The pieces presented in this post were taken from Dr. Robert Ferguson’s compilation “Chess in Education Research Summary.”


“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 and others.

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 can 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.

The first 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 individual.

The second 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.

he Venezuela 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. 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 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).”