At Chess NYC young players compete against opponents of all ages. Credit: Provided At Chess NYC young players compete against opponents of all ages.
Credit: Provided

The game of chess dates back to sixth-century India and has long been associated with strategy and concentration. Schools and after-school programs are capitalizing on the game as a way to teach students how to think critically and manage difficult situations.

“Chess is a game of calculation,” says Michael Propper, the director of Chess NYC, New York’s largest chess organization.

We talked to Propper about some of the academic and social benefits of children playing chess.


It forces kids to think outside the box.

“Every move you make has a consequence,” says Propper. “It’s a sport and we treat it as such.” He notes that young chess players learn to approach problems in novel ways after getting used to the rules of the game.

It helps enhance math skills.

“It’s a game that helps you think scientifically, it helps critical thinking skills and it helps enhance math skills,” he points out, noting that many students grow stronger in math and science in particular. “Chess is a game of calculation. It assists you in calculating and focus.”

Because of that, it’s probably no surprise that students who play chess tend to gravitate toward the sciences. “Some of them have that natural reasoning ability,” says Propper. “The other half start to develop it.”

Chess also helps you think like a programmer.

The skills students learn playing chess also lend themselves to the world of coding.“[There’s] symmetry between chess and coding,” says Propper.Building on that connection, Chess NYC has justintroduced a coding class for students in its camps and after school programs.

Playing also helps socializing skills.

Programs like Chess NYC expand horizons by having young players compete against players of all ages and backgrounds. Propper notes that the oldest chess player in his organization is currently 104 years old. “It helps them make friends and socially feel more confident,” he notes.

Chess is the original role-playing game.

Propper says he and the rest of the Chess NYC staff aren’t concerned about losing their students attention spans to common distractions like video games or the Internet. “Chess is [like] a video game,” he replies. “Once you start to do it, it’s absolutely addictive and a lot more fun.”
Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.