli tend to improve
memory more than any other stimuli; . . . chess is definitely an
excellent memory exerciser the effects of which are transferable
to other subjects where memory is necessary." The following
studies offer some hard evidence to support the claims of Artise
The Zaire study, Chess
and Aptitudes, lead by Dr. Albert Frank at the Uni
Protestant School (now Lisanga School) in Kisangani, Zaire, was
conducted during the 1973-74 school year.
Frank wanted to
find out whether the ability to learn chess is a function of a)
spatial aptitude, b) perceptive speed, c) reasoning, d)
creativity, or e) general intelligence. Secondly, Frank wondered
whether learning chess could influence the development of
abilities in one or more of the above five types. To what extent
does chess playing contribute to the development of certain
abilities? If it can be proven that it does, then the
introduction of chess into the programs of secondary schools
would be recommended.
hypothesis was confirmed. There was a significant correlation
between the ability to play chess well, and spatial, numerical,
administrative-directional, and paper work abilities. Other
correlations obtained were all positive, but only the above were
significantly so. This finding tends to show that ability in
chess is not due to the presence in an individual of only one or
two abilities but that a large number of aptitudes all work
together in chess. Chess utilizes all the abilities of an
hypothesis was confirmed for two aptitudes. It was found that
learning chess had a positive influence on the development of
both numerical and verbal aptitudes.
Cognitive Development was directed by Johan Christiaen. The
research was conducted during the 1974-76 school years at the
Assenede Municipal School in Gent, Belgium.
The trial group
consisted of 40 fifth grade students (average age 10.6 years),
who were divided randomly into two groups, experimental and
control, of 20 students each. All students were given a battery
of tests that included Piaget’s tests for cognitive
development and the P.M.S.
tests. The tests were administered to all of the students at the
end of fifth grade and again at the end of sixth grade. The
experimental group received 42 one-hour chess lessons using Jeugdschaak
(Chess for Youths) as a textbook.
A first analysis
of the investigation results compared the trial and control
groups using ANOVA. The results showed significant differences
between the two groups in favor of the chess players. The
academic results at the end of fifth grade were significant at
the .01 level. The results at the end of sixth grade were
significant at the .05 level.
Dr. Gerard Dullea
(1982) states that Dr. Christiaen’s study needs support,
extension, and confirmation. In regard to the research, he also
maintains: ". . . we have scientific support for what we
have known all along--chess makes kids smarter!" (Chess
Life, November, p. 16)
study, Developing Critical and Creative Thinking through
Chess, expanded the support Dullea referenced. Dr.
Ferguson’s ESEA Title IV-C federally funded research project
was approved for three years (1979-82). It was extended for one
school year (82-83) at local expense for a combined total of
four years. The primary goal of the study was to provide
challenging experiences that would stimulate the development of
critical and creative thinking.
The project was an
investigation of students identified as mentally gifted. All
participants were students in the Bradford Area School District
in grades 7 through 9. The primary independent variables
reviewed were the chess treatment, the computer treatment, and
all non-chess treatments combined. Each group met once a week
for 32 weeks to pursue its interest area.
The first aspect
assessed in this study is that of critical thinking. The average
annual increase for the chess group was 17.3% as measured by the
Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal. The second
aspect tested is that of creative thinking. While the entire
chess group made superior gains over the other groups in all
areas of creativity, the dimension that demonstrated the most
significant growth was originality. Several
researchers have found that gains in originality are usual for
those receiving creativity training, whereas gains in fluency
are often slight or nonexistent. The fact that the chess
group’s gains in fluency were significant beyond the .05 level
when compared to the national norms is an important discovery.
experiment, Learning to Think Project, tested whether
chess can be used to develop intelligence of children as
measured by the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children.
Both males and
females showed an increase of intelligence quotient (IQ) after
less than a year of studying chess in the systematic way
adopted. Most students showed a significant gain after a minimum
of 4.5 months. The general conclusion is that chess
methodologically taught is an incentive system sufficient to
accelerate the increase of IQ in elementary age children of both
sexes at all socio-economic levels. It appears that this study
also includes very interesting results regarding transfer of
chess thinking to other areas of study. (FIDE Report, 1984, p.
B.F. Skinner, an
influential contemporary psychologist, wrote: "There is no
doubt that this project in its total form will be considered as
one of the greatest social experiments of this century" (Tudela,
1987). Because of the success of the study, the chess program
was greatly expanded. Starting with the 1988-89 school year,
chess lessons were conducted in all of Venezuela’s schools
(Linder, 1990, p. 165). Chess is now part of the curricula at
thousands of schools in nearly 30 countries around the world
(Linder, p. 164).
Dianne Horgan has
conducted several studies using chess as the independent
variable. In "Chess as a Way to Teach Thinking,"
Horgan (1987) used a sample of 24 elementary children (grades 1
through 6) and 35 junior high and high school students. Grade
and skill rating were correlated (r=.48). She found elementary
players were among the top ranked players and concluded that
children could perform a highly complex cognitive task as well
as most adults.
