Category Archives: Chess in Schools

Newham children playing an online match against a school from Sunrise, Florida.

Providing chess services – the Newham model

Sir Robin Wales is the Mayor of Newham and a supporter of chess in schools and communities.

The London Borough of Newham has taken the lead in providing services for its citizens through a partnership with Chess in Schools and Communities (CSC). Newham is one of the poorest districts in not only London but England and has one of the highest ethnic minority populations. The London Olympic Park and Stadium were located at Newham as part of a regeneration plan. Chess is known to be relatively most effective in improving the educational attainment of children from deprived families and those whose parents were born abroad.

Newham wants to ensure that its children and the wider community are able to access supervised chess sessions. This could only happen as a result of political support. In the last Council the Newham Labour party election manifesto included the promise that “Every Newham child a chess player”. The Council has contracted CSC to provide chess services. Through the partnership between Newham Council and CSC, over 1100 children in 21 Newham schools receive a weekly timetabled one-hour chess lesson. In addition there are another 150 children playing chess in either breakfast, lunchtime or after school chess clubs. This contract is a model that could be adopted by other local authorities.

As part of the contract, CSC also runs community chess clubs in five Libraries. These are popular with over a hundred adults and children playing regularly. Two more Libraries wil join the project in 2016. To continue the community ethos, CSC runs a Newham team in the London Chess League which gives an opportunity for adults to play at a higher level.

Children are also encouraged to be involved in competitive chess. CSC supports the Newham primary school team in the EPSCA (English Primary Schools Chess Association) tournament at the under 9, under 11 level. Newham is to host the 2016 under 9 East of England zone.

This academic year CSC started a five tournament junior grand prix series in Newham, running from September 2015 to February 2016. This gives the juniors of Newham a chance to play tournament chess within three miles of home. The Newham/CSC project has produced some very strong juniors who regularly compete in and win age group tournaments in Essex and Kent. Towards the end of the academic year, CSC hosts a Newham primary school team championship, which this year attracted over 200 children. In summer 2016 CSC is looking to hold an adult chess congress in the Borough.

Richard Harding, the CSC project co-ordinator said “The partnership between Newham Council and CSC gives opportunities not just to its young people,but the whole Newham community to learn the fantastic game of chess”.

Newham Councillor Ken Clark will be the opening speaker at the conference.

In the photograph at the top, Newham children are playing an online match against a team from Sunrise, Florida. The match was organised with the support of the both Mayors.


Inspiring teachers to introduce chess

SeanMarshSunderlandSean Marsh runs chess projects in Teesside in the north east of England bringing many children into chess. He reflects on the factors which inspire teachers to offer chess.

1) Concentration. To play chess well – or to solve chess problems – children must learn how to improve their concentration and to remain focused and ‘‘on task’’ throughout a full game. It is very noticeable how games between the children start to last longer as they progress through their weekly lessons. Generally speaking, children have a strong desire to win when they play games and they quickly understand how paying attention during the lesson input leads to improved results over-the-board.

2) Discipline. It is not always easy to maintain discipline during a game of chess, in which mistakes – large and small – will occur on a regular basis. Yet self-discipline is an important characteristic if one seeks success. Through chess, children learn to live with the responsibilities of their actions. One bad move can undo a lot of hard work, but children learn how to deal with disappointments and – even more importantly – how to recover and come back stronger next time. 

3) Good sportsmanship. Fortunately, chess retains a certain degree of etiquette missing from various sports and games with a higher profile. Children are encouraged to shake hands before and after each game, regardless of result. Bad sportsmanship can lead to reduced opportunities (losing a place on the school team, for example) as children must, at all times, remain perfect ambassadors for their school.

4) Impact on Literacy and Numeracy. Chess in Schools and Communities recently collaborated with the Education Endowment Foundation (‘EEF’) to assess the impact of regular chess. The fact that the EEF should feel inclined to conduct a serious study on the impact of chess lessons should provide ample indication of the growing status our of our curriculum. Chess is traditionally linked with mathematics but I strongly feel the impact on other academic areas is consistently underrated. An easy example would be to highlight the creative and imaginative skill required to visualise a desired position a few moves down the line; such skills are transferable to other academic pursuits, such as writing stories, for instance.

5) General Learning Skills. Chess lessons offer a perfect combination of the three key types of learning: auditory (listening to the tutor), visual (watching the action on the tutor’s demonstration board), and kinesthetic (working in the pupil workbooks and playing games).

6) Opportunities. Chess is an absolutely ideal game for breaking down boundaries. Time and again it comes as a great surprise to teachers when they find particular pupils excelling in our lessons and tournaments. With everyone starting from the very beginning, previous classroom ‘‘pecking orders’’ and the like are rendered superfluous. Additionally, children who do not excel at sports have the opportunity to represent their school for the first time, thus boosting their confidence and pride.

