Benjamin Franklin wrote a famous essay on the virtues of chess, claiming that it teaches foresight, circumspection, caution among others.

Kasparov Chess Foundation's mission is to bring the many educational benefits of chess to children worldwide by providing a complete chess curriculum and enrichment programs. The Foundation promotes the study of chess as a cognitive learning tool in curricular classes and after-school programs for elementary, middle and high schools, both in the public and private school sectors.

This mission statement presupposes that there actually are educational benefits of chess.

Is there any argument to support the claim that chess can help develop moral virtues or practical skills? Or is it perhaps just the wishful thinking of chess playing philosophers and philanthropists?

  • Life of a King may be relevant.
    – hkBst
    Jun 2, 2016 at 6:59
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    Develop moral virtues, IMO no. Develop practical skills, YES!! What skills here are some websites chess.com/blog/PRINCESTER/the-benefits-of-playing-chess and chessity.com/blog/431/The_Benefits_of_Chess for quick overview.
    – Aaron M
    Jun 8, 2016 at 0:50
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    I like chess, but chess has not improved my character as far as I know. The board game Diplomacy, on the other hand, has improved my character. You don't care about Diplomacy, of course, but the point is that it is not impossible for a board game to be broadly edifying. I don't think that chess is, unfortunately.
    – thb
    Jun 20, 2016 at 20:01
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    @thb This is fascinating. Can you elaborate on the improvement of your character? Jun 25, 2016 at 7:51
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    I do not claim to speak for anyone else, but I have found the seven-handed board game Diplomacy edifying because it rewards the player for discovering and respecting opponents' motives. It punishes the self-centered player who supposes that opponents' actions are necessarily oriented toward him. It rewards good listening and punishes gloating. Diplomacy is, of course, a different kind of game, so I do not criticize chess; but in my case I believe that Diplomacy has improved my character, whereas I cannot say that chess has done likewise as far as I know.
    – thb
    Jun 25, 2016 at 15:11

4 Answers 4


Chess definitely helps with intellectual development and education. Math is the most obvious area where chess definitely helps. There is a lot of research to back this up. If you think about it, chess develops general mental abilities including: strategic competency; the ability to analyze variations; spatial relationships and interdependencies; self-confidence in the face of complex problems. All of those abilities are generally useful in solving all kinds of problems in school and life.

Here are links to some web resources where you can read more about the well-documented benefits of chess in education.



These are just two examples. There are a lot more articles out there on the Internet, and they mostly arrive at the same basic conclusion.

Moral virtues are another story.

Chess doesn't directly help with moral values. Bobby Fischer was a great example of this. He was a brilliant chess player, but widely regarded as the worst kind of person. He had very clever and elaborate arguments to support his negative and self-destructive points of view. There are many examples of top level chess players who are wonderful people, but also quite a few examples of immoral behavior among grandmasters.


To my opinion, chess also develops pacefulness, which in turn offers a more stable stress management ability to the person.

Obviously, this does not necessarily mean that chess does alter an individual's temper in expressing. Though, it suggests that long time players do develop both patience and strict time situations' overcoming, in clear thinking.


Sez Ben. Sez Sherlock Holmes, chess is "one mark, Watson, of a scheming mind." Doyle excelled at chess.

As for its usefullness, one may as well ask if a Picasso or a Da Vinci masterpiece is usefull.

Virtues? Playing chess has only made me more bloody-minded...when playing chess. Kill...quickly-eficiently!

For moral insight, I like using a mirror.


There are better things to do than play chess if cognitive improvements are desired. This is not to say that chess has no utility in the educational system. I believe that chess is helpful for children to develop simple problem solving skills, but when we get to high school, a hour review session in mathematics is much more useful than a hour of chess. As for moral values and attitudes, chess is not the rate determining step here. upbringing, environment, society, disposition.... These are much stronger factors. Not suprisingly, we all know non-virtuous chess players.

  • The first part of this answer is interesting. I do not know whether it is correct, but it may be. I have six children ranging in age from 17 to 2, and I agree that mathematics is generally a more profitable use of time. Is chess profitable at all? I really do not know. It's fun, though; and it's a social grace of sorts.
    – thb
    Jun 3, 2016 at 19:16

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