How playing chess can help to improve learning skills

How playing chess can help to improve learning skills

Chess has always been a popular strategy game. With current iterations of the board game dating as far back as the 15th century, though its origins are believed to date back nearly another 10 centuries!

It has risen in popularity across the world, with many countries regularly holding competitions and tournaments, to find the best of the best. And these tournaments have often shot players to fame, with people like:

  • Magnus Carlsen, a Norwegian chess player who earned the grandmaster title in 2004, and now holds 3 world titles.
  • Garry Kasparov, a Russian Chess grandmaster and former World Champion.
  • Fabiano Caruana, an American-Italian grandmaster, who became the youngest grandmaster in both American and Italian history at the time!
  • Anatoly Karpov, another Russian grandmaster, and former world champion, before being beaten by Kasparov.

Grandmaster is a term held by top players, and is given to them by FIDE, a world chess organisation.

FIDE utilises something known as the ELO points system to rank its players. This system allows FIDE to judge each player's strengths, and can increase or decrease based on their performance. Some electronic chess games and websites also use similar methods for ranking.

When computers entered the world of chess it was an exciting time for many. By the late 1980s they were beating the champions in standard timed matches. With the most memorable match being a face off between Garry Kasparov and ‘Deep Blue' in 1997.

Introducing computers to chess has made the game more accessible to people. Now, there are many games and websites for people looking to play chess, but are unable to complete with others.

Chess is a great game, enjoyed by many around the world. And many more can benefit from learning to play chess, regardless of their background or skills!

But What Are The Benefits Of Playing Chess?

A quick google search will bring up a plethora of the benefits which come from regularly playing chess. And many actually have great long-term applications in day-to-day life.

Such as:

Improved Empathy: Playing chess requires the players to think from their opponents' perspective to anticipate which strategy they will take.

A skill which is beneficial for maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships, and a healthy social life.

Improved Planning Skills: Being a strategy game, chess requires players to really consider their every move, and then consider each consequence which may come after that.

This intense contemplation of not only the players own move, but their opponents as well, has been shown to improve their planning abilities. Even when applied to situations outside the board.

Improved Memory Skills: Studies have shown that people who play chess, tend to have stronger memory skills, they are used regularly to memorise different moves and strategies within the game.

One study also showed that chess players seem to have a stronger ability to recognise patterns and sequences than the average person. Not surprising since they spend a lot of time memorising complex strategies!

Increased Intelligence: Chess players have also been found to have higher levels of intelligence, especially when it comes to certain areas, such as; fluid intelligence, a person's ability to solve problems, as well as thinking and reasoning.

And these are just a small sample of the benefits which come from playing chess. With many other benefits which transfer into daily life, including improved cognition and mental abilities. All things which help improve a person's efficiency when learning new things.

Which Mental And Cognitive Abilities Are Improved By Chess?

When it comes to chess and cognitive functions, it can actually be argued this game is one of the best for ‘mental workouts'. Because of the nature of the game, it actually utilises many functions in the brain, including both hemispheres!

But which cognitive functions are specifically improved by chess?

Visual Processing: Due to the visual nature of chess, it isn't surprising that one of the functions which benefits are visual processing.

This will help players interpret other images, designs and objects at much faster rates than what they did before playing chess.

Sustained Attention: This is the brain's ability to stick with one task, and maintain focus on it until it has been completed.

Since chess games can range from ten minutes to over six hours, the player's ability to stay focussed for extended periods of time really comes in helpful. The more a person plays long games, the stronger this ability becomes.

It has even been suggested that this improved ability to focus also occurs in people with ADHD, a condition which can often result in struggles completing long tasks.

Logic/Reasoning: Because of the strategies which happen in chess games, players often need to resolve issues that may arise as a result of their opponents move. This allows chess players to regularly practice their logic, reasoning and problem-solving skills.

In turn, this leads them to make stronger, and more deliberate choices in day-to-day life.

Processing Speed: A person's processing speed is the key to fast learning. Playing chess has been shown to improve the speed in which players absorb, store and retrieve information.

This is especially helpful when applied outside of chess, as strengthening the speed at which information is processed, is, in part, the key to improving productivity!

Why Do These Skills Benefit Learning?

Strong cognitive abilities benefit everyone, whether they are in education and learning regularly or not.

Cognition is the process where your brain processes new information, decides where it needs to be stored (whether it is something to remember long term, or short term. Or whether it is visual or auditory etc). It is also a cognitive function when your brain needs to locate and recall that information later on.

The stronger a person's cognitive ability, the faster this process is. So if a person wants to improve their ability to learn and recall information, strengthening their cognitive functions is a great place to begin.

And as was mentioned earlier, chess is a great way to ‘train' multiple functions at once.

So, Why Does This Make Chess Beneficial For Children?

There's no denying that the benefits of chess would be beneficial to anyone and everyone. However, it can be especially helpful for children.

As with anything, the longer you practice, the more proficient you become. So by having people start playing chess while they are children, they can reap the most benefits.

Take a child who has played chess since they were 5, and is now 15. They will have had more time to develop the benefits which come with playing chess, than another 15-year-old who started playing when they were 10 years old.

By having children play chess from a young age, it also allows them to reap the benefits throughout their school years. While people may never truly stop learning, there is no denying that children going through school are learning much more.


The benefits of chess on cognition and learning ability is still a popular topic. Given the results which researchers have already found, it is hard to deny that there are many positives to this board game.

Whether the player is a child prodigy, or simply someone looking for a new hobby, chess can benefit absolutely everyone. The sooner they start to play, the sooner they will reap the rewards!

Read about other effective learning techniques