Chess is one of the most useful educational tools to strengthen children's minds
It is a game that is quite easy to learn and even a four, five or six-year-old child can understand its rules and play it. As a matter of fact, it is a game that can exert an influence on a child's mind which is similar to learning to play a musical instrument or being in contact with several languages from a very young age.
Chess can strengthen and help to develop concentration, patience and perseverance, apart from encouraging creativity, intuition and memory. In addition to all this, it is a game which helps players develop the ability to analyze situations and deduce actions or outcomes from a starting point through established rules. All this helps children learn to take difficult decisions and resolve problems in a flexible way.
Magnus Carlsen, the newly proclaimed chess world champion, recently stated in an interview that during his visits to schools in his country, Norway, children suffering from concentration problems were especially attracted to chess and that the Norwegian parliament was debating the possibility of implementing this activity at schools. Jean Joyce, the Deputy Head Teacher of the Barham Primary School in the United Kingdom, affirmed along the same lines, "I am convinced that the strategy, debate and enjoyment of playing the game, all these elements, make a contribution and strengthen children's performance in other areas".
The relationship some chess players establish between chess and other academic areas like mathematics is interesting. Playing chess and doing mathematical calculations ensure you have to concentrate in a similar way. In both cases you need to detach yourself from everything to concentrate on resolving a problem or situation according to clear rules that do not exist in everyday activities. The relationship of all this with the problems posed by reality is that the rules change in day-to-day life, but the problems and situations remain, though they are less well defined.
Ron Boocock, Senior Manager of the Chess in Schools program, states that children are taught to develop their self-confidence and think deeply. As regards self-confidence, it is interesting to highlight a research conducted in New York on a chess program in schools, which is usually quoted when the role of chess in teaching is being discussed. The study's conclusions demonstrated that chess improved students' grades in reading and enhanced their reading skills. The study puts forward several reasons why this can happen, but one of the conclusions drawn by the teachers was that this improvement was due to the fact that children who are self-confident and feel good about themselves learn to read better in a natural way. What is clear is that skills and mental training are transmitted from one activity to the other. As James Liptrap, Director of the Klein Chess Adventure, indicates, "in chess there are no losers, only winners and learners".