School Chess: Battles without Violence

Today is the World Health Day, and it is dedicated to depression. We have already addressed how affective deficiencies are usually associated to a lack of social skills and of empathy in general. The Overexposure to violence is generating the “desensitization” of children and adolescents, and at the same time impulsiveness and anxiety, lack of concentration, and finally isolation. We have published several posts with tools to address these issues, with guidelines and initiatives that are easily applicable, from the “simple” thinking about the quality of the time we spend with other people, to organizing activities in an environment of nature. I would like to present a topic that has caught my attention, because I sincerely did not expect that Chess – School Chess –  could contribute to the issues we address. I never paid much attention when my grandfather wanted to teach and play with me, but after some research on the subject, I have realized that some of the research strategies I have developed in my career may have its origin in the moments we spent together in front of the board. These strategies can be useful on a day-to-day basis, and  become tools that can also help to look for alternatives when having difficult times, such as feeling depressed.

For all the above I would like to give a warm welcome to Manuel Azuaga Herrera, President of the Social Chess Association of Andalusia, expert in social, therapeutic and educational Chess, sharing his post about School Chess logo-ajedrezsocial

In recent times, we have become increasingly familiar with educational experiences incorporating chess as a transversal tool in the classroom. And it happens to be, that the frequent practice of chess favors the development of multiple cognitive and socio-affective skills in the students.

A key factor in the implementation of the so-called educational chess (which, unlike sportive or competitive chess, pursues strictly pedagogical goals) is that it can incorporate action-research methodologies, which in turn can help to understand the diagnosis of problems derived from the teaching practice. At the same time, educational chess sessions allow for significant learning in the classroom, since a well-structured training path presents challenges, exercises and problem-oriented dynamics, as well as teaching-learning experiences which foster reflexive and critical thinking.

Thus, taking advantage of the playful dimension of the game, the teacher or educator can enhance certain skills offered by the significant learning of chess, giving special relevance to the ability of the student towards:

  • Problem solving. Each new move on the board represents a new challenge that in turn modifies and complements the previous position as a whole.
  • Creativity. Often the best move requires rethinking the logical patterns of the game, for example, sacrificing our queen, the most powerful piece, in exchange for achieving a larger goal ( a checkmate) .
  • Decision making. The game of chess articulates, in a natural way, a method of branching out alternatives. Thus, before the same objective (for example, to check the king, that is, to threaten him) I must evaluate which are the alternatives: Do I move the tower, or better the bishop? Both options lead me to check, but I must analyze the effects of each one of them. In academic terms we speak of a process known as a decision tree. Incorporating in the students a pattern of compound assessment, an analysis of candidate moves, helps no doubt, to find the best answer in the shortest possible time. 

In short, we can say that chess helps the student to think before acting (the axiom is known as “piece touched, piece moved”). In addition, when playing chess, children learn something very important: they learn to recognize their mistakes, because they come to understand (and accept) that there are no valid excuses that can justify a bad decision and that they are, ultimately, the only ones responsible for each move, as well as for each action they take in the educational, social or family board.

From an academic point of view the introduction of pedagogical chess in the curriculum can develop, to name but a few, the following competencies:

  • Logical-mathematical: Juan Luis Jaureguiberry, renowned expert in chess and his relationship with mathematics, demonstrates how chess helps to apply mathematical principles and processes in different contexts. According to Jaureguiberry the reason is simple: the game of chess integrates a space (the board), a material (the pieces) and a time (sequence of moves and turns) that favors the teacher to pose problems and prepare didactic mathematics. When playing chess, students and teachers perform (in a natural way) a mathematical activity. The board is not a simple grid, it is an ordered space (geometric and Cartesian) of significant mathematical production. On the other hand, the movement of the pieces and the relations (of attack and defense) between them, are geometric. Thus, the decision that a student makes in relation to a catch (one piece eats another) incorporates arithmetic components, both by the number of attacking and defending pieces and by the value of the pieces involved.
  • Competence Learning to learn Through the game and the compression of chess, the student learns to incorporate strategies of planning and resolving tasks. The famous American chess player Frank Marshall defended that “a bad plan is better than no plan“, a proposition that, turned into inherent principle of the game-science, very aptly sums up the value of the strategy and the planning of the student-chess player . At the same time, students who practice chess develop and devise research strategies in the continuous search for solutions, depending on the position of the board.
  • Social and Civic The scientific study of the University of La Laguna The benefits of chess for the intellectual and social-emotional enrichment in childhood and adolescence, Ramón Aciego, Lorena García, Moisés Betancort. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, ISSN 1138-7416, Vol. 2, 2012, pp. 551-559 supports the idea that pedagogical chess improves cognitive abilities (attention, perception, speed, concentration, planning and foresight), but also socio-personal skills. The students improve the curricular performance, but also obtaining a greater personal adaptation, satisfaction from the school, school adjustment and pleasure to the study. In this way, it is evident that the teaching-learning of chess in the classroom develops and favors the social and emotional skills of those who practice it.

School chess helps the student develop:

  1. The memory
  2. Ability to concentrate
  3. Decision-making and acceptance of error
  4. Attention and reflection
  5. The spatial vision of reality: tactical and strategic
  6. Problem solving
  7. Logical-mathematical reasoning
  8. Creative Thinking
  9. Self-esteem and sense of accomplishment
  10. Critical capacity
  11. Initiative
  12. Empathy

On the other hand, the field of pedagogical experimentation of chess is not limited to the educational or educational field, but, for years, the practice and teaching of the game-science has been successfully used as a social and therapeutic tool in disadvantaged communities or at risk of exclusion, as effective multi-modal treatment in mild cases of ADHD or as a resource for cognitive stimulation with drug addicts, among other groups.


We can state that the benefits and usefulness of learning chess in the educational field have been widely contrasted. The incorporation of a pedagogical chess program in the classroom can achieve the school success of all students, attending to the different capacities, interests and individual expectations of each student. In this sense, it must also be considered as a measure of attention to diversity, since its practice and learning strengthen models of relationship between the students and their environment, based on mutual respect and equal opportunities.

At present we see a new impulse of chess in the classroom, that is, schools and educational institutions are increasingly interested on including the teaching of chess as a pedagogical matter, since the game-science provides integral benefits to the development of the students.

Author: Manuel Azuaga Herrera, President of the Social Chess Association of Andalusia

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