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.

London Chess Conference 2019

Chess and Female Empowerment

The theme of the 7th Annual London Chess and Education Conference on 30 Nov – 1 Dec is “Chess and Female Empowerment”. The conference examines the involvement of women and girls in chess and presents insights into how to improve the gender balance. The conference will be of interest to women chess players, organisers and educators.  Primary and secondary school teachers will learn how to make chess a more engaging activity through its social and collaborative modes.  The conference will also provide ideas and initiatives for those striving to improve the engagement of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 

The Conference will present new findings from two major surveys on women and girls in chess.  A large study conducted by the European Chess Union presents statistics on women and girls in national federations throughout Europe. A study conducted through the US Chess Federation will provide qualitative insights into chess and gender issues. An analysis of online play in the Netherlands will provide details of how boys and girls compare.

The conference comprises plenary sessions interspersed with parallel streams comprising presentations, workshops, discussions, debates and demonstrations. Several speakers will relate their own personal experiences as a woman in a male environment whether playing, arbiting or organising.

A wide range of issues will be covered including:

  • creating a safe and welcome environment for women   
  • successful women who played chess
  • why do girls give up chess?
  • how to make chess more accessible to women
  • challenges for women officials 
  • lessons from other sports

Those expected to attend (as of end September 2019) include:

  • Janton van Apeldoorn (NED)
  • Rita Atkins (HUN)
  • Lorin d’Costa (ENG)
  • José Antonio Coleto Calderón (ESP)
  • James Conlon (ENG)
  • Julie Denning (ENG)
  • Alessandro Dominici (ITA)
  • Dr. Mette Eilstrup-Sangiovanni (ENG)
  • Chris Fegan (ENG)
  • John Foley (ENG)
  • Tania Folie (BEL)
  • Fernand Gobet (SUI)
  • Ljubica Lazarevic (SRB)
  • Alice O’Gorman (IRL)
  • Maureen Grimaud (USA)
  • José Manuel González Guillorme (ESP)
  • Jesper Hall (SWE)
  • Alexis Harakis (ENG)
  • Jovanka Houska (ENG)
  • Sarah Hurst (ENG)
  • Jo Hutchinson (ENG)
  • Mads Jacobsen (DEN)
  • Ilaha Kadimova (AZE)
  • Stefan Löffler (GER)
  • Smbat Lputyan (ARM)
  • Sean Marsh (ENG)
  • Carol Meyer (USA)
  • Etienne Mensch (FRA)
  • Jerry Nash (USA)
  • Vince Negri (ENG)
  • Mikkel Norgaard (DEN)
  • Brigitta Peszleg (HUN)
  • Marcel Pruijt (NED)
  • Sophia Rohde (USA)
  • Jonathan Rowson (SCO)
  • Agnieska Sapkowska (POL)
  • Vahan Sargsyan (ARM)
  • Pep Suarez (ESP)
  • Mark Szavin (HUN)
  • Malcolm Pein (ENG)
  • Mike Truran (ENG)

We will also continue our focus on chess in education with parallel sessions.

In the week which follows, 2nd-6th December, there will be professional teacher training courses at the venue certificated by the European Chess Union. The courses cover Teaching Chess in Primary School (ECU101) and Learning Mathematics through Chess (ECU102). Further details can be found here.


The conference fee is £65 for one day and £95 for both days. Registration

Female members of the English Chess Federation are eligible for free entry by sending an email in advance to conference@chessplus.net with your membership number. 

Lead Sponsors

The event is lead sponsored by FIDEChess in Schools and Communities (CSC), the European Chess Union (ECU) and the English Chess Federation (ECF).

Flyer for the London Chess Conference 2019: Chess and Female Empowerment

ECU Chess Teacher Training Course – London

ChessPlus held a training course in London for people who teach chess in schools on the middle weekend of October 2017. This was the first time this new course on chess didactics was run in the UK. The course was developed by the Education Commission of the European Chess Union …