10 research reports into chess and education

It is the question we are always asked. Here are 10 must-read articles showing the benefits of chess in education. This article will be updated from time to time.

1) Chess development in Aberdeen’s primary schools: A study of literacy and social capital

Forrest, D., Davidson, I., Shucksmith, J., & Glendinning, T. (2005). Aberdeen, Scotland: University of Aberdeen.

“At the end of the school year the quantitative analysis of pre-test and post-test results on intervention and control samples showed that the most statistically significant difference that chess made to classroom life was in terms of the nature of social adjustment, particularly for those pupils identified by the class teacher at the outset as exhibiting poor behaviour. The patterning among the scores on the various pre-chess and post-chess tests point to positive changes occurring on comprehension and arithmetic skills in the chess coaching group.”


2) Educational benefits of chess instruction: A critical review. 

Gobet F., Campitelli G. (2006) In book: Chess and Education: Selected essays from the Koltanowski conference, Chapter: Educational benefits of chess instruction: A critical review, Editors: T. Redman 

“There is a huge chasm between the strong claims often found in chess literature and the rather inconclusive findings of a limited number of studies. The extant evidence seems to indicate that (a) the possible effects of optional chess instruction are still an open question; (b) compulsory instruction is not to be recommended, as it seems to lead to motivational problems; and (c) while chess instruction may be beneficial at the beginning, the benefits seem to decrease as chess skill improves, because of the amount of practice necessary and the specificity of the knowledge that is acquired.”


3) Impact of chess training on mathematics performance and concentration ability of children with learning disabilities. 
Markus Scholz et al, (2008) International Journal Of Special Education Vol 23 No 3 2008

“The aim of this study is to evaluate the benefit of chess in mathematics lessons for children with learning disabilities based on lower intelligence (IQ 70-85). School classes of four German schools for children with learning disabilities were randomly assigned to receive one hour of chess lesson instead of one hour of regular mathematics lessons per week for the duration of one school-year. Concentration and calculation abilities of children were measured before and after the year of study using standardised tests. The chess group was compared with the control group without chess lessons. Concentration abilities and calculation abilities for written tasks and gap tasks developed equally well in both groups. Calculation abilities for simple addition tasks and counting improved significantly more in the chess classes. We conclude that chess could be a valuable learning aid for children with learning disabilities. Transfer of chess lessons to improvement of basic mathematics skills has been observed.


4) ‘Does playing chess improve math learning? Promising (and inexpensive) results from Italy.’ 
Boruch, R. and Romano, B. (2011) 
“In Italy learning chess in school in 3rd grade increases math achievement by a third of a standard deviation. Interactions are significant for two crucial variables: residing in the south and being foreign born. Southern students present an effect size almost twice as large as their northern colleagues (relevant because the south always score much worse in standardized tests). Foreign born students score analogously better than the native born.”

5) The Benefits of Chess for the Intellectual and Social-Emotional Enrichment in Schoolchildren
Aciego R. et al (2012) The Spanish Journal of Psychology
“This paper examines the benefits of regularly playing chess for the intellectual and social-emotional enrichment of a group of 170 schoolchildren from 6-16 years old. It is based on a quasi-experimental design, where the independent variable was the extracurricular activity of chess (n = 170) versus extracurricular activities of soccer or basketball (n = 60). The dependent variable was intellectual and socio-affective competence, which was measured by an IQ test (WISC-R), a self-report test (TAMAI) and a hetero-report questionnaire (teacher-tutor’s criterion) applied at the beginning and the end of the academic year. In contrast to the comparison group, it was found that chess improves cognitive abilities, coping and problem-solving capacity, and even socioaffective development of children and adolescents who practice it. The results are modulated, particularly in the area socioaffective, by the personal profile of students who choose practice this activity.”

6) Cognitive Benefits of Chess Training in Novice Children 
Gliga F. and Flesner P.I. (2014) Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 116 (2014) 962 – 967
The present study aim demonstrate of role chess training has on school performance, memory, sustained attention and creativity. A group of 20 novice primary school students took part in 10 blended learning chess lessons and in a final chess competition (the chess group, ChG). Eighteen control students participated in 10 fun math lessons. Most cognitive skills increased from pretest to posttest in both groups but the School Performance Test increased significantly more in the ChG. Resistance to monotony and not IQ at pretest predicted success in the chess contest.

7) Your Move: The Effect of Chess on Mathematics Test Scores
Kamilla Gumede and Michael Rosholm (2015) Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit, IZA DP No. 9370, September 2015.

“We find that replacing a weekly lecture of traditional mathematics with one based on chess instruction tends to increase subsequent results in math test scores. This holds especially for native Danish children, while for immigrant children, there is no impact. The effect size corresponds roughly to what children in grade 3 learn during one third of a school year, that is, it is quite a remarkable effect, given that these children did not attend extra lectures; in fact they had fewer ordinary mathematics lectures than the comparison classes.”


8) Do the benefits of chess instruction transfer to academic and cognitive skills? A meta-analysis
Giovanni Sala  Fernand Gobet (2016) Educational Research Review
“The results of the current meta-analysis suggest that chess instruction improves children’s mathematical, reading, and cognitive skills moderately.” 


9) The Effects of Chess Instruction on Pupils’ Cognitive and Academic Skills: State of the Art and Theoretical Challenge
Giovanni Sala  John Foley Fernand Gobet (2017) Frontiers in Psychology
“Combining the research results so far, we may conclude that exposure to chess instruction is associated with positive results in mathematics performance in the general population of primary and middle school students in the short term but not in the long term.”
“Didactic methods should incorporate those features that chess shares with mathematics.”


10) The Effect of Chess on Standardized Test Score Gains

David I. Poston and Kathryn K. Vandenkieboom (2019) SAGE Open

The numerical results of this study clearly indicate that kids who played in USCF-rated chess tournaments saw substantial improvements in their Math test scores and a modest improvement in Reading scores. Alternatively, the results were unimpressive for kids that attended chess club only. Perhaps, the most important takeaway of this study is that the benefits of chess are highly reliant on how serious a kid is about learning chess. Not only did USCF tourney kids outperform club-only kids, but the kids who played in numerous USCF tournaments outperformed kids who played in only a few tournaments. Also, kids who significantly improved their USCF chess rating (perhaps the best measure of “chess learned”) outperformed kids with smaller rating increases.

Chess and Mathematics

First Rank is a fortnightly term-time newsletter for everyone interested in chess for education. In this issue, we present an early view of the recently concluded Erasmus+ CHAMPS which developed an innovative approach to teaching mathematics through the medium of chess.  The material will form the basis for an ECU Chess and Maths course for primary teachers …

World’s first Chess and Mathematics Training Course

There are several reasons for adopting chess and mathematics exercises. Many mathematics problems can be presented on the chessboard. This suits many children who feel comfortable working with chess themes. As with all game-based learning, games, even mathematical games are fun. The major advantage for teachers is that very little chess knowledge is required – actually you don’t have to know anything about chess except how the pieces move. Ultimately the purpose of the course is to provide attendees with instructive, classic, fun problems that children enjoy.