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Chess training improves cognition in children

Authors:
1 | GSTF Journal of Psychology (JPsych) Vol.2 No.2, August 2016
Chess Training Improves Cognition in Children
Mr. Ebenezer Joseph
First Indian Chess (FIDE) Trainer Senior Auditor - Government of India Part-time Research scholar
Madras University
Chennai, India
emmanuelchess@gmail.com
Dr. Veena Easvaradoss
Associate Professor and Head Department of
Psychology Women’s Christian College Chennai, India
Ms. Anita Kennedy
Clinical Psychologist
Emmanuel Chess Centre
Chennai, India
Ms. E. Joanna Kezia
Assistant Professor
Department of Statistics
Madras Christian College
Chennai, India
Abstract Systematic training of chess has been
shown to significantly increase the IQ and cognitive
functioning among children. The study assessed the
impact of chess intervention on the IQ scores of
children and analyzed the cognitive functions that
contributed to the IQ gain. Eighty-six school
children, boys and girls in the age group (4-15)
undergoing chess training were assessed using Binet-
Kamat Test of Intelligence. Chess intervention
consisted of standardized bi-weekly training sessions of 2
hours’ duration over a period of one year.
Individual attention was given to every child by
assigning one coach for every 4 students. Paired t
tests and regression analysis were carried out.
increases were observed inSignificant IQ.
Regression analysis indicated that non-verbal
reasoning, language and memory significantly
contributed to the dependent variable IQ. The study has
important implications for education.
Keywords - chess training; cognitive development; IQ;
non-verbal reasoning; language, memory
I. INTRODUCTION
Chess is widely believed to increase
mental muscle or intelligence. More and more
schools around the world are recognizing the value of
chess, with chess instruction now becoming part of
standard curriculums. Intelligence has been defined as
the ability to solve problems, or to create
products, that are valued within one or more cultural
settings” Gardner [8].
Studying chess systematically has been shown to
raise students’ IQ and exam scores (Dullea [4]; Palm
[15]; Ferguson [6]), as well as strengthen
mathematical, language, and reading skills
(Margulies [2]; Liptrap [12]; Ferguson [6]). Chess has
been shown to raise students’ overall IQ scores.
Using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, a
Venezuelan study of over 4000 second-grade students
found a significant increase in most students’ IQ
scores after only 4.5 months of systematically
studying chess. This occurred across all socio-economic
groups and for both males and females. The Venezuelan
government was so impressed that all Venezuelan schools
introduced chess lessons starting in 198889 (summarized
in Ferguson [5], p. 8).
A recent study [18] examined the effect of chess
training on academic performance of middle school
children in rural India. The sample consisted of 100
students of sixth grade with an intervention group
undergoing chess training and a control group. The
results of the paired samples t-test analysis showed
significant improvement in academic performances of
GSTF Journal of Psychology (JPsych)
DOI: 10.5176/2345-7872_2.2_33
Print ISSN: 2345-7872, E-periodical: 2345-7929 ; Volume 2, Issue 2; 2016 pp 1 - 6
© The Author(s) 2016. This article is published with open access by the GSTF.
students in English, social studies and science, after a
year of training in chess skills.
Aciego, Garcia, and Betancourt [1] using a quasi-
experimental study examined the cognitive effects of
chess training. The experimental group (170 students,
616 years of age) received chess instruction. The
control group (40 students in a similar age range)
received extracurricular sports (soccer or basketball)
activities. After adjusting for pre-test scores, the chess
group showed significantly higher post-test scores than
the sports group for five of nine WISC-R subtests. The
authors concluded that chess is a valuable educational
tool.
In another recent study, Kazemi, Yektayar and Abad
[11] examined the cognitive effects of chess play. They
employed an experimental group composed of 86
randomly selected school-aged students, who received
chess instruction for six months, and a control group of
94 randomly selected school-aged students. All
participants were male and from fifth, eighth, and ninth
grades from schools in Iran. All participants were
administered a measure of meta-cognitive ability and a
grade-appropriate mathematics exam prior to and after
intervention. The chess group participants registered
significantly higher post-test meta-cognitive ability
scores and higher post-test mathematics test scores than
the non-chess group participants. A major conclusion of
the study is that chess instruction improves the
mathematical abilities and the meta-cognitive capacities
of school-aged students significantly.
