Numerous studies have documented cognitive and other benefits resulting from chess:
Peer-reviewed article by A.D.Sigirtmac on study of 6th-year-olds
Article title: "Does chess training affect conceptual development of six-year-old children in Turkey?" Citation: Sigirtmac, Ayperi Dikici, Early Child Development & Care. (2012) Vol. 182 Issue 6, pp 797-806.
Sigirtmac studied 100 six-year-olds, with 50 following chess courses, and 50 serving as a control group with no chess instruction. Sigirtmac developed a test and administered it after the instructional period. The findings were that the group receiving chess instruction showed a statistically meaningful advantage on the test. Sigirtmac focused on the children's development of "spatial concepts such as forward-backward, between-next to, in front-behind, diagonal, far-near, corner, pattern and symmetry."
Doctoral thesis of Michael J. Worth, 2008, Long Island University
In 2008, Michael J. Worth, a student at Long Island University wrote a doctoral thesis in which he studied how certain activities affected the normal loss in cognitive ability that occurs with aging. The two activities he studied were chess and crossword solving. Worth found that chess players were significantly better in two measures of fluid intelligence. ("Fluid intelligence" is a scientific term referring to logical thinking and problem-solving ability, particularly in novel situations.)
Doctoral thesis of Darrin K Berkley, 2012, Morgan State University
Darrin K Berkley wrote his 2012 doctoral thesis on "The impact of chess instruction on the critical thinking ability and mathematical achievement of developmental mathematics students." Berkley found that "The quantitative phase of the study indicated a statistically significant difference in mathematics post-test scores between the control group (those that did not receive chess instruction) and the experimental group (those students who received the chess instruction)." The students in Barkley's study apparently felt that critical thinking was much more closely connected to chess than to math, at least based on their own class experience. Barkley wrote: "Students perceived a relationship between chess and critical thinking. They found that they learned through the chess instruction how to solve problems." In contrast, he reported that "One student went as far as saying that he 'aced' quizzes and exams without understanding the mathematics at all!" This intriguing study once again suggests that chess instruction has wide-ranging benefits.
Doctoral thesis of James Celone, Southern Connecticut State University, 2001
Celone wrote his PhD dissertation on "The effects of a chess program on abstract reasoning and problem-solving in elementary school children." Celone followed the performance of 19 elementary school student volunteers, ranging in age from 7 to 14, who enrolled for a program of 20 hours of chess instruction over the course of one week. These students took a test that is a widely accepted instrument for measuring abstract reasoning and problem solving, and also were asked to solve the "Knight's Tour," considered to be a measure specifically for chess problem-solving skills. Test scores after the instructional program were found to have increased significantly compared to the scores before the program.
CHESS IS BENEFICIAL TO STUDENTS AT ALL LEVELS, INCLUDING AT-RISK STUDENTS
Particularly interesting are several studies suggesting that chess instruction and participation can be beneficial to children at risk.
Doctoral thesis of Saahoon Hong, University of Minnesota, 2005
Hong's dissertation was titled "Cognitive effects of chess instruction on students at risk for academic failure." He stated his findings as follows: "The first implication is that young novice chess players at risk for academic failure can benefit from chess instruction through improving their chess skills. They require more time for chess instruction than a twelve-session chess instruction period. One year or more of chess instruction is suggested for strong salutary cognitive effects on the students at risk."
Doctoral thesis of David Christopher Barrett, Texas A & M University, 2010
David Christopher Barrett studied a 30-week chess instructional program for 6th- to 8th-grade students who were receiving special education services. Compared to the control group, the students who were in the chess program scored higher on four out of eight measures of math achievement. Barrett found that the difference was statistically significant.
Literature review from doctoral thesis of Alaina Brandefine,
In her doctoral dissertation, Brandefine reviews the existing literature on cognitive benefits of chess. The following quotes are of interest:
"Some of the positive outcomes of children's participation in chess are increased cognitive skills, improvements in math and reading scores, and an increased sense of self worth and confidence (Ferguson, 1995). Ferguson (1995) conducted a five-year study in a Pennsylvania school district with 7 and 8 grade students that participated in chess class. Ferguson used the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal to assess the thinking skills of children. The results of the study showed that children regularly involved in chess classes improved their scores on the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal by 17.3%. Other subjects that participated in other enrichment activities, such as problem solving computer programs, Dungeons and Dragons, and creative writing, improved scores by 4.56%. Ferguson's study demonstrated that chess improved critical thinking skills more than the other enrichment activities that the children participated in."
"A study conducted in Texas evaluated the effects of participation in a chess club on the standardized test scores of regular education students in elementary school. A comparison was made between the 3rd grade scores on the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) and the 5th grade scores of children that received chess instruction for either one or two years. These scores were compared with the TAAS scores of children that did not receive any chess instruction. Children in the school chess club had two times the improvement in reading and mathematic scores than the non-chess players on the TAAS (Liptrap, 1998)."
The citations Brandefine referred to are:
- Ferguson, R. (1995). Chess in education research summary: A review of key chess research studies for the BMCC chess in education conference.
- Liptrap, J. (1998) Chess and standard test scores. Chess Life. 53:413.