Johan Christiaen; Chess and Cognitive
Development: 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 PMS 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 chessplayers.
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: 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)
Dr. Ferguson; Developing Critical
and Creative Thinking Through Chess: Dr. Ferguson 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 nonchess 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
Learning to Think Project: This
Venezuela experiment 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. 74)
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; Chess as a Way
to Teach Thinking: Hogan has conducted several studies using
chess as the independent variable. In Chess as a Way to Teach Thinking,
(1987), Horgan 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
other studies because students played chess daily over the course
of the project. The program continued from September 21, 1987 through
May 31, 1988.
The dependent 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.
Margulies; The Effect of Chess on Reading Scores
(1991): 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.
Dr. Margulies concluded that chess participation enhances
reading performance. The results of the paired t-test were significant
beyond the .01 level. The Chi Square test of the results of chessplayers
in the computer-enhanced and high-scoring nonparticipants were significant
at the .01 level. Margulies’ study 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.”
Louise Gaudreau; Étude Comparative
sur les Apprentissages en Mathématiques 5e Année(30
June 1992): This study 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.
Three groups 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
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%!
Philip Rifner; Playing Chess: A Study of Problem-Solving
Skills in Students with Average and Above Average Intelligence: This
study 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
Why does chess have this impact?
Why did chessplayers 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 chessplaying 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 andquality
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.”