7) Fun. Apart from the academic side of things, anyone who witnesses our chess lessons will develop the distinct impression that the children are having a lot of fun! Believe me, when children are having fun yet remain fully engaged by the tutor, the scope for even more learning grows considerably…

Batsford Book of Chess CoverSean, author of a recent Batsford book From Beginner to Winner will be speaking about chess in the Teeside community at the conference.


The remarkable impact of chess and logic

Suppose you divided school children into two groups based upon academic abilities. The smart children are given extra language lessons; the not-so-smart group play chess. All the other classes are shared. Who does better when it comes to the academic results? A remarkable finding from Hungary is that the chess group eventually outperforms the bilingual group in their thinking skills.

The Pipacsvirág Elementary School in Telki, Hungary gave the smart children the privilege of a bilingual education in 2007. They were given extra English classes for 10 lessons per week. The search was on for an activity which would stretch the other group. It needed have an impact on educational and personal development without exceeding the school budget.

After some exploration of the options, the school decided to introduce a chess and logic programme. As is well known, children regard chess more as play than study and are generally willing to engage. However, this activity was not regarded as sufficiently educational. Hence, it was supplemented by a set of logic exercises which have been cleverly integrated into the chess exercises. The school has developed the classroom materials over the intervening years in conjunction with chess education experts and psychologists. Perhaps the key to the success of the programme is that it is taught by the regular teachers who know the children well.

When the chess and logic programme started in 2011, all the children in third grade were tested on logical thinking, creativity and motivation. The bilingual children scored much higher reflecting the basis for the grouping. Four years later, after the chess and logic programme had been implemented during each year, the same children were tested again on a wider range of attributes:

  • logical thinking
  • verbal skills
  • complex thinking in natural sciences
  • creativity
  • attention

The majority of the pupils in the chess and logic learning group performed above average in the tested areas. Furthermore, fewer pupils performed lower than the average compared to the bilingual classes. The school has concluded that, based upon this evidence, the teaching of chess has a very positive impact upon children’s primary school attainment.

This was not designed as a scientific study but shows how introducing chess into the curriculum can make an educational impact. This outcome  was completely unexpected. Chess had not been introduced for the Gifted and Talented children as it is in many schools – it was introduced for those children who needed development, who were having difficulties at school. It was never an experiment with the expectation that chess was going to reverse the categorisation of educational groupings.

Two children from that first class have gone on to outstanding performances this year. One pupil won the Hungarian national mathematics competition, the school having obtained first place in team competition and another pupil won the European junior rapid chess championship. Imagine if these had been the really smart children..

sarloseWe will  hear more about the chess and logic programme at the conference from Erzsébet Sarlós .


Call for Presentations

The London Chess and Education Conference wants to bring together the best chess in education experts and projects. Workshops with presentations from different countries have proven to be an efficient way to instill international exchange, cooperation and joint projects. We are inviting contributions on the following school chess related topics:

Chess and Maths
Early Years Chess
Inclusion and Integration in School Chess
Chess Interventions for Children with Special Needs
Training Education Professionals to Teach Chess
Chess Teachers´ Qualification Needs and Certification
Chess in Camps for School Students
International Exchanges in School Chess
Lobbying for School Chess

Please contact us if you are interested to present in any of these workshops or if you want us to consider an additional topic.

Review of 2014 Conference

The 2014 London Chess and Education conference was very well received by the attendees.  According to a survey conducted following the event (52% response rate):

  • 92%  met at least some of their objectives
  • 78% would like to come again

The value of the Conference was clear to all who attended. We have learned a great deal over the last two conferences and lessons learned will be incorporated.

A presentation of the results is available here:   LCEConference2014

London Chess and Education Conference 2015

The 3rd CSC London Chess and Education Conference will take place on December 5th and 6th at the Hilton Olympia. The accent in this year’s conference will be on Chess and Society. We will examine the ways in which chess is being used for a wide range of purposes within society. This is in addition to presenting some of the best scholastic chess projects from around the world.Topics likely to be covered include how chess is being used in communities not only for educational purposes but also for social integration. We will hear about library chess projects as they strive to widen the range of activities they provide. We will hear about chess being used in prisons in order to help develop literacy, numeracy and cognitive skills. Chess is becoming more integrated into sports as football academies use chess to improve the thinking skills of youngsters.


Chess is being used as a non-language dependent activity to integrate immigrant communities. We will hear some early results from the European Chess Union Survey into Chess in Schools which will reveal some of the important differences in how countries are introducing, developing and funding chess.

The London Chess Classic is being held at Olympia next door. It is the strongest tournament ever held in England.  Those attending the conference will be able to visit the Classic and observe the games.

