The Brainy Benefits of Chess

Calling All Kids

Teachers say that anyone can play chess and almost anyone can play well. For kids who aren't interested in entering tournaments, just playing for fun still confers all of the game's cognitive benefits. "It's a misconception that chess is only for nerdy, gifted kids," Guajardo says. "I've found that chess helps all students, whether they're bilingual, special-ed, dyslexic, or economically disadvantaged."

For parents who still aren't convinced, consider that a child who's playing chess is sitting quietly and concentrating, not needing to be entertained by anything loud, violent, or silly. I discovered this benefit firsthand on a flight home from Paris with my son last summer. Though my bag was filled with books and toys, I dreaded trying to keep a squirmy 5-year-old occupied for seven hours.

Shortly after takeoff, a fellow passenger -- an older man -- walked down the aisle with a portable chess set. "Chess, anyone?" he inquired. No one took him up on his offer, so I nudged Daniel. "Would you like to play?" I asked. Daniel bounded over to the man's seat.

The gentleman turned out to be a retired high school teacher who had coached his school's chess team. He and Daniel played for hours, with my son returning to his seat only when the "fasten seat belts" sign lit up. As for me, I actually got to relax and read the book I'd optimistically carried aboard -- a first for me when traveling with my son. I really love this game!

Check out the U.S. Chess Federation's Web site, below, where players -- including kids -- can register to play online with others at their level.

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Copyright © 2001. Reprinted with permission from the October 2001 issue of Child magazine.

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