Chess Helps Teens Develop Problem-Solving Skills

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Byline: Mary Jekielek Insprucker Photos by Steve Lundy

Imagine being a teen in the royal family about to take over the reins. How would you know where to start? Well, according to America's Foundation for Chess, the strategic game, invented more than 1,500 years ago in India, was used there to teach royals to become better thinkers. Today, every country has a version of the game, and educators are embracing its properties.

"Playing chess well involves developing good skills in problem-solving, pattern recognition, long and short range planning, and similar skills, which can be applied within academic areas," said Scott Oliver, chess team sponsor for the Stevenson High School Chess Team.

Stevenson's team in Lincolnshire has been in existence for more than 30 years, owns the title of the 2008 (Illinois High School Association) State Chess TeamaChampions. About 15 members meet twice a week for two hours of practice and lessons.

Many chess players start young. Several elementary schools including DuJardin in Bloomingdale have clubs. Middle schools such as Middle in Chicago, also offer chess. General organizations like the St Charles and Downers Grove Chess Clubs exist. However, for youths, most groups have an academic connection.

"There are not many chess clubs that are not school affiliated because chess is such a complicated landscape," said Maret Thorpe of the Illinois Chess Association.

In 2003, America's Foundation for Chess conducted a comprehensive survey of the world's scientific literature. They identified numerous research studies confirming the benefits of chess instruction on students' intellectual achievement, academic performance, and math and reading skills. Studies conducted over the last 30 years show that student IQs increase and test scores improve after less than a year of systematic chess study.

"Chess helps me focus," said Adele Padgett, 15, who is on the Stevenson team. "Analytical thinking learned in chess makes me a better math student."

Barrington High School Chess Team and Club now in its eighth year, has 100 students in the club, 15 of which compete on a regular basis. The club is a two-time ICCA (Illinois Chess Coaches Association) State Champion for classa8A.

"Through participation in chess, students learn to develop intellectual strategies that they can utilize throughout their entire life. …