Masedu, Sabatino, Benzi, Tamorri, and Valenti [14]
aimed to find differences in perceptual tasks and the
visuo-spatial abstraction cognitive ability of chess
players when compared to non-players. A cross-
sectional study was conducted by comparing the
perceptual and visuo-spatial performance of 50 agonistic
chess players, and a referent group of 50 age- and
education-matched non-players. The study revealed that
after adjusting for age, a significant difference was seen
in visuo-spatial abilities between chess players and non-
chess players, whereas no difference could be
demonstrated with respect to perceptual or abstraction
skills. Visuo-spatial abilities did not seem to be
influenced by age.
Hong and Bart [10] examined the cognitive effects
of chess instruction on students at risk of academic
failure in Korea. They reported that chess instruction
produces higher chess skill ratings. This may lead to
gains in levels of non-verbal intelligence among
students at risk of academic failure.
Although chess originated in India, research
assessing its impact on the cognitive development of the
child is not available. The primary objective of this
study was to evaluate and measure the enhancement of
cognitive functioning with chess training. This is an
essential step towards proving the benefits of chess for
an Indian population. Such research can also help to
seriously consider the use of chess within educational
curriculums and schools in India.
Keeping this in mind, the following research
questions were posed: Does chess intervention increase
cognitive functioning (as measured through IQ, verbal
comprehension, numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning,
non-verbal reasoning, social intelligence, language,
conceptual thinking, memory, and visual-motor ability)
in Indian children? Which of the subcomponents of IQ
contribute to the gains in IQ after chess training? Is age
of the child a significant predictor?
II. RESEARCH DESIGN
The study used a single group pre-testpost-test
design without a control group. The independent
variable was chess training and the dependent variables
were IQ, verbal comprehension, numerical reasoning,
verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, social
intelligence, language, conceptual thinking, memory,
and visual-motor ability in children. Age and gender
were the socio-demographic variables.
III. SAMPLE
For this study 86 students who were undergoing
chess training at a chess center between 2012 and 2014
were recruited. The age range considered for the study
was 415 years. The mean age of the sample was 7
years, 7 months (SD = 27.51). Chess training was given
twice a week for a duration of one year. The average IQ
score of the child at the start of the intervention was
128.7 (SD = 17.390).
IV. MEASURES
The children were assessed using the Binet-Kamat
Test of Intelligence. The Stanford revision of the test
was adapted as the Binet-Kamat Test of Intelligence to
suit the Indian children. The present version consists of
various verbal and performance tests that can be
administered to children and adults from ages 3 to 22
years. Validity of the test shows that when a fourfold
table was drawn up and the correlation of the pluses and
minuses of each test with mental age as obtained by the
whole scale was found, the correlation coefficients of
the tests were generally higher than 0.70. Correlations
between IQ (as determined by the scale) and teachers
estimates were found to be nearly 0.50, which is fairly
high considering the variability of teachers estimates.
V. PROCEDURE
Baseline IQ assessment was done after obtaining
informed consent. Reassessment was carried out by the
same examiner after an average duration of one year.
The assessment environment was quiet without any
disturbance and kept standardized. Psychologists were
trained to administer the test in a uniform standardized
methods to minimize the testing error. Prior consent of
the parents was obtained. The children were tested on a
specified time in the evening for both pre and post tests.
Chess intervention consisted of standardized bi-weekly
training sessions of 2 hours duration over a period of
one year. Clustering technique was used to form the
2 | GSTF Journal of Psychology (JPsych) Vol.2 No.2, August 2016
Ebenezer Joseph, Veena Easvaradoss, Anita Kennedy and E. Joanna Kezia
training groups. There were 8 groups for training and 4
children were assigned to each coach according to their
playing strength which kept changing dynamically
through the year. The children were given a
standardized curriculum and were sent to tournaments
from time to time. The coaches were also assigned
carefully to each group in accordance to their strength of
training and their ability to communicate and interact
with children of various age groups and differing
strength of chess playing. Chess training was done using
the following methodology.
