Life skills and chess

The ultimate goal of chess is to put your opponent in checkmate. However, it is not about checkmate only. Research shows that chess can play an important role in improving academic ability and developing life skills.

Chess develops various essential skills required in daily life. There are 3 domains of learning:

  • Cognitive skills: problem solving, planning, concentration, reasoning, weigh-up of options, critical and logical thinking, personal responsibility.
  • Affective skills: sportsmanship, empathy, determination, self confidence, self-worth.
  • Psychomotor skills: fine coordination, pattern recognition, perceptual.

Chess movie: “A Little Game”

A 10-year old lonely school girl learns about chess and how to persevere in the face of inevitable change from an unorthodox chess master! She learns how to apply chess in real life situations.

Using chess to develop cognitive and non-cognitive skills

Cognitive skills

Using chess as a learning tool

  • can assist the learner to develop cognitive skills (eg. attention, decision-taking, language skills, logic, motor skills, memory, observation, perception, planning, analytical thinking, auditory processing skills, visual-spatial processing skills [looking at the chess board], verbal reasoning, abstract reasoning, problem solving, pattern recognition). Cognitive skills help learners to focus, to think, to solve problems, learn them to evaluate and analyse and to understand cause and effect, choice and consequence, eg. if you do not prepare for a class test or the exams you will do poorly!

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Non-cognitive skills

Using chess as a learning tool

  • can assist the learner to develop non-cognitive skills (eg. assertiveness, concentration, courage, determination, empathy, impulse control, interpersonal skills, motivation, perseverance, persistence, tolerance, responsibility, team work, trust, self-control, verbal and non verbal communication). These skills are important for school and workplace success, as well as interpersonal relations and can be developed through practise, experience or a deliberate attempt to learn skills (eg. learning life skills through chess). Chess clubs at schools give learners an opportunity to participate in a social activity and at the same time assist to develop important non-cognitive skills.

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Our focus is to promote chess as a [learning] tool to develop life skills and values for

  • Youth development
  • Community and social upliftment
  • Crime prevention

There are many life skills and values which can be learned through chess:

  • Abstract thinking
  • Adaptability
  • Analysis
  • Analytical reasoning
  • Better judgement
  • Caution
  • Character building
  • Choice and consequence
  • Cognitive skills
  • Collaboration
  • Compassion
  • Concentration (attention span)
  • Courage
  • Courtesy
  • Creativity and imagination
  • Critical thinking
  • Decision-making
  • Deductive reasoning
  • Flexibility
  • Focus
  • Foresight
  • Grace
  • Honesty
  • Imagination
  • Inductive reasoning
  • Independence
  • Logical thinking
  • Mathematical skills
  • Memory
  • Mental alertness and development
  • Motivation
  • Patience
  • Planning
  • Perseverance
  • Persistence
  • Positive behaviour
  • Precise thinking
  • Problem reconstruction
  • Problem-solving
  • Reading skills
  • Recall
  • Respect
  • Responsibility
  • Self-actualisation
  • Self confidence
  • Self-control (impulsive behaviour)
  • Self esteem & identity
  • Self discipline
  • Self-expression
  • Self-knowledge
  • Self-motivation
  • Self-worth
  • Sequencing
  • Simple motor skills
  • Social interaction
  • Spatial reasoning skills
  • Sportsmanship (play the board, not the player!)
  • Strategy
  • Thinking ahead
  • Toughness
  • Visualisation
  • Weighing options
  • Writing skills

Q:  Which basic skills for reading and writing do you think correlate with playing chess?

Other advantages that learning chess can have:

  • Communication (verbal and non-verbal)
  • Community involvement
  • Competition
  • Cultural enrichment
  • Delaying gratification (waiting for a better opportunity)
  • Dendrite growth
  • Exploring relationships
  • Face to face interaction
  • Fair play
  • How to cope with failure
  • Improving visual perception
  • Impulse control
  • Movement, touch and connection
  • Parent-child interaction
  • Pre-frontal cortex development
  • Preschool academic readiness
  • Release emotion
  • Reducing stress
  • School attendance
  • Stimulates brain function
  • To earn your achievements
  • To ‘take a break’ and ‘unwind’ from technology (good news for parents!)
  • To recognise letters and numbers
  • To see other people’s perspectives
  • Understanding of cause and effect
  • Working hard

.Everybody can learn and develop life skills. It is up to you to apply it correctly! Make the right move!

  • A chess set in every classroom in every school in every community – a child who can’t pay must be able to play!
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