Is there a study that tries to show that chess helps academic performance? How does chess help our academic performance? If any? Does playing chess make us smarter at school?

3 Answers 3


Start here: http://psmcd.net/otherfiles/BenefitsOfChessInEdScreen2.pdf

There are a number of reasons. Probably the most prosaic is that the brain is like every other muscle in your body, the more you use it the stronger it gets. Add to that the fact that chess gives you practice at breaking down a large goal into achievable steps (going from "Checkmate my opponent" to "First I need to get my pieces in position to attack, then I ...") and spatial reasoning ("A Bishop there will prevent his knight from attacking me here"). Add in teaching just a bit of empathy ("what move would I make if I were in my opponent's position") and it's a solid win all the way around.

The evidence shows that chess definitely improves performance in school. And recent research in Neuroplasticity indicates that learning chess can help an old brain stay limber longer, so there's even proven benefits for us Old Pharts(tm).


Unfortunately most (if not all) of the studies regarding chess and academic achievement are tangled up with a variety of confounds. This means that a conclusion that chess can affect academic achievement cannot be offered. It would be 'unscientific'.

One of the biggest problems is self-selection: Do people start playing chess because they are great academic achievers or do people who start playing chess later on become great academic achievers? This is often the biggest criticism of chess studies.

Such a problem is hard to solve in a study due to ethical and practical reasons. Until that can be done, the correct answer to this question is we do not know for sure.

Of course, there are plenty of indications that this statement could be true. Popular culture and popular psychology believe it to be true. Common sense is screaming out it is true. Maybe one day, an outstanding study will show us it is true. Until then, while I highly recommend chess as a practice for many reasons, it would be wrong to expect that because you play chess you will automatically perform better in school. Make sure you keep doing the other bits!

CEO Chessable & very soon MSc Psychology of Education (BPS)


The utility of chess in helping academic performance has been well documented. A google search will provide you with a lot of studies. Several studies, particularly for children in elementary schools, show that supplementary time spent in chess improves academic performance overall. I've even read an article that cites a study which replaced supplementary math lectures with chess instead. The surprising result was that the young students with the chess did better at math than those with the math. Though I would imagine that this could only be true for children. I'm would guess that for high school or college students, an extra hour of calculus will help much more than an hour of playing chess. Chess helps improve children's analytical, critical thinking, and visualization skills. It also may improve focus. My opinion is that chess(which is just speculation), improves the above listed skills, but to a certain extent. By adulthood, I believe that those skills have already been developed by other means and therefore chess is not dramatically useful for adults. Something else may be said of for elders. So I would say that chess is a useful tool for elementary school, middle school, and maybe highschool. but I am skeptical of its usefulness the higher we go in education.

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