DVD learning (Winning Moves, Episodes 1
22)
Demonstration board
On-the-board training
Chess exercise through workbooks (Chess
school 1A, Chess school 2, and tactics)
Chess playing on computer (Kasparov’s Chess
mate, Fritz)
Tactical chess training using software
(Maurice Ashley Teaches Chess, Advance
Chess School, CT ART 3.0)
Mapping the prodigies games using chess
base software and understating brain patterns of
the child
Cognitive correction using Maurice Ashley
Teaches Chess software for problems such as
perception for normal as well as special
children
End game training using theory and practice of
End Games, ABC of Endgames, and Winning
Moves DVD)
Ideas behind chess openings
Exposure to classical games
Chess playing sessions
Mock training tournaments
Participation in regular chess tournaments
Analysis of score sheets and thought patterns
VI. RESULTS
The results were analyzed using SPSS 15. The
impact of chess training on the IQ, memory, language,
social intelligence, non-verbal reasoning, numerical
reasoning, visual-motor functioning, conceptual
thinking, and verbal reasoning was assessed by
comparing the means scores obtained on the Binet-
Kamat test pre- and post-intervention using paired t
tests.
TABLE I. SHOWING THE PAIRED T TEST
COMPARING THE MEAN SCORES PRE AND POST
INTERVENTION
Variable
Mean and Standard
Deviation Standard
Error of
Mean
t
Pre-test Post-test Pre-
test Post
-test
Intelligence 128.71
(17.390) 136.10
(18.378) 1.87
5 1.98
2 4.605**
Memory 28.09
(12.903) 34.56
(13.899) 1.39
1 1.47
9 7.921**
Language 13.65
(6.517) 16.30
(5.953) .703 .642 5.373**
Social
intelligence 22.72
(5.260) 25.72
(3.759) .567 .405 5.881**
Non-verbal
reasoning 11.26
(5.666) 13.98
(6.504) .611 .701 6.000**
Numerical
reasoning 12.00
(4.831) 14.70
(5.408) .521 .583 6.277**
Visual-
motor 4.19
(1.613) 4.35
(1.686) .174 .182 0.910
Conceptual
thinking
4.14
(4.507) 7.21
(5.959) .486 .643 7.275**
Verbal
reasoning 1.47
(2.556) 2.86
(3.875) .276 .418 3.526**
** p < .001
The results indicated significant increases in IQ (p
< .001), memory (p < .001), language (p < .001), social
intelligence (p < .001), non-verbal reasoning (p < .001),
numerical reasoning (p < .001), conceptual thinking (p
< .001), and verbal reasoning (p < .001) following the
intervention. No significant difference was observed on
visual-motor functioning.
TABLE II. SHOWING THE REGRESSION ANALYSIS OF
THE FOUR PREDICTOR VARIABLES ON IQ
Model Summary
Model R R2Adjusted
R2
Standard
error of
the
estimate
1 .381(a) .145 .135 17.091
2 .621(b) .386 .371 14.577
3 .698(c) .487 .468 13.406
4 .717(d) .514 .490 13.129
a. Predictors: (Constant), Non-verbal Reasoning2
b. Predictors: (Constant), Non-verbal Reasoning2, Age on IQ2 in
months
c. Predictors: (Constant), Non-verbal Reasoning2, Age on IQ2 in
months, Language2
d. Predictors: (Constant), Non-verbal Reasoning2, Age on IQ2 in
months, Language2, Memory2
3 | GSTF Journal of Psychology (JPsych) Vol.2 No.2, August 2016
Ebenezer Joseph, Veena Easvaradoss, Anita Kennedy and E. Joanna Kezia
In Table II, we observe that R value in the final
iteration is 0.717, and it indicates that the correlation
between the dependent variable IQ and significant
predictors, non-verbal reasoning, age, language, and
memory is 0.717. The R2 value of 0.514 indicates that
51.4% of the variability in the dependent variable is
explained by these predictors.
TABLE III. SHOWS ANALYSIS OF VARIANCE
ANOVA(e)
Model Sum of
squares Df Mean
square F Sig.
