Is playing chess good for you?

Is playing chess good for you?

Jun 16, 2007, 5:56 AM |

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. Cool

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?