Saturday, 16 June 2007

Is playing chess good for you?

The great Benjamin Franklin (pictured) was a big chess fan. His essay on the 'Morals of Chess' is well known. A flavour of his opinions can gained from this quote: "The Game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement. Several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired or strengthened by it, so as to become habits, ready on all occasions."

Does playing chess really help develop transferable skills that can be used outside of the 64 squares? Great claims have been made for chess as an educational tool in more recent times but does anyone know of any peer-reviewed studies which have shown any measurable effect?

Among other things, I have read claims that chess can:

  • improve concentration
  • develop logical reasoning
  • improve planning skills
  • develop better calculating skills
  • improve memory
  • help improve attention span and develop patience

If all this is true then surely it should have a measurable effect that can be proven? It should also be introduced onto the curriculum in every school so that children can reap the rewards of regular chess play and study.

This seems to be the aim of an organisation called America's Foundation for Chess, but I can't find any hard evidence to back up these claims on it's website.

On the other hand, George Bernard Shaw thought that chess was 'a foolish expedient for making idle people believe they are doing something very clever, when they are only wasting their time.'

So who is right? What do you think? Is chess good for you or is it a waste of time?


dutchdefence said...

I like to think it is good for me ;-)

Chess Teacher said...

I agree with DutchDefence.

Let's hope Benjamin Franklin was right.

Loomis said...

Regretfully, playing chess is probably only good for you up to a certain level. At some point, it requires a time commitment to chess details that I personally don't see as beneficial to the rest of life.

On the other hand, I think it's healthy to have a hobby. Chess allows a person to participate in a culture. It's also healthy to exercise the mind -- supposedly it wards off senility.

Grandpatzer said...

Well, playing soccer may be a foolish waste of time, but it's great exercise that's good for the body.

Maybe serious exercise at a gym, or learning advanced calculus is a more targetted and productive course of action, but that's for Calvinists.

HardDaysKnight said...

I think there are some studies that show increased exam scores by students who started playing chess, but I can't be bothered to look them up --- too busy playing chess, I guess.

For myself, there are other things, projects, goals I'd like to pursue, and at some point, if I'm ever to get to them, chess may have to go.

The real problem's the job, you see; takes way too much time.