1 Regression 4170.084 1 4170.084 14.276 .000(a)
Residual 24,537.605 84 292.114
Total 28,707.689 85
2 Regression 11,070.474 2 5535.237 26.049 .000(b)
Residual 17,637.215 83 212.497
Total 28,707.689 85
3 Regression 13,970.833 3 4656.944 25.913 .000(c)
Residual 14,736.856 82 179.718
Total 28,707.689 85
4 Regression 14,745.080 4 3686.270 21.385 .000(d)
Residual 13,962.609 81 172.378
Total 28,707.689 85
a. Predictors: (Constant), Non-verbal Reasoning2
b. Predictors: (Constant), Non-verbal Reasoning2, Age on IQ2 in months
c. Predictors: (Constant), Non-verbal Reasoning2, Age on IQ2 in months,
Language2
d. Predictors: (Constant), Non-verbal Reasoning2, Age on IQ2 in months,
Language2, Memory2
e. Dependent Variable: Intelligence Quotient2
The ANOVA table shows that the there is no significant
difference between the observed and predicted values
obtained by using the linear regression model, hence
confirming that the model is a good fit.
VII. DISCUSSION
It is interesting to note that almost all the parameters
of cognitive functioning (excluding visual-motor
functions) showed an increase following chess training
in this study. This is not totally unexpected as we
observe that chess playing focuses on developing
cognitive skills like focusing, visualizing, thinking
ahead, weighing options, analyzing concretely, thinking
abstractly, planning, and juggling multiple
considerations simultaneously. Over time, chess helps
develop patience and thoughtfulness. However, what is
heartening and surprising is that these cognitive changes
that have occurred have translated to quantifiable scores
on a test of intelligence. While much has been said
about the impact of chess training on specific skills or
abilities, there are only a few studies that have
unequivocally demonstrated an increase on an IQ test.
This study is one of the first Indian studies to clearly
show a significant increase in IQ scores
The question that arises as a corollary to this finding
(and similar findings by other researchers) is with
reference to the fixed nature of IQ. The intelligence
quotient was thought to be a stable parameter with very
little scope for manipulation. However, since IQ gains
have been demonstrated, researchers need to develop a
model of intelligence that can explain these findings.
Grabner, Stern, and Neubauer [9] reported a similar
increase in general intelligence in 90 adult tournament
players, the strongest predictor of the attained expertise
level, was the participants’ chess experience, which
highlights the relevance of long-term engagement for
the development of expertise.
Aciego, Garcia, and Betancourt [1] used a quasi-
experimental study to examine the cognitive effects of
chess training. The experimental group consisted of 170
students, 616 years of age, who received
extracurricular chess instruction. The comparison group
consisted of 40 students in a similar age range. After
adjusting for pre-test scores, the chess group registered
significantly higher post-test scores than the sports
group for five of nine WISC-R subtestsi.e., the
Similarities, Digit Span, Block Design, Object
Assembly, and Mazes subtests.
In addition to increases in overall intelligence, the
subcomponents such as memory language, non-verbal
reasoning, numerical reasoning, conceptual thinking and
verbal reasoning showed significant gains. The children
trained in the present study worked on tactical studies,
end game techniques, and chess playing with analysis.
Such focused chess intervention developed the meta-
cognitive skills sharpening cognitive patterns and
improving precision in calculation. This possibly
quickened their decision making and improved their
scores on the psychometric test.
Trinchero [17] reported similar findings in 556
primary school children who were undergoing chess
training. One prominent result was that the experimental
group that received chess training registered a modest
but statistically significant increase in scores on
mathematics test items that required problem-solving
skills on complex tasks. This effect was greater among
students who had more hours of chess instruction.
Scholz et al. [15] investigated the effects of chess
training on mathematics learning among students with
learning disabilities, based on intelligence scores in the
7085 IQ range. Classes from four elementary schools
in Germany were randomly assigned to two groups: (a)
an experimental group that received chess instruction of
one hour per week for one entire school year; and (b) a
comparison group that received supplementary
mathematics instruction for one hour per week. The two
4 | GSTF Journal of Psychology (JPsych) Vol.2 No.2, August 2016
Ebenezer Joseph, Veena Easvaradoss, Anita Kennedy and E. Joanna Kezia
groups did differ significantly, in their calculation
abilities for simple addition tasks and counting.