In School Chess Italy is a Superpower

Alessandro Dominici is the motor of school chess in Italy
Alessandro Dominici is the motor of school chess in Italy
Italy is represented not only by the top player of the London Chess Classic, world number two Fabiano Caruana, but also by several speakers at the conference. The country has a vibrant school chess scene. This is mostly thanks to Alessandro Dominici. The organiser from Piemont in North Western Italy has run two international school chess conferences in Turin and introduced chess to hundreds of schools in his region. He has initiated the learning website La Casa di Scacchi di Vittorio and the psychomotricity on a giant chess board method of coordination games for young children to precede instruction on regular chess boards. One year ago, Alessandro presented at our conference about EU funding for school chess. Now he is leading the Erasmus plus project “CASTLE”. And he is already exploring and propagating new ways to finance school chess.

Roberto Trinchero is probably the most productive school chess researcher
Roberto Trinchero is probably the most productive school chess researcher
Alessandro is working closely with Roberto Trinchero, Professor of Education at the University of Turin. Roberto may well be the most productive researcher on school chess during the last ten years. In the study he is going to present this year, he found that students taught chess by chess teachers make more progress in maths than those taught chess by regular teachers. Giovanni Sala, a young scientist from his team who has recently moved to the University of Liverpool, has already been featured here.

Beatrice Rapaccini is using chess to teach primary students about computation
Beatrice Rapaccini is using chess to teach primary students about computation
Among Italy´s many creative teachers with ideas to use chess for teaching mathematics, we are pleased to have secured Maria Beatrice Rapaccini as a speaker. The former space engineer is working together with the University of Macerata to use chess to teach computational thinking to primary students. She will also share her special version of Psychomotricity in the workshop on Early Years Chess.

When Chess Meets Special Needs

It´s a story you hear from many chess teachers: A child, usually a boy, with attention deficit or hyperactivity, is starting to concentrate at the game of chess, often to the surprise of carers, who only know the child in an excitable, uncontrollable state. A Spanish team of psychiatrists and chess coaches has gone beyond anecdotal evidence. Numerous boys, diagnosed with severe ADHD, have been helped to reduce or altogether come off medication by chess. This success story has been shared at a recent psychiatric conference in France and will be brought to us by Luis Blasco de la Cruz, whose club Villalba 64 in the North of Madrid is a champion of social chess projects.

Pioneer of chess against ADHD: Luis Blasco from Madrid
Pioneer of chess against ADHD: Luis Blasco from Madrid

Children on the autistic spectrum, often diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, are another group reported to benefit from chess. Karel van Delft has been interested in this for a long time and has been coaching autistic students one on one. Here is a video interview he conducted with an autistic tournament player. Dijana Dengler from Munich is teaching chess to children with all kinds of conditions and is an expert on inclusion through chess. Another speaker is Richard James, who makes a case that children with special needs have more to benefit from chess but at the same time are often excluded from school chess activities.

Support organisations and parents of children with special needs are invited to join our workshop on Sunday at 15.15-17.00 for free upon prior notice to

Impressive Evidence

Keynote speaker Anna Nicotera has just completed a systematic review of all the studies into the impact of chess in schools (download link below the text). The effect sizes are remarkable, says  Anna, a specialist on the efficacy of educational interventions. Given that chess is usually taught for an hour a week (at most two hours), she considers the reported benefits high – especially when it comes to attainment in mathematics. Like all professional researchers, she counsels that the results should be interpreted cautiously since they are based on fewer than ten studies that met the rigorous eligibility criteria of her review.

Anna Nicotera has analyzed all high quality studies on school chess: It works!
Anna Nicotera has analysed all high quality studies on school chess: It works!

She gathered all empirical studies on effects of chess in school that she could find in English.  She filtered these according to strict methodological  standards and went on to analyse the reliable studies in detail. Many school chess studies are not and could not be included in the final analysis, she says. The overall results of the impact of chess are impressive. In order to identify the active ingredients in school chess, i.e. the precise details of how the impact is made, more high quality primary studies will be required.

Continue reading Impressive Evidence

Classroom Chess and Mathematics

Chess is evolving – its purpose has moved towards the needs of schools. Whilst playing chess competitively remains an important motivating factor for many children, there is so much more that can be done. Chesss may be regarded not as one game but as a resource for all sorts of logical and mathematical mini-games, game variants and puzzles.
The rapid rise of classroom chess has been achieved by teaching the game from the simplest beginnings. By working with children on the basic components of the game, literally one piece at a time, they grow in confidence and enthusiasm. Rather than throwing children in at the deep end, modern educational methods have been used to deconstruct the game into digestible components. Continue reading Classroom Chess and Mathematics