Horgan found that
while adults progress to expertise from a focus on details to a
more global focus, children seem to begin with a more global,
intuitive emphasis. She deduced: "This may be a more
efficient route to expertise as evidenced by the ability of
preformal operational children to learn chess well enough to
compete successfully with adults" (Horgan, p. 10). She
notes that young children can be taught to think clearly and
that learning these skills early in life can greatly benefit
later intellectual development. Former U.S. Secretary of
Education Terrell Bell agrees. In his book Your Child’s
Intellect, Bell encourages some knowledge of chess as a way
to develop a preschooler’s intellect and academic readiness
(Bell, 1982, pp. 178-179).
During the 1987-88
Development of Reasoning and Memory through Chess, all
students in a sixth grade self-contained classroom at M.J. Ryan
School were required to participate in chess lessons and play
games. None of the pupils had previously played chess. This
experiment was more intensified than Ferguson’s other studies
because students played chess daily over the course of the
project. The program continued from September 21, 1987 through
May 31, 1988.
variables were the gains on the Test of Cognitive Skills
(TCS) Memory subtest (p<0.001) and the Verbal
Reasoning subtest (p<0.002) from the California
Achievement Tests battery. The differences from the
pre and posttests were measured statistically using the t test
of significance. Gains on the tests were compared to
national norms as well as within the treatment group.
(1991) The Effect of Chess on Reading Scores: District Nine
Chess Program Second Year Report evaluates the reading
performance of 53 elementary pupils who participated in the
chess program and compares their results to 1118 nonparticipants.
concluded that chess participation enhances reading performance.
The results of the paired t-test were significant beyond the .01
level. The results of the Chi Square test for the chess players
in the computer-enhanced and high-scoring nonparticipants were
significant at the .01 level.
conclusively proved that pupils who learned chess enjoyed a
significant increase in their reading skills. Inside Chess (February
21, 1994, p. 3) states: "The Margulies Study is one of the
strongest arguments to finally prove what hundreds of teachers
knew all along--chess is a learning tool."
Comparative sur les Apprentissages en Mathématiques 5e Année
by Louise Gaudreau (30 June 1992) has recently been translated
and offers some of the most exciting news yet about chess in
education. The study took place in the province of New Brunswick
from July 1989 through June of 1992.
totaling 437 fifth graders were tested in this research. The
control group (Group A) received the traditional math course
throughout the study. Group B received a traditional math
curriculum in first grade and thereafter an enriched program
with chess and problem solving instruction. The third group
(Group C) received the chess enriched math curriculum beginning
in the first grade.
There were no
significant differences among the groups as far as basic
calculations on the standardized test; however, there were
statistically significant differences for Group B and C in the
problem solving portion of the test (21.46% difference
in favor of Group C over the Control Group) and on the
comprehension section (12.02% difference in favor
of Group C over the Control Group). In addition, Group C’s
problem solving scores increased from an average 62% to 81.2%!
A Study of Problem-Solving Skills in Students with Average and
Above Average Intelligence by Philip Rifner was
conducted during the 1991-1992 school term. The study sought to
determine whether middle school students who learned general
problem solving skills in one domain could apply them in a
different domain. The training task involved learning to play
chess, and the transfer task required poetic analysis. The study
was conducted in two parts.
Results of the
quasi-experiment indicated treatment effects only for the
transfer task. Results of the quantitative-descriptive study
indicated treatment effects for all variables among gifted
subjects but only on the number of methods used for students of
average ability. Data indicated that inter-domain transfer can
be achieved if teaching for transfer is an instructional goal
and that transfer occurs more readily and to a greater extent
among students with above average ability.
does chess have this impact?
did chess players score higher on the Torrance Tests of
Creative Thinking as well as the Watson-Glaser Critical
Thinking Appraisal? Briefly, there appear to be at least
seven significant factors: 1) Chess accommodates all modality
strengths. 2) Chess provides a far greater quantity of problems
for practice. 3) Chess offers immediate punishments and rewards
for problem solving. 4) Chess creates a pattern or thinking
system that, when used faithfully, breeds success. The chess
playing students had become accustomed to looking for more and
different alternatives, which resulted in higher scores in
fluency and originality. 5) Competition. Competition fosters
interest, promotes mental alertness, challenges all students,
and elicits the highest levels of achievement (Stephan, 1988).
6) A learning environment organized around games has a positive
affect on students’ attitudes toward learning. This affective
dimension acts as a facilitator of cognitive achievement (Allen
& Main, 1976). Instructional gaming is one of the most
motivational tools in the good teacher’s repertoire. Children
love games. Chess motivates them to become willing problem
solvers and spend hours quietly immersed in logical thinking.
These same young people often cannot sit still for fifteen
minutes in the traditional classroom. 7) Chess supplies a
variety and quality of problems. As Langen (1992) states:
"The problems that arise in the 70-90 positions of the
average chess game are, moreover, new. Contexts are familiar,
themes repeat, but game positions never do. This makes chess
good grist for the problem-solving mill."