The study also pointed to three predictors of IQ
gains, namely non-verbal reasoning, language, and
memory. The chess training curriculum used in the
present study includes workbook, score sheet writing,
the Winning Moves Chess DVD, and various softwares
for solving case studies and playing chess. Utilization of
this curriculum could be a factor that improved the
children’s critical thinking skills, strategy, and long-
range planning, resulting in the emergence of non-verbal
reasoning, language and memory as predictors of IQ
gains.
This finding is corroborated by the work of Ferreira
and Palhares [7]. They studied the relationship between
chess and problem solving involving geometric and
numeric patterns, with 437 children from the third to
sixth grades. The main result of the study was the
existence of a relation between strength of play and
patterns involving problem solving.
The factors identified are clearly targeted in chess
training and practice. These skills are strengthened in
the child in an implicit manner without effortful
learning. Studies with special children for this reason
have used chess to enhance cognitive functioning in
children (Barrett and Fish [3]; Aydin [2]).
An interesting finding in this study was that as age
increased, the IQ scores decreased. This effect could be an
artefact of the procedures inherent in calculating IQ
using the Binet-Kamat Test. IQ has been calculated by
dividing the mental age by the chronological age.
Hence, as age increases, the child has to perform at a
higher level to show comparable increases in IQ.
VIII. IMPLICATIONS
It is clearly established in the present study that
chess is a powerful intervention resulting in significant
increases in the child’s cognitive abilities. The average
7-point increase in IQ evident in the present study is
remarkable. Chess intervention is also time effective as
bi-weekly sessions were sufficient to lead to this
increase.
The simplicity of the game makes it a versatile tool
that can be used in schools, homes, and intervention
centres. Recognizing the impact of chess as an
educational Tool, the Tamil Nadu government has taken
the initiate to make chess mandatory in government
schools. While this is a praiseworthy effort, earlier age-
group intervention and systematized chess curriculum
such as Winning Moves (An Educational Chess learning
DVD programme produced by the Emmanuel Chess
Centre, Chennai India) and professional training for all
children will lead to gains in educational performance
and societal transformation.
As children learn to play together and win and lose,
they learn valuable lessons that will generalize to
academic functioning.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
[1] This research was supported by a grant given by
the Department of Science and Technology, Cognitive
Science Initiative, India.
[2] This research was conducted at Emmanuel Chess
Centre, Chennai, India.
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[3] D. Barrett and W. Fish, Our move: using chess to
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[4] J. Dullea Gerard, “Chess Makes Kids Smarter,”
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[5] C. Ferguson Robert, “Chess in education: research
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[6] C. Ferguson Robert, “The Use and Impact of
CHESS,” in Section B, USA Junior Chess
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[9] R. H. Grabner, E. Stern, and A. C. Neubauer,
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[10] S. Hong and W. Bart, Cognitive effects of chess
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[12] Liptrap James, “Chess and standard test scores,”
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[13] Margulies Stuart, “The Effect of Chess on
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[14] F. Masedu, S. Di Sabatino, M. Benzi, S. Tamorri, and
M. Valenti, Perceptual and visuospatial abilities
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5 | GSTF Journal of Psychology (JPsych) Vol.2 No.2, August 2016
Ebenezer Joseph, Veena Easvaradoss, Anita Kennedy and E. Joanna Kezia
[15] Palm Christine, “Chess Improves Academic
Performance, derived from “New York City
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[16] M. Scholz, H. Niesch, O. Steffen, B. Ernst, M.
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Impact of Chess Training on Academic
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24. doi: 10.4236/jss.2016.42004., 2016.
AUTHORS' PROFILE
Mr. Ebenezer Joseph is India’s first FIDE
trainer and Candidate Master of the World
Chess Federation. He is the founder of Emmanuel
Chess Centre and has trained more than 5000
children and 125 chess trainers in the past 20 years.
He is senior auditor in the Indian government
and part-time research scholar in Madras University.
Dr. Veena Easvaradoss is Associate Professor
and head of the psychology department
in Women’s Christian College, Chennai, India.
Mrs. Anita Kennedy is a Clinical Psychologist.
Mrs. Joanna Kezia is Associate Professor in the
statistics department of Madras Christian College,
Chennai, India.
6 | GSTF Journal of Psychology (JPsych) Vol.2 No.2, August 2016
Ebenezer Joseph, Veena Easvaradoss, Anita Kennedy and E. Joanna Kezia
... This study found increased gains in math problem-solving and comprehension proportionate to the amount of chess in the curriculum. Joseph et al. [6] assessed the impact of chess intervention on the IQ scores of children and analyzed the cognitive functions that contributed to the IQ gain. Eighty-six school children, boys and girls in the age group 4–15 years, undergoing chess training in academy were assessed using Binet–Kamat Test of Intelligence. ...
... This study found increased gains in math problem-solving and comprehension proportionate to the amount of chess in the curriculum. Joseph et al.[6]assessed the impact of chess intervention on the IQ scores of children and analyzed the cognitive functions that contributed to the IQ gain. Eighty-six school children, boys and girls in the age group 4–15 years, undergoing chess training in academy were assessed using Binet–Kamat Test of Intelligence. ...
... Joseph et al. [11] assessed the impact of chess intervention on the IQ scores of children and analyzed the cognitive functions that contributed to the IQ gain. Eighty-six schoolchildren, boys and girls, in the age group 4-15 years, undergoing chess training in academy were assessed using Binet-Kamat Test of Intelligence. ...
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The aim of this study is to evaluate the benefit of chess in mathematics lessons for children with learning disabilities based on lower intelligence (IQ 70-85). School classes of four German schools for children with learning disabilities were randomly assigned to receive one hour of chess lesson instead of one hour of regular mathematics lessons per week for the duration of one school-year. Concentration and calculation abilities of children were measured before and after the year of study using standardised tests. The chess group was compared with the control group without chess lessons. Concentration abilities and calculation abilities for written tasks and gap tasks developed equally well in both groups. Calculation abilities for simple addition tasks and counting improved significantly more in the chess classes. We conclude that chess could be a valuable learning aid for children with learning disabilities. Transfer of chess lessons to improvement of basic mathematics skills has been observed.
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This causal-comparative study evaluated a 30-week chess instructional program implemented within special education math classes for students in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades in a suburban middle school located in the southwestern United States. An analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was utilized to compare the adjusted means for the comparison and treatment groups on the students' math achievement as measured by end-of-year course grades and state assessment scores, the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS). Pretest scores and grade levels served as covariates. Results indicated a significant difference on four of the measures in favor of the treatment group: end-of-year course grades, overall TAKS math scale scores, and percentage scores on two specific TAKS math objectives: Numbers, Operations, and Quantitative Reasoning and Probability and Statistics. No significant differences were found between the groups on the other four TAKS math objectives: Patterns, Relationships, and Algebraic Reasoning, Geometry and Spatial Reasoning, Concepts and Uses of Measurement, and Underlying Processes and Mathematical Tools. Causation and generalizability are difficult due to the narrow scope of this study. However, these results are encouraging and suggest chess is a potentially effective instructional tool for students who receive special education services in math.
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Starting from controversies over the role of general individual characteristics (especially intelligence) for the attainment of expert performance levels, a comprehensive psychometric investigation of individual differences in chess expertise is presented. A sample of 90 adult tournament chess players of varying playing strengths (1311-2387 ELO) was screened with tests on intelligence and personality variables; in addition, experience in chess play, tournament participation, and practice activities were assessed. Correlation and regression analyses revealed a clear-cut moderate relationship between general (and in particular numerical) intelligence and the participants' playing strengths, suggesting that expert chess play does not stand in isolation from superior mental abilities. The strongest predictor of the attained expertise level, however, was the participants' chess experience which highlights the relevance of long-term engagement for the development of expertise. Among all analysed personality dimensions, only domain-specific performance motivation and emotion expression control incrementally contributed to the prediction of playing strength. In total, measures of chess experience, current tournament activity, intelligence, and personality accounted for about 55% of variance in chess expertise. The present results suggest that individual differences in chess expertise are multifaceted and cannot be reduced to differences in domain experience.
Examining the impact of chess instructions for visually impaired children on math achievement
  • M Aydin
M. Aydin, "Examining the impact of chess instructions for visually impaired children on math achievement," Educ. Res. Rev., vol. 10 (7), 907-